Lee Reich in action, tackling an overgrown lilac
Photograph by Susan Kahn
The book kicks off with Why Prune? and, having nailed that down, goes on to explain how, when and what with. Color photographs, diagrams, and Reich’s chatty instructions make it easy to tidy up everything from a leftover Christmas poinsettia to an overgrown apple tree. There are sections on pruning fruit bushes, shrubs, ornamental vines, perennials, conifers, hedges, and even bonsais, as well as instructions for topiary, pollarding, and pleaching. If you have something growing in the garden that needs lopping back, here’s how to do it. The book, published by Taunton Press, is a mere $21.95, and the info is priceless.
And now a response to the reader who posted this comment: “Everything is waking up, including the black ants that make an appearance in our home at this time of year. I really do hate to kill anything. They look like carpenter ants. That can’t be good! Is there any humane pest control out there?”
First I must say how refreshing it is to hear from someone who hates to kill anything, as the world seems overrun with those who can’t wait to dispatch whatever little thing annoys them. Now, about killing these ants. (Just kidding.) I’m battling black ants in my kitchen this spring, too, and have recently conducted an in-house study of non-toxic remedies. Here’s a summary of how it’s working so far. The ants are probably coming from outside, so try to find where they’re getting in, and block their entrance. (Mine appear to be using the French windows; too big to block.) Keep your counters and floors clean so that they won’t find food — even a tiny crumb is a feast for an ant. (My ants are evidently feasting.) Sprinkle black pepper or red chili powder wherever they congregate. (I haven’t tried chili powder yet, but my ants seem to think black pepper adds a tasty kick to whatever food they’ve discovered.) Put bay leaves at points of entry. (My ants just walked over them.) Spray a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar where the ants are swarming. This seems to work! I lightly sprayed my countertops, then wiped them with a sponge. The vinegar smell disappears quickly, and the ants avoid the sprayed areas. I’d be happy to hear of any other easy fixes that don’t involved poison.
Carpenter ants don’t eat wood, but they chew it to make tunnels and chambers that can cause structural damage, so if they’ve moved into your house, you’ll probably have to destroy the nest. Chances are, though, that they’re living elsewhere — they forage for up to 100 yards from HQ.
To keep them from nesting in your home, don’t store firewood against wooden siding, which is practically an invitation, and make sure downspouts are channeling water away from the house (ants like damp wood).