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When to pull those weeds — how about now?

Garlic mustard is a new invasive species.
Garlic mustard is a new invasive species.

It’s time to plant plants (at least the cold-resistant ones). And time to weed weeds! Pull them before they go to seed. One year’s seeding equals seven years’ weeding. Be on the lookout for garlic mustard, a new invasive whose flat white flowers with four petals should bloom atop a narrow foot-high stalk next week. The jagged leaves smell like garlic when crushed. Each plant produces 500 seeds, and, I swear, every one of them sprouts.

Snap spent flowers off spring daffodils for neatness, but leave stalks and foliage in place until they turn yellow in seven weeks so the bulbs can store energy for next year. Pull out the leaves and bulbs now of any “blind” tulip that failed to flower, or they will sprout every year but never bloom again.

Don’t try to make your lawn look like an ultra-short putting green. That just stresses the grass. Start mowing when it reaches 3 inches. If you keep it at 2½, the grass will be healthier and also shade out most weeds without herbicides.


Q. So glad to see your column in the Globe. I do wish you were repeating your old “What to Do in the Garden,” which I followed for many years and learned so much from all your wonderful tips. Do you have any suggestions for a climbing, flowering vine for a shady garden?

K.L., Wellesley

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A. You’re in luck! I’m starting off this column each week with a shortened version of “What to Do in the Garden.” But you may have less luck finding a flowering vine for a shady spot. The best is climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala petiolaris) if you have masonry, brick, or tree trunks for it to grasp with its aerial rootlets. It is a slow starter that needs watering until it takes off in its third or fourth year. Then it produces long-lasting footwide clusters of white flowers each summer followed by golden fall foliage. Another nice thing about it is that it’s not overly aggressive.

A well-behaved vine worth trying if you like hummingbirds is the native honeysuckle Lornicera sempervirens “Alabama Crimson,” which has red tubular flowers and blooms all season. It is not a shade lover, but like most vines, it will find a way to climb toward the sun, if you have any. (But beware Asian honeysuckles, which are invasive.) The New England Wild Flower Society in Framingham often sells it or Google it for sources.

Q. I have large outdoor planters that still contain potting mix from last year. Can I reuse it?

Gabriela Romanow, Cambridge

A. Assuming last year’s container garden was not afflicted by pests or disease, you can reuse this year’s potting soil if it has retained its fluffy tilth. Pour water on it. If it sinks right in, it’s still good. If it puddles and is absorbed very slowly or runs down the inside of the pot around the potting soil, it’s time to replace it.

Carol Stocker can be reached at Please include your name and the name of your town if you want a question answered.