In the Garden: No ridding little flowers

Dear Anne,

“I have this horrible weed/flower invading the grass in my front yard. It had little blue flowers in early spring. It has spread through about half my yard. How do I get rid of it?

Jean Konda-Witte, Abbotsford

You have violets in your lawn – and violets are hard to eradicate. I don’t think a broad-leaf herbicide will kill them, and a broad spectrum herbicide would kill everything.

You might try covering the lawn with black plastic for a couple of years, then removing the surface soil (removing violet seeds), bringing in new soil, and seeding the grass.

But that is so onerous it’s almost unworkable.

In any case, I wonder where the violets came from? If the source of the violet seeds (neighbours? city land?) is still there, seeds could blow in again, and they’d be back.

Your best bet is to shade the violets out by cutting the grass a full seven centimetres (three inches) long, and treating your lawn so well that it stays lush and thick.

The violets will remain because they have very deep roots. But they won’t be as visible, because they’d be submerged in long grass. Nor will they spread as fast, because grass is a strong competitor.

Dear Anne,

“Last year my zucchinis all fell off the stems when they were about five centimetres long. Any advice?”

Neil, Langley

Your zucchinis have a pollination problem. That is happening in more garden, as honeybees are vanishing.

But bumblebees and many tiny wild flies (resembling wasps) still pollinate flowers.

Mason bees aren’t much help with zucchinis and other late-flowering vegetables, because they die off by the beginning of June.

Try planting pollinator-attracting flowers near your zucchini area, such as dill, chervil, coriander, mint, fennel, and sweet cicely. If you let a few carrots, cabbage, or parsnips go to seed nearby, they’ll also draw masses of pollinators

Your alternative is hand-pollinating the zucchini flowers.

The female flower has a small, round knob in the centre of the bloom. The male flower has spiky stamens. Take a new paintbrush, and brush pollen from the male flowers into the female blooms.

Hand-pollinating is more work than adding pollinating plants, but you’ll need it, if your first female zucchini flowers open before the pollinator-attracting flowers do.

Dear Anne,

“I want to move some tulips for next spring. Shall I leave them where they are, or can I store them until the fall after the foliage has died back?

Lorraine Davis, Vancouver

Digging and storing is best, because tulip bulbs need thorough drying, otherwise they tend to get fungus diseases.

Some tulips can come back for several years if the bed they’re in is never watered in summer and we have a dry summer. But fungus will strike in a wet summer.

For storing, dig up your tulips when the leaves turn yellow, and take them inside till completely dry.

Then clean off the soil, discard any diseased or damaged bulbs, and let them dry more. Store them in a mesh bag or in cardboard boxes, and replant next fall.

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