Each month Virginia Home Grown gets questions we're unable to answer during the show. Here are a few that came in during our September episode answered by our Host, Peggy Singlemann.
Question: I’ve never had good luck with black-eyed Susans. Should I trim them in the fall or allow them to seed?
Answer: Black-eyed Susans are wonderful summer blooming plants. I have always cut them back mid-winter after the seed pods have been harvested by birds and insects.
They thrive in moist but well drained soils in full sun to partial shade. They do not thrive in dry, poor soil and shade. Aim for six hours of sunshine each day.
Question: Do I cut black-eyed Susans to the ground?
Answer: You may cut them to the ground or within a few inches of the ground. If you trim back the first set of blooms after they fade you may also get another smaller flush of blooms in the fall.
Question: There is nutsedge in my lawn. How can I keep it from coming back every year, and when should I start to fertilize and lime my yard?
Answer: Nutsedge is a warm season weed that invades our lawns in the summer, this sedge typically sprouts in June.
Hand weeding sedges leaves behind the underground rhizomes and tubers which sprout either immediately or the following June depending on when in the season it is pulled.
There are products to control nutsedge in the lawn available at your local garden center, understand this will take more than one application to control, and the later you wait in the season the more challenging it will become. During the late summer, the plant focuses on seed production rather than storing carbohydrates in the roots and rhizomes. This change in direction of the flow of the plants nutrients reduces the amount the root zone will receive, thus reducing the effectiveness of an application. If the area is small, nutsedge can be managed by thoroughly digging out and replacing the soil, then reseeding that section with your favorite grass seed blend. Discard the soil with the nut sedge in it, do not place it in the compost pile.
Remember to always read the label prior to applying any product and strive to apply the least amount by spot treating your lawn.
Question: How should I care for Bee Balm in the fall?
Answer: Plant when the soil has warmed, which is typically in early May, for blossoms June through October. Deadheading the spent flowers will encourage additional smaller flowers to bloom.
Bee balm is a garden favorite for gardeners, and also for mildew. To aid in the control of powdery mildew, I cut the bee balm back to just a few inches in the late fall, after a frost. By then, the birds have removed most if not all of the seeds from the faded blossom heads. I do not place the clippings in the compost pile but dispose of them off of my property.
I then sterilize my clippers by spraying them with 91% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol before storing them.
Consider purchasing mildew resistant bee balm cultivars such as 'Cambridge Scarlet'.