THE BULLETIN • Tuesday, April 19, 2011 E5
Next week: Planting time When, why and how to start working the soil.
Create a meadow right where you live By Joel M. Lerner Special to The Washington Post
Meadows and prairies are both natural growth areas. The difference is that they are commonly called meadows on the East and West coasts, and prairies in the Midwest. These natural growth areas are used along highways to add color and lower the cost of road maintenance. They are also popular with homeowners. Meadows or prairies can lower maintenance requirements, offer flowers and attract a profusion of birds and butterflies - even in small yards. A sunny patch, side yard or bright corner will do, but don’t expect to create a meadow in a day. It takes planning, a couple of years, and sometimes several attempts to nurture self-sustaining grasses and wildflowers. Here are some guidelines offered by Neil Diboll, owner of Prairie Nursery in Westfield, Wis. According to Diboll, timing and site preparation are critical to growing a successful mix of wildflowers. The site must be prepared properly from the start or the area will revert to grasses and weeds. Since you are creating a space that takes years for nature to generate, the meadow will need a fresh start. The existing population of weeds and their seed must be cleared, ensuring that the area where the new meadow will be is free of competitive plants. This requires an entire growing season of preparation. Begin by mowing the area as close as practical. Then begin weed eradication. Mulch and herbicides provide two ways to do this. The mulch can be plastic sheeting, thick wads of newspaper or other material that will keep light from reaching weeds. Plastic sheeting also creates heat to smother germinating seeds. Diboll suggests treating all surface weeds with an herbicide that will kill the entire area of weeds, including their roots. The Environmental Protection Agency has approved vinegar as a weed killer. When weeds are young, spray them with a vinegarbased weed killer. Apply herbicides as needed in spring, summer, fall, winter and again next spring. The object is to rid the surface soil of all plant material. This will provide the conditions for the wildflower seed that you will spread to germinate and begin growing. Another way to kill weeds is to use plastic sheeting. This spring, mulch the area that you would like to plant next spring, covering
Photos by Dean Guernsey / The Bulletin
Power washing a deck can be a good way to remove a year’s worth of grime and dirt, but be careful not to damage the wood.
Photos by Sandra Leavitt Lerner / The Washington Post
Cleome, top, and goldenrod are two flower options for your backyard prairie. it with thick plastic sheeting secured with soil staples. The sheeting will help germinate the seeds in the top inch or two of soil. As they grow, the weeds will suffocate under the plastic. The sheeting that is laid now, in early April, must stay in place for the entire year so you can control weed seeds that germinate through all seasons. The soil you find under the plastic should be bare. Do not till the soil you just cleared. That would bring fresh weed seed to the surface. Only scratch the bare soil deeply enough to hold the wildflower seed, about an eighth of an inch. Sprinkle your seed mix evenly over the area, perhaps with some sheep’s fescue. That’s all that should contact the previously covered soil. Meadows are happiest in poor soil with high temperatures and little competition from other plants. Sprinkle the seed with wa-
ter in morning and late afternoon every day that it doesn’t rain for the first full growing season. You will probably want to seed for at least two seasons before a full mix of flowers begins to appear. Meadows are generally a mix of grasses, annuals, biennials and perennials growing in open, sunny fields. There are alpine varieties found in mountainous regions with mostly small plants such as dwarf woody trees and shrubs mixed with wildflowers. There are grazing meadows that consist primarily of native grasses and are used for pasturing livestock. There’s not much of a science to deciding what wildflowers you’ll have, since you will be limited to the species that thrive in your soil and region. If you’re using a prepared seed mix, check the list of plants to make sure there are varieties of natives that prefer the soil type and climate where they are to be planted.
Continued from E1 Ann Gawith, of Retrofitting and Remodeling Specialists in La Pine, said your location in Central Oregon should determine when to use a power washer. A good rule of thumb, she said, is to wait until the weather is warm enough that it doesn’t freeze overnight. “In La Pine, we don’t power wash decks until it’s summer,” she said. “Generally speaking, you probably want to wait until it quits freezing, so the water leftover on the wood doesn’t freeze overnight, expand and cause damage.” Temperature will also affect how long it takes the wood to dry out, Gawith added, and it is a good idea to start power washing early in the day to allow maximum drying time. But before you go get a power washer, Gawith advises first looking at the deck to see if it is even necessary. “Unless the surface is really nasty, I’m not a big fan of power washing,” Gawith said. “You can actually harm cedar with a power washer. It may be better to hose off the deck and sweep it well. While you’re doing that, you can replace or tighten the nails and screws.” But if you do decide to go ahead and use a power washer, she said, look at the project and develop a cleaning plan. Consider what direction the deck drains, and the location of fragile objects such as windows and light fixtures, which could be damaged by the powerful water stream. Plan to work in the direction
Use a fan-shaped spray nozzle on decks to clean without damage. that the water drains, so you’re not fighting gravity. Then proceed with caution. “Most people are too aggressive with a power washer,” Gawith said. “I’ve seen people blow the siding off their house because they got too enthusiastic.” Also, be careful not to use a nozzle that concentrates the water too much. That can lead to uneven cleaning and light spots, not to mention damage. “Beginners might start out with too narrow a nozzle. Don’t hold the nozzle too close to the wood for too long or you might get a light spot,” Gawith said. “You can write your name in the deck finish with a power washer.” Should you decide to go ahead and power wash your wood deck, here are a few tips: • Select a nozzle, or tip, suitable for the project. Nozzles determine the water pressure — the smallest opening will deliver the most power. Most manufacturers suggest a pounds per square inch of 2,400 to 2,600 for decks. Most models include a nozzle specifi-
cally for cleaning decks: Consult the owner’s manual. • Put on protective eyewear and gloves before starting your power washer. • Start the power washer and test the spray. • “The best idea is to begin in some inconspicuous area,” Gawith advises. “If you start out where a chair or grill will sit, if you mess up, it won’t be noticed as much.” • Begin by spraying away from the deck and then slowly point the wand toward it from 3 to 4 feet away. Make a few passes and then stop for a moment to see if the surface is clean. If not, move closer. Make slow, methodical passes to rinse the deck of all dirt and other debris using water only. • Use caution, and never point the power washer nozzle toward another person or your own body. Leon Pantenburg can be reached at survivalsenselp@ gmail.com.
Angels and blessings await your garden in summer heat By Norman Winter
Blue Angel and White Blessing are tough-asnails, bloomall-summer type flowers native to Australia.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
If I asked you to name a flower that bloomed profusely with knock-out color from June through September, you would be hard pressed to come up with a half dozen. But this is precisely how you would describe Blue Angel scaevola and the partnering white selection called White Blessing. Despite the fact that the scaevola has been around now for more than a dozen years, it is still not planted enough by the everyday gardener. Known botanically as Scaevola aemula, this Australian workhorse is a must for those hot summer flowerbeds where everything else
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
starts to fade by mid-July. Blue Angel and White Blessing are two relatively new scaevolas introduced by a company called Danzinger. When I saw them in trials,
they were most impressive in the sheer quantity of flowers. Of course, my visual analysis was a moment in time. I wondered how they performed for the rest of summer. The answer
was they were dynamic through September. The scaevola gets its name from the Roman hero Mucius Scaevola, who demonstrated unparalleled bravery (and questionable judgment) by burning off his own left hand; the blossoms do slightly resemble a human hand. But the common name, fan flower, is more descriptive of the small blossoms. Scaevola does best given plenty of sun and planted in fertile, organic-rich, well-drained beds. Wet, soggy conditions are not satisfactory. Amend heavy soils or poorly drained locations by adding 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and tilling or shoveling to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Plant
scaevola at the same depth it is growing in the container, spacing the plants 12 to 18 inches apart. Apply a layer of mulch after planting. Red mulch or fresh pine straw looks exceptional underneath the blue flowers. They are very drought-tolerant once established in the landscape, but those in containers will need watering daily just like any other containers. Speaking of containers, the scaevola
makes a fine addition to large mixed tubs. Feed scaevolas every four to six weeks with a light application of a 12-6-6 or balanced blend fertilizer.
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Published on Apr 19, 2011