Ciscoe Morris, Seattle Times garden writer, gives tips on pruning jasmine vines, dealing with raccoons that turn new sod upside down and overwintering artichoke plants.
Q: I planted a flowering jasmine vine last summer that is going crazy. It’s about 30 feet tall on a trellis. How do I prune it?
A: There are several types of jasmine that are hardy in our area, and most have wonderfully fragrant flowers. As you found out, these vines can be aggressive growers.
Jasmine vines flower on previous season’s growth in early summer, then follow up with flushes of blooms on current-season growth later in summer. Tip-prune overly rambunctious vines as needed in summer to restrict growth, but the main seasonal pruning is best done in early autumn, immediately after flowering ends. It’s not too late to prune now but don’t delay.
Cut back to strong side shoots on the lower vines and thin out crowded or weak stems. No matter how diligent you are about pruning your jasmine, the vines inevitably become a tangled mess over time.
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When that happens, cut the entire plant to within a foot of the ground. It will grow back like a wild banshee after such hard pruning so keep it manageable by thinning and pinching to control growth.
Your vine will look better, but it won’t bloom much the first year after such drastic measures. Don’t dismay — by the second year, your vine will once again produce gazillions of attractive, deliciously fragrant flowers.
Q: In August we redid the landscape and put sod on the east side of the house. Now every morning, the sod is turned upside down. Who’s doing this?
A: The culprits are raccoons who are after worms in the soil. I get this question often after folks put in new sod. Evidently the raccoons have figured out that it’s easier to remove new sod to get at their gourmet treats than to dig through thatch in established lawns.
As you’ve found out, these rascals come back to dine so often it’s practically impossible for the sod to root into the soil.
Fortunately, there is a biological control that works well. All mammals except humans hate hot peppers. Buy some cayenne pepper and sprinkle it over the area in question. Use extra-hot pepper and reapply it every evening, especially in rainy conditions.
You’ll know you did it right if you hear these nighttime marauders shouting “ahooa!” as they run from your garden in the night.
Once they’ve experienced a good dose of pepper, they usually decide your lawn isn’t worth it and move to some other yard to cause mischief.
Q: Last spring I planted two artichoke plants and got 25 artichokes from them. Will my plants survive the winter if left in the garden?
A: With a little luck and the right care, you should be able to enjoy artichokes for years to come. In late October, cut the stems to about 8-10 inches above the ground and cover the stump and the surrounding 6-foot area with straw or leaves to protect the roots from freezing.
In early April, uncover the mother plant. If your artichoke survived you should see regrowth in the form of offshoots coming up from the roots of the parent plant. Remove weak offsets and keep only the strongest shoots while aiming for a spacing of 5 to 6 feet between them.
In April, fertilize the offsets by working a cup of organic tomato food into the soil around the base of each plant. Buy extra butter, because chances are you’re going to be feasting on beaucoup artichokes next summer!
Ciscoe Morris: firstname.lastname@example.org; “Gardening with Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING 5.