Growing perennials from seed requires regular weeding

Q: I read about sowing a perennial flower garden in the fall for spring blooms. Instructions said to remove old grass, prepare soil and cover with black plastic to kill all grass and weeds. Then after the first frost, sow the seeds. C.M., email

A: Visions of a low-maintenance perennial flower bed are quite a contrast with reality. These are the problems you’ll face: Covering the spot with plastic in fall won’t kill the weeds. Solarizing soil to kill weeds and diseases requires eight weeks of very hot, sunny weather. I guarantee weed seeds in the cleared area will sprout alongside your wildflower seeds. It is imperative that they be removed before they grow large. How will you tell the difference between weed and flower? The weeds have to be pulled by hand so include steppingstones in the area to kneel on while you work. Plan on thoroughly weeding every week, even in the winter, to keep competition at bay. More details at bit.ly/GAwildflowers.

Q: The fruit on my Kieffer pear has changed. The pears are completely round and the size of a glass marble I played with as a kid. How is that possible when I had big Kieffer pears last year? Gary Winkles, Locust Grove

A: You have harvested ornamental Bradford pear fruit, not sweet Kieffer. Bradford pear will pollinate a Kieffer pear, but the resulting fruit will look and taste like Kieffer. You’ve probably noticed weedy Bradford pear bushes. The limbs usually have big thorns. It’s not hard for me to imagine a bird dropping a Bradford seed near the base of your original Kieffer. Bradford seedlings grow so rapidly that it’s possible it overgrew the Kieffer without you noticing. That could explain why you got Kieffer fruit last year but found Bradford fruit this time.

Q: What colorful ground cover could I put next to the side foundation of my house? It only gets two hours of sunlight each day. It is on a bit of a slope. Dale Blaylock, northeast Mississippi

A: One of the large varieties of monkey grass would look nice. Liriope muscari ‘Monroe White’ is the gold standard by which all large, white-flowered liriope are judged. Unlike most liriope, which thrive in sun, this cultivar needs light shade for most of the day to prevent foliar scorch. I am tempted to try to find a shrub for you, but with that small amount of sunshine, most will simply decline in a few years.

Email Walter at georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener, for his latest tips.