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How do I keep animals away from my lilies?

<a href="http://wimastergardener.org/?q=StargazerLily">Stargazer lilies</a> are attractive to deer.DeAgostini/Getty Images

What to do this week: Keep watering, concentrating on trees and evergreens as well as fruiting and flowering plants and container plantings. Pinch off the tops of tomato plants and any new flowers to hasten the ripening of existing fruit. Plant seeds of spinach, radish, mâche, and arugula. If you put your houseplants outdoors for a “summer vacation,” bring them inside now, but first prune them back, check for bugs, and spray them with insecticidal soap (except for the succulents). Finish lawn restoration within the next two weeks. Fall is the best time to plant or divide spring- and early summer-blooming perennials. Spring is ideal for dividing fall bloomers.

Q. I have Stargazer lilies that have bloomed nicely for three years. This year something, or someone, has nipped the buds off the 3-foot-high stems. We do have rabbits, but have never seen deer in this neighborhood, which is close to downtown Needham. Any idea who or what could have done this? Always enjoy reading your column. Thanks.

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RACHEL MAHAR, Needham RACHEL MAHAR, Needham

A. Three feet is the grazing height of the deer who love to nip buds off my lilies, and it sounds like the same critters may have started visiting your neighborhood. I spray my lilies with Deer Out (www.deerout.com), and it seems to work. I buy gallons of it at the wholesale price with my deer-plagued neighbors, and we all spray about once a month. Other deer sprays also work, but I like this one because it doesn’t smell bad, just minty. Woodchucks are another possibility. In that case, I recommend locating the den and setting up a Hava-hart trap (www.havahart.com) within 10 feet. Camouflage it a bit with leaves so it isn’t too shiny. Bait the trap with salad greens, whole-kernel corn, carrot tops, carrots, apples, potato, beans, pea pods, or cucumber. Some farm-supply stores also sell woodchuck lures for baiting traps. The best time to catch woodchucks is in March when their holes are easier to locate in the barren landscape and they don’t have a wide choice of food. This is also before they have babies, so moving one in March can save you from having to catch five in June.

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Q. When is the best time to lime my lawn? Are there other plants I should lime, too, while I am at it?

G.S., Sharon G.S., Sharon

A. Fall is a good time. While you are at it, sprinkle some on those garden plants that prefer an alkaline pH, also called “sweet” soil. They include such trees as cherry, ash, beech, filbert, hawthorn, laburnum, maple (except Japanese), and plum. Shrubs that may improve their performance with an application of lime include lilac, boxwood, rose of Sharon, Irish juniper, privet, sumac, and yew. Perennials to lime include carnation, maidenhair fern, poppy, salvia, sage, sedum, hellebore, ornamental grass, sunflower, and peony. Liming helps these plants take in nutrients and also counteracts the effects of acid rain. Spring rains will sink the lime into the soil, so there is no need to dig it in. Look for calcitic lime rather than the more common dolomitic. One source is Russell’s Garden Center in Wayland. Do NOT apply lime to acid-loving plants such as
broadleaved evergreens, azalea, blueberry, cranberry, daphne, lily, ivy, magnolia, oak, pine, phlox, raspberry, rose, spruce, willow, birch, heather, Japanese maple, juniper, winterberry, and ferns. These plants need acidic, or “sour,” soil. Most plants, however, are more adaptable and prefer a neutral soil of 6 to 7 on the pH scale.

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To find out your pH, buy a testing kit at a garden center or visit soiltest.umass.edu to learn how to send in samples to the University of Massachusetts Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Laboratory.


Please send your garden questions to Carol Stocker at stockergarden@gmail.com and include your name or initials and your town.