What to do in the garden Lawn grasses normally respond to hot weather by going dormant and turning brown. You can save money and resources by allowing this natural process to proceed instead of watering. Lawns will green up again when cool wet weather returns. Cover blueberries with nets and allow them to stay on shrubs a week after they turn blue to reach their full flavor before harvest. Gently pull out some new potatoes when the plants start to flower. Leave the plants intact to produce mature potatoes, which will be ready when the tops have withered. Pick snap beans when small and tender.
Q. I have a few Heliopsis (Summer Sun) plants in my perennial garden. On one of these plants I am seeing tiny little red growths on the stems, and some of the leaves seem to have a sticky residue on them.
Joan Flanagan, Walpole
A. I grow the same plant variety and have the same problem. The little red growths are aphids. Blast them off with a hose, then apply insecticidal soap. You will probably need to repeat the treatment a few times; you always miss a few, and they reproduce at the speed of light. Aphids really can’t move around, so when you wash them off, they can’t climb back on the plant. Some people use Dawn dish detergent, while others swear by Dr. Bronner’s organic peppermint or cayenne Castile soap (drbronner.com ). Use two tablespoons of any of these products in a quart of water.
Q. An unusable part of our property is overgrown with vines, brambles, sycamores, and who knows what. There are also some nice pine trees. It’s about 100 feet by 100 feet. What is the best, safest way to tame or eliminate the bad stuff and keep it looking natural and wild but not out of control?
A. Raymond, Marblehead
A. Even “natural areas” need management or they turn into tangles of invasive weeds that spread to other areas. Once they get out of hand for a few years like this, they become a big project. The easiest way to control a tangle is to mow it once a year so it doesn’t get overrun by undesirable shrubs like buckthorn or vines like Oriental bittersweet. You may have to find someone with a brush cutter or brush hog to do this professionally because a backyard mower is not up to the job. Some places such as The Home Depot rent brush hogs. I think the best time to do it is annually at the end of August or early September; this is when birds that were born in your thicket will have fledged but before most of the weeds go to seed.
There is a lot of work to be done on your plot before it is mowable, however. I would contact the New England Wild Flower Society and ask for recommendations for a contractor skilled in restoration ecology (newenglandwild.org, 180 Hemenway Road, Framingham, MA 01701-2699, 508-877-7630) to get rid of the alien invasives but leave the good stuff.
If you want to tackle this yourself, start by killing all of the vines in late September by clipping the tops off and immediately sticking the tips of the cut ends still attached to the roots into a bottle of glyphosate (such as Roundup). This neat “clip and dip” technique poisons the roots without spreading chemicals willy-nilly and is less environmentally harmful than many other herbicides. If you cut down fast-growing sumac and other woodies, I would immediately paint glyphosate on the new cut to keep the roots from resprouting. A good article on how to remove and control brush can be found at pleasantvalleyconservancy.org .