Moulin Rouge Salvia

Last year, columnist Diane Dunham planted about 60 Moulin Rouge Salvias. Here they are blooming this year.

Who is blooming now? I have Silver Dawn peony in full bloom, Purple Sensation Alliums scattered everywhere, Iris starting to unfurl their gorgeousness and perennial Salvia.

Last year I planted about 60 “Moulin Rouge” Salvias, the year before a large number of “Cardonna” Salvia. The ones planted in the spring are nearly full size already which is up to 26 inches tall and 30 inches wide. I consider Salvia’s filler flowers in the garden. No big showy flower head like peony or iris, but a nice splash of color throughout the garden.

Salvias require full sun, and average water — not much care. Salvia’s are also loved by garden creatures like bees and butterflies. They also are available as annual varieties, but being an advocate for perennials: why buy a flower that lasts only one season!

Lawn care season is upon us, and some of us like this more than others. Maintaining a healthy, thick lawn is the best weed control strategy.

During the growing season, grass should be maintained at a height of 3 inches. Don’t scalp your lawn. Longer grass equals longer healthy roots that will sustain plants through dry times. If turf grass turns brown during dry times, it is going dormant — not dead. Do NOT water unless you intend to water one to two times a week to sustain it if it doesn’t rain.

The grass plants use a lot of stored energy to come out of dormancy when you apply water. So, if you water only once and the drought continues, now you may have some plant death. Either leave it or maintain it until regular rain returns.

Aerating a compacted lawn is generally only needed every four to six years if at all. A few clues that your lawn is compacted: your lawn is feeling spongy, you have a lot of plantain weed (loves compacted soil), or poor drainage — puddles remain long after the rain stops.

Soil amendments can be added to soil to change its composition in a garden area. Some of the amendments are sand, humus (finished compost) perlite, vermiculite, peat and other mosses or bagged soil. Adding several inches of humus each year is beneficial. Humus attracts earthworms which help to create the pore/air spaces in the soil. In a large space, you can grow a green manure plow down crop such as annual rye.

If your soil is ‘workable’ then no need to add stuff. Here’s is how to check if it is workable; take a handful of soil (not wet) and squeeze it one hand. When you open your hand, the soil should stay in a ball and a little tickle should break it up — that is perfect soil! If it falls apart when you open your hand, it could be too sandy. And if you can’t get it to break up — it could be too high in clay. Not exactly a scientific experiment, but it is a starting point! You can always send in a soil sample for testing.

What is compacted soil? Compaction occurs when the soil spaces are squished out and less of them remain. This is often due to driving over the yard with equipment or vehicles. Large equipment can cause excessive compaction.

If you are having construction done which requires vehicles to drive on your yard, use plywood pieces for vehicles to drive over. Might sound silly but it helps to disperse the weight, especially for the protection of tree roots. When your soil has become compacted, you can revive it with an aerator.

There are several types; some slice through soil, some disperse soil plugs, some have tines like a giant meat tenderizer. If it is a small area, you could use a potato fork and poke away. Stick the fork half way in the soil, and rock it back and forth a little. Repeat every few inches. Yes, this could take a while — think of it as aerobic garden exercise.

Visit us at the Mankato Farmers’ Market. We are located at the Best Buy parking lot on Adams Street 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays and 3:30-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays starting in June.

On Saturdays we will have a “take and make project” for kids available while they last at the market trailer. You can follow my Facebook business page at Market Bakery.

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