Doug’s mailbag: 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 askdoug@535mediallc.com
  • 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.

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Memorial gardens, orchids and tomato advice

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Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”