, Salem, MA


April 25, 2014

North Shore Gardener: What plants keep mosquitoes away?


Apply about 50 pounds of limestone for each 1,000-square-foot patch of lawn in the spring. You will probably need to apply lime every three years.

Q: I’m seeing all sorts of “zone maps” on seed packages in books and magazines, and they are in such small print I’d have to carry around a reading glass to every nursery I visit this spring. Are they accurate enough for the novice gardener?

A: You’re told you live in Zone 6, but do you really know where you live? You live in a very unique zone all your own. You will want use the maps only as guides to tell approximately where to grow a plant. Many mini-zones exist within your very own backyard. They’re spots of heat and cold, wet and dry, and everything in between. Every garden has its own mini-climate.

What is a mini-climate? Have you got one in your garden? Of course. Tell me, where is my very own mini-climate? Look along a stone wall that holds and radiates early spring warmth — it’s the place where the snowdrops and crocus appear first. Or, look in a swampy area where the skunk cabbage arrives in late winter and turns to a field of wildflowers within a couple of weeks. Peek behind a fence that protects your garden plants from the wind and allows a hydrangea to bloom with vigor. Could it be beneath a faucet that drips, making a cool and humid, almost boggy, swampy place? Or a low spot where the frost settles early in the fall and kills tender impatiens weeks before the rest of the garden plants? It’s the shady, low spot in the lawn where the snow pack lingers the longest and the grass molds every year. And it’s the warm window box over the front door where even annuals can sometimes overwinter. It’s the warm spot next to your garage wall where daffodils bloom first and tomatoes ripen early. And it’s the spot where absolutely nothing will grow. These are all mini-zones within your own garden that you consider when you plant. You live on your own little planet — zones are just a guide for gardeners old and new. It won’t hurt to try a plant from a lower or higher zone if you can bear to occasionally lose a plant.

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