Mike explains how get rid of poison ivy safely, creating nitrogen-rich compost, how to grow grass under the shade of your trees, ideas for improving your backyard space, why pink mushrooms will sometimes appear in wood mulch, and what it means for your garden when snails move in. Plus: Mike speaks with Thomas Mickey, author of America’s Romance with the English Garden, which details how American seedsmen sold us on the English garden style.
Photo by Brian.Mo
Question of the Week:
Can you discuss the snails that seem to have become part of the landscape in the Philadelphia area? This spring they seem to outnumber slugs. Are they harmful? Slugs in disguise? Please tell us!! Thank you!
— Marjorie in Wissahickon
Highlights from show for August 3, 2013:
Getting rid of poison ivy safely
Anne from Hockessin, Delaware has poison ivy under her Northern White Pine trees and the vine also growing up the trees. A tree company suggested weed whacking the poison ivy and upon hearing that Mike jumped in and says, “oh my goodness that would spread the allergenic oil all over the place! Whoever did the whacking would not only get it on their skin, but it would be blown into them like little bullets.” Burning it is even worse, he explains. He tells Anne that as long as the poison ivy is young and still green looking she should wear protective clothing and get a sharp tool to sever the vine near the ground. Let the vine die. After it looks dead Anne should take plastic bags and cover her hands and pull the vines out of the ground after a rain or soaking with a hose. Pull the bag down over top of the vine and put it in the trash can. Make sure to cover yourself in protective clothing and then discard it afterwards, Mike warns. Mike also warns not to ever reuse gloves or pruners that have touched the potent oil from the plant.
Creating nitrogren-rich compost
Steve from British Virgin Islands makes his compost in a big pit, which Mike says is perfect for the warm climate of the islands. Steve wants to know if he adds worms to his compost, would that help make it better? And where can he find more nitrogen rich material? Mike suggests coffee grounds. “That’s one of the best sources of nitrogen,” he says. Coffee grounds not only have tons of nitrogen, but the acidity helps to move the compost process along. Mike warns not to add worms to the compost, because he might be adding an organism to the environment that shouldn’t be there in that specific ecosystem.
Special Guest: Thomas Mickey
Mike speaks with Thomas Mickey, Professor Emeritus of Communication Studies at Bridgewater State University and author of “America’s Romance with the English Garden.” His book is a history of America’s fascination with the English garden and how the idea of an English garden was essentially marketed to American’s by business man from England and Scotland who came here to spread their love of horticulture and sell seeds and plants of course.
Growing grass under the shade of your trees
Celeste from Stamford Connecticut wants to know if it’s her imagination that when the PH is not high enough under trees, like Japanese Maples, it’s very difficult for grass to grow? Mike assures her it is not her imagination. “There are certain situations where it is almost literally impossible to grow grass under trees due to the shade the tree casts and the intense competition for water and nutrients.” “Adding lime or wood ash is a great way to raise soil PH.”
Improving your backyard space
Brian, from Washington Square park area of Philadelphia, PA wants to Spruce up his very tiny patio that sits below street level. After getting what seemed like a dim picture of this small space Mike suggests adding a water feature to help make it more appealing, but first he warns, “Being in Center City, and really the heart of Center City, there is really no point in you growing in what could be very contaminated ground.” “There is a strong possibility of lead paint being in the soil and that’s a risk for you to be working with, unless you’re wearing gloves, which you should be.”
Pink mushrooms appearing on wood mulch?
Julianne in Breinigsville, PA is enjoying landscaping her recently constructed home, but noticed that there were pink mushrooms forming on her wood mulch. Mike knew immediately what these were and stated “this is one of the casualties of trashy wood mulch.” Mike goes on to explain that wood mulch is a very bad choice because it produces nuisance molds including artillery fungus that can actually spray your white house or car with little dots of mold. He suggests compost or mushroom soil as an alternative.