Ask the Gardener: Mint, cucumbers and mountain laurel

Posted on: May 2, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Gardening editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

There are three ways to send in your questions:

  • Email
  • Submit your question on our “Your Garden” section of our site
  • Send us a message on Facebook.

(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)

Question 1: Mint

Michael: How can I get rid of mint that takes over the flower beds?

Doug: Ugh, nothing is harder. Mint is an invasive that, left unchecked, will cover the planet with its sweet-smelling foliage. When the world ends, only cockroaches, mint and Keith Richards will be left.

Any bed infested with mint will have to be started again without the mint. I would use a string trimmer and cut it all down over and over again for the first three months of the season, hoping to exhaust it. Then cover the area with a tarp to (hopefully again) kill it. It won’t be easy, and there’s no guarantee that mint will be gone. One little survivor can emerge, trying to conquer the garden.

Another easier solution is to embrace the mint in the bed and use it in every recipe you can think of. I had mint growing in a garden I inherited and then put an above ground pool over the bed. I still have the mint.

Good luck!

Question 2: Cucumbers

Darci: You mentioned at the Home and Garden Show to do three-week succession planting for cucumbers to avoid at least one wave of cucumber beetles. I fight them every year. Do you just start at the last frost date and transplant some each week after, or what is your typical cucumber transplanting routine?

Doug: I’m succession planting most of my crops including cucumbers. I like to direct sow them on May 15, May 30 and June 15. The other thing I’m doing is growing them up a trellis to keep them off the ground. There are also three varieties that resist the cucumber beetle: ‘County Fair,’ ‘Diva’ (my namesake) and ‘Marketmore 76.’ I hope that helps.

Question 3: Mountain laurel

Roy: Two questions for you: 1. Can mountain laurel be pruned? and 2. When and where is your annual plant swap?

mountain laurel

Doug: Yes, mountain laurel can be pruned. The only time I would prune one is if it’s in the way, because you want the plant to keep its natural habit. If it needs pruning, do it right after bloom time as it puts on buds right after flowering.

The 17th annual Everybody Gardens/Doug Oster Plant Swap and Giveaway will be held from noon to 1 p.m. June 2 at Soergel Orchards. It’s a place for gardeners to bring plants and trade with each other. Bring divisions from your garden to swap, be sure plants are labelled and please don’t bring anything invasive!

I’ll also have a limited supply of ‘Limbaugh Legacy Potato Top’ tomato plants. The Limbaugh Legacy tomato is a huge, pink beefsteak that’s been grown in the Pittsburgh area for generations. I ask gardeners to grow out the plant and send me some seeds back to keep the program going.

Put the date on your calendar, we have a blast. Many of the Everybody Gardens team will be there help make things run smoothly.

Previous mailbags

Larkspur, Chinese lanterns, moss and more

Native grass, safe cleaner, garlic and more

Tithonia seeds, bulb auger, elephant ears and more

Soil testing, protecting bulbs, fig tree care and more

Peach tree, invisible bugs, lawn bulbs and more

Orange azalea bush, oak tree and more tree questions

Moles, grafting tomato plants, Southern plant and more

Rehoming daylilies, butterfly bush, amaryllis and more

Apple tree lichens, kiwi plant, growing pea sprouts and more

Planting grass, starting tomatoes, zinnias and more

Blackberry bush, garlic sprouts and a gardenia tree

Starting peppers, fungus flies and pear tree pruning

Poison ivy, amaryllis troubles, tomatoes and more

Memorial gardens, orchids and tomato advice

Unknown plants, Christmas cactus and raised bed gardens

Christmas cactus, gnats, shredded leaves and more

Leaf size, no-light plants and grubs

Canna lilies, elephant ears, daffodils/garlic and more

Hibiscus care, tomato seeds, daffodils and succulents

Early garlic, pencil holly, hydrangeas and tree locations

More from Everybody Gardens

See also, Landreth’s Garden Seeds Is The Oldest Seed Company In The Country, And It’s Back

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Shop special Everybody Garden products today!