[NAFEX] Spring Cleanup

list at ginda.us list at ginda.us
Sun Apr 11 23:52:51 EDT 2004

This was the second warm weekend of the season so I spent a fair amount 
of time puttering in my garden.  I love the garden  at this time of 
year, because it is bursting with potential (and nothing has gone 
wrong, yet.)  Actually, we had the coldest winter on record, and all of 
my marginally hardy plants seem to have died, but everything that I 
hoped would survive the winter did so, and even the lawn is looking 
cheerful.  I have a couple of questions:

1)  I have a few alpine strawberries that I planted last spring, or 
maybe the spring before that.  They did really well last year, but over 
the winter, all the foliage died off.  So this morning I went out with 
scissors to clean them up for the new season.  I cut off the dead 
leaves, and they all had new green leaves emerging from the crown.  But 
the crown seems to have grown a couple of inches higher than the ground 
- I have these weird strawberry cylinders sticking out of the soil.  
Should I do anything about them?  Are they okay?

2)  I planted blueberries along side some blue-mat juniper.  This is 
how I've seen them grow on hilltops in the wild.  But my blueberries 
are overrun with grass.  On the side away from the juniper (between the 
blueberries and the lawn) I have extended my mulch, in the hopes of 
giving the blueberry plants more space, and less competition.  But 
there is vigorous (and tall) grass between the juniper and the berry 
bushes, where it is hard to remove.  There's not enough room to lay 
down newspaper (as I did on the other side) and the rabbit fence is in 
the way.  Basically, the grass grows along the chicken-wire fence, with 
blueberries to one side and juniper to the other.  Every year I 
hand-pull as much of this grass as I can, but every year it grows tall 
enough to shade my half-high bushes.  Any suggestions?   (I can e-mail 
a photo if anyone is interested.)

3)  I was cleaning up the leaves that collect against the house over 
the winter.  At the bottom, along the cement, I found a bunch of slimy 
squirmy things.  Most proved to be earthworms, and I tossed them into 
the (nearby) currant patch.  But one looked funny, and proved to be a 
tiny newt.  Being basically a live-and-let live type, I carefully 
picked it up and placed it between some big rocks where leaves also 
collect - the closest habitat to the one I just destroyed.  Then I got 
to wondering - what is a newts role in the garden?  Do they eat my 
berries like slugs?  Do they eat slugs?  Or do they just hide under 
leaves and eat rotting bits of leaf where it is wet enough for them?  
That is, are they helpful, harmful, or neutral in my little garden?

Next week, I trim the grape and plant peas (outdoors) and tomatoes 
(indoors) and dream of summer.

Ginda Fisher
eastern Mass., zone 6

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