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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Mesclun, Moles and Deer-proof Shrubs for Shady Spots

CRL's gardening expert talks salads, pests and shrubs.

Mesclun is a mixture of lettuce, arugula, spinach, radicchio and other salad greens that are very easy to grow and will provide you with some of the tastiest salads ever over the entire course of the spring, summer and fall. Buying mesclun greens at the farmer’s market or supermarket is a good bet, but growing them at home is just that much more satisfying and economical. Not to mention even the least experienced gardener can grow them.

Renee’s (www.reneesgarden.com) and The Cook’s Garden (www.cooksgarden.com) are two of my favorite seed companies that carry mesclun greens. Wine Country, Monet’s Garden, Paris Market and Misticanza are a few mesclun mixes made up of seeds to grow arugula, endive, radicchio, chervil, red and green lettuce, Japanese mustard, broad leaf cress and others.

Getting started

Find a well-drained spot in your garden, dig the soil to a depth of two-to-four inches and smooth it out carefully. The one thing mesclun greens need, as with any lettuce planting, is fine spoil. No lumps or clumps, please!

Prepare a bed two-feet by four-feet. Dig out a gallon of soil. Rake the rest smooth and flat. Sprinkle the mesclun seed on top, cover with ¼ inch of the soil you reserved. Tamp it down with a steel rake and water gently. Keep this area watered lightly until the seeds germinate in one to two weeks. Harvest the greens by cutting off what you need with a knife or scissors. Mesclun is a “cut and come again” salad, so keep harvesting. Plant mesclun in April/May, June/July and September for a continuous supply of fresh greens.

Deer-proof shrubs for shady spots

Pieris japonica, better known as Andromeda, and Buxus, better known as Boxwood should get more respect. Why? Well, they are both deer-resistant shrubs that have evergreen leaves and will thrive in shady to partly shady spots. The Andromeda has the bonus of offering white pendulous flowers in the spring. If you have a deer-infested landscape and are tired of watching in horror as your rhododendrons and azaleas are eaten to death by them, you should take a second look at Andromeda and boxwood.

Some of the available cultivars are:

Pieris japonica ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ – dark red floral buds emerge as light pink flowers.

Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ – fiery new foliage is a brilliant red instead of bronzed and is perhaps the most common cultivar.

Pieris japonica ‘Purity’ – larger, pure-white flowers on compact plants that bloom at an early age.

Pieris japonica ‘Red Mill’ – emergent red leaves mature to dark green, but are thick and leathery. White flowers last a week longer than normal, possesses a dense growth habit, and are reportedly disease and pest resistant.

Pieris japonica ‘Scarlet O’Hara’ – white flowers on a narrow upright growth habit.

Pieris japonica ‘Variegata’ – young foliage emerges red, maturing to green with creamy-white leaf margins.

Pieris ‘Brouwer’s Beauty’ – compact spreading hybrid (of Pieris japonica and Pieris floribunda), more resistant to lace bug, more tolerant of alkaline soil pH and has purplish-pink floral buds.

Boxwood is another evergreen shrub that the deer don’t eat, at least not in my deer-infested landscape. They are very cold-hardy and are often relegated to hedges. I have mine planted in a more formal alley setting near an arbor, but they could be used anywhere a good rounded green shrub is needed.  Winter Gem, Wintergreen and Green Gem are three of the better known boxwoods. Ask you nursery professional which boxwood is best for you.

Moles

I have had it up to here with moles and the damage they are causing my lawn. Last year they moved from my front yard to the back and it is just too much. I have used MoleMax and other organic mole preventers in the past, but the moles have taken over.

I have discovered through online research that the best way to control moles is with mole traps. I have the Victor Out O’ Sight Mole Trap and the Victor Plunger Style Mole Trap (www.victorpest.com). With the plunger, you find a mole tunnel, collapse the tunnel a little bit, set the trap over the depression and wait. Industrious moles will return to re-open the tunnel and WHAMMO.

For the Out O’ Sight trap, you dig a hole in the tunnel, set the trap, place it in the tunnel and cover with soil. The mole comes by and WHAMMO. These two traps do look like medieval torture machines and the box does warn that “misuse could result in injury”.  I will let you know how this turns out. Stay tuned!

Larry Sombke is a garden designer and landscape consultant. Contact him at 852.9274 or email him at [email protected]. Each consultation includes a copy of his book Beautiful Easy Flower Gardens.

Larry Sombke
Larry Sombke
Larry Sombke is the co-owner of Larry's Foods LLC, maker of Larry's All Natural Mexican cooking sauces.

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