Diseases of garden plants
Flowers - Annuals
Flowers - Perennials
Native Plant gardening
|A tree fell on my dawn redwood, taking many branches off one side. Will the branches regrow? The tree is about 40' tall. Jason, Lansdale|
|Hello, Jason in Pennsylvania: When trees are damaged in this manner it is difficult to say if they will recover or not. It really depends on the extent of the injuries. The broken branches should be pruned with a clean cut at the branch bark collar; leaving them as is will encourage insect and potential disease issues. Proper pruning is essential to the health of your tree, and in your case since the tree is so large you should have a certified arborist come out and prune the limbs for you. At the least, you should have them come out and take a look to give you an idea of how severe the damage is. If the majority of the limbs on one side of the tree are damaged, this could be an issue in terms of stability if storms come through. Dawn redwoods (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) are deciduous conifers that are considered regenerative. This means that they can put on new growth after they have been cut down or damaged like yours. They are fast growers and as long as it is growing in full sun, well-drained acidic soil the tree should be fine. At this point you should contact a certified arborist to come out and take a look. If you need recommendations for a certified arborist you can contact your County Cooperative Extension Office. The horticulture agent should be able to give you local suggestions.|
|After 10 years, my Joshua tree has a flower on the top. After blooming, do I remove the flower? Robert, Las Vegas|
|Hi, Robert from Nevada: Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) are native to North America. Although quite hardy in terms of tolerating cold temperatures, it is only found at specific elevations in California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona. As for removing the spent blooms, it really is up to you in terms of aesthetics whether or not you remove them or not. It certainly is not going to affect the health of the tree one way or the other. The clustered panicle-shaped flowers can extend up to 20 inches long. The fruit starts to develop as the flowers fade and can become quite heavy as they mature. Although growth rate and form depend on environmental conditions, they are slow growers so even though your tree is 10 years old, I would suspect you could probably reach the flowers without getting out your pole pruners or a ladder. The bloom stalk can be thick, so a pair of loppers may be necessary if you decide to remove the faded flowers.|
|After I prune the branches of my holly trees, can I stick them in my flower box soil and use them as Christmas decorations? Will they last all winter in New England? Rose, Westerly|
|Hi, Rose: Yes, you have got the right idea! Each season when it is time to change out the containers, I walk through the garden to ponder the possibilities. Using plant material that is already on hand is a creative way to spruce up our containers and make them original. Luckily for us, this is perfect timing for adding them to a winter arrangement or combination planting. I find it easier leave the soil in the containers and stick the ends of the cuttings down a few inches for some stability; that way when the wind blows they stay in place. Start with the tallest cuttings and use them in the center or the back depending on where you want them, then work your way out and around with the rest. Most evergreens will last all winter like this and then the soil is there for planting in the spring. There are many choices, including yellow and red twig dogwoods, which are stunning this time of year, and don’t forget about deciduous holly or Nandina berries. Contorted filbert or anything with an interesting growth habit will add structure. There are so many choices that each container can be different and at a minimal cost! If you have not done your fall containers, consider using ornamental grass as the center and fill in the sides with pumpkins, hedge apples (osage oranges), and pansies. It makes a very festive display and the ornamental grass will need to be cut back now or in the spring so this way you are still able to enjoy it.|
|After spending quite an amount on mums again this year, I decided to try my hand at putting them in the ground somewhere to try to get them to come back up for next fall. But i'm not sure how to do this. I covered one up in the flowerbed one year at winter time, but it came back up just tall and long and only a small bloom. I want them like the way they look at the stores, round, short, and full of blooms. Any help on how to do this? My mums are in pots at this time. Shirley, Eolia|
|Hello, Shirley: The discussion on planting fall mums in the garden and expecting them to come back year after year as any other perennial would do is always a hot topic this time of the year. Here in Kentucky, the fall mums that are sold at garden centers, farmers markets, and grocery stores are not considered hardy perennials. They should be not be sold as perennials like other hardier chrysanthemums. Now, having said that, it is not unusual to hear from other gardeners that they put theirs in the ground and they have successfully come back. Every garden is different and some have microclimates within the garden, so with some winter protection you may also have luck with them coming back next year. They should be planted where they will receive full sun and well-drained soil rich in nutrients. The normal bloom time for these plants is in the summer, so you will have to pinch back the flower buds if you want them to bloom in the fall. Cutting them back will prevent them from becoming tall and leggy with less blooms as you have found out. Cut them back halfway after they have grown to about a foot to a foot and a half tall. This will give them the shape you are after. For now, the sooner you can get them in the ground the more time they will have to establish their root system before the winter arrives. After they have finished blooming, cut back the spent blooms and mulch generously around the base of the plant. This will help insulate the roots and give them a better chance of coming back next year.|
|After spraying Round Up in an area close to my foster hollies, they have started dropping leaves; could it have been the Round Up? Doshia, Moody|
|Hello, Doshia in Alabama: Herbicide drift can be very harmful, even detrimental, to any plant material that it comes into contact with. This is why it is so important to spray on a calm day so there is no chance of the wind taking the liquid somewhere it was not intended to be sprayed. Even using a piece of cardboard on a non-windy day is a good idea to block potential drift. Other factors also need to be taken into consideration when applying this chemical, including temperature. If the temperature is 85 degrees F or above during or shortly after application, it can cause chemicals to vaporize and move to non-targeted plant material. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Round Up and it is considered non-selective, meaning that no matter what it comes into contact with, intentionally or not, it is going to do damage. We typically see the effects of this chemical within a week of application. If your foster hollies seemed to be perfectly healthy before this area was sprayed and then suddenly declined in health, I would suspect this is the cause. It is impossible to say for certain without seeing them, but you can always take a sample to a reputable garden center/nursery in your area or to your County Cooperative Extension Service for a positive diagnosis. Usually when non-target plants are exposed to glyphosate, their foliage first turns yellow and then we see defoliation and dieback. If this is the case, unfortunately the damage is done and irreversible. It will be a waiting game to see how much damage was done, but you should have someone look at a sample just to make sure there is not something else causing the decline in health of your evergreens.|
|After years of waiting to move to Kentucky, we are finally building a home on five acres in Georgetown. Simply mowing the field grass will be fine for much of the property, but we will need to establish a lawn at least on the acre in front of the house. What are our best options for preparing this area for seed? Roundup has been recommended to remove the weeds before seeding. Are there any other, more environmentally friendly, options? Cathy, Georgetown|
|Hello, Cathy: This sounds like a big project you have in store for yourself. Roundup may not be the most environmentally conscious option but it really is your best. Trying to kill off an acre with layered newspaper is not feasible or the most friendly choice. Roundup is a chemical application but taking proper precautions will help prevent unnecessary damage. Do not use on a windy day or if there is rain in the forecast. If you were dealing with a smaller area you could use layers of newspaper or cardboard covered with mulch to kill off any unwanted grass. This is a friendly way of preparing a new planting bed, so keep this in mind if you are going to create a garden on this acre. Planting a garden would be a nice addition to your new home and reduce the mowing. For more detailed information on establishing a new lawn in Kentucky, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/agr/agr50/agr50.htm
. This is a publication made available to home gardeners from the Cooperative Extension Service in cooperation with land grant universities.|
|All of a sudden, my phlox and now my azaleas have overnight look like someone has thrown something on them to burn them up. I have had these plants and over the years added to them, they were so beautiful, and have ended up with 16 years of burned up mess. I have cried over the waste and expense. I just want to know what happened. What can I do now? Patricia, Williamsburg|
|Hello, Patricia in Virginia: From what you have described it sounds like your plants have come into contact with some type of herbicide drift. This can be very harmful, even detrimental, to any plant material that it comes into contact with. Have you or a close neighbor or a lawn care service sprayed any chemicals in the past week? If your azaleas and phlox seemed to be perfectly healthy and then suddenly declined in health, I would suspect this is the cause. It is impossible to say for certain without seeing them, but you can always take a sample to a reputable garden center/nursery in your area or to your County Cooperative Extension Service for a positive diagnosis. Usually when non-target plants are exposed to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, their foliage first turns yellow/brown and then we see defoliation and dieback. If this is the case, unfortunately the damage is done and irreversible. It will be a waiting game to see how much damage was done.|
|Are Bradford pear leaves poisonous to pets? Kate, Knoxville|
|Hello, Kate: Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’ certainly has its negatives but its foliage being poisonous is not one of them. According to the ASPCA list of toxic plants, the foliage of your ornamental pear is not considered toxic. Of course, it is always a good idea to check with your veterinarian if your pet is not feeling well. Even though the foliage is not considered poisonous, I would discourage your pet from eating a large amount of it. In my opinion, too much of anything can make our pet's stomach upset. That being said, I am not a veterinarian so you may also want to contact yours to see if he/she has any additional suggestions. The reality of these non-native trees is that they are very short-lived, mainly due to their branch structure. They are notorious for falling during wind and ice storms. I would not be too concerned about the foliage, but if the tree is planted where your pet plays, keep him/her indoors during storms.|
|Are the berries on Bradford pear trees posionous? My lab dog is eating them. Bonnie, Covington|
|Hi, Bonnie: It is this time of the year as the leaves fall from the trees when we notice the small, round berries that ornamental pear trees produce. Pyrus calleryana ‘Bradford’ certainly has its negatives but its berries being poisonous is not one of them. Some trees can produce more than others and, depending on the year, quantity can vary. When these trees are heavily berried they can become messy, and as you have found out they are attractive to birds, squirrels, and other animals. I would not go as far as saying they are a favorite among the animal community, but if they are hungry they will eat them. To answer your question, the fruit on your ornamental pear is not poisonous but I would discourage your dog from eating a large amount of them. In my experience too much of anything will make a dog's stomach upset. That being said, I am not a veterinarian so you may also want to contact yours to see if she/he has any additional suggestions. The reality of these non-native trees is that they are very short-lived, mainly due to their branch structure. They are notorious for falling during wind and ice storms. I would not be too concerned about the berries but if this tree is planted in a space where your lab plays, keep her indoors during storms.|
|Are these plants toxic for dogs to eat:
Sedge (carex, prairie fire, Indian summer)
Silver mound wormwood (artemesia)
|Hi, Jan: As pet owners, we are responsible for protecting our four-legged friends. This includes giving careful thought to what we plant in the garden. Sedum, carex, as well as artemesia are not included on the list of toxic plants for dogs according to the Animal Poison Control Center and the ASPCA. This list may not be all-inclusive and just to be safe, you should contact your veterinarian. If you have a dog that likes to nibble in the garden, avoid using any harmful sprays on your plants. The residue can be very dangerous.
|Are yews cuttings okay to use around vegetable plants? I sow seeds directly into the ground but so far no success. I'm going to try again, and this time I want to put mulch on top of the soil to keep the moisture in and also to keep the weeds out. Will mulch prevent seedlings from coming up? If this is okay, how thick should I mulch in this area?
I want spray-free/highly disease resistant rose shrubs that are fragrant and fast growing to use as hedge and foundation plants. Any recommendation for zone 6? I'm an hour away from Lexington. I found the Red Robin Hood rose. Would it stay green in winter? The ones I found are tiny and don't have many leaves yet. Would it be better if I grow them in containers this year so I can nurture them before putting them into the ground next spring? Mel, Danville|
|Hi Mel: It would be best to let the seeds germinate in a space that is not mulched. This way they receive optimum sunlight and will not have to push through the mulch as they grow. In general, mulch should be applied no thicker than 3 inches. Any thicker and it creates a nice environment for insects and potential disease to live. There are several possibilities why your seeds have not germinated and it could be too much mulch, but more likely it has to do with the time year you planted them, the planting depth, and/or the viability of the seeds themselves. Depending on the type of seed, they may not have had enough time to germinate yet. Yew cuttings may not be the best choice for mulch especially if the cuttings are still green and could potentially have disease issues. As for planting roses, none of them will be evergreen here in Kentucky. The Knock Out roses are widely available and are disease-resistant. They are also prolific boomers but there are a lot of shrub roses that are disease-resistant as well. All roses demand a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. When you purchase your roses, you should have options on container size and of course the larger the plant the more expensive, but the larger plants have a more established root system. The sooner you get them in the ground the more time they will have to get their roots settled in their new home before winter arrives, but if you want to keep them in their containers until the early fall this is fine too. It may be more maintenance on your part in terms of water. Danville, KY|
|Can dog urine kill clematis? Marjorie, New Castle|
|Hi, Marjorie: Sometimes being a dog owner and a gardener can be a challenge, but we have to remember it is their garden too! Training them is our job so that we can all live together and keep our plants happy as well. Dog urine can certainly damage plant material, although it has to be a consistent habit in combination with lack of rainfall/water. If this is your dog that is urinating on your clematis, it will be easier to train as opposed to several neighborhood dogs using the same space to relieve themselves. Once a dog marks its spot it can be difficult to deter other dogs from doing the same. Dog urine is alkaline, it can over time alter the pH of the soil and damage plant material. Fortunately there are options that do not include constructing a fence. There are many nontoxic products available that are made specifically for repelling dogs. Liquid Fence makes one that is made of natural plant oils such as citronella and cinnamon oils. It is environmentally safe and not harmful to the dogs, they just do not like the smell. These kinds of products will have to be re-applied every few months. Hosing off the clematis if you can get to it shortly after the dog does will help dilute the urine. Otherwise, adding layers of pine cones around the clematis or anything else that is not nice to walk on may also help deter our four-legged friends. If your clematis is still green and putting on new growth it should be fine, but if it is brown and brittle then unfortunately it is too late to save it. It is hard to say if this is the dog’s fault or not, but either way it should be removed from the garden.|
|Can hibiscus bushes or trees be planted in the garden or should they be left in containers to bring in the winter? Carol, Louisville|
|Hello, Carol in Kentucky: The answer to your question depends on whether you are growing a tropical hibiscus or a hardy one. I am assuming you are referring to a tropical hibiscus, the ones you see in all the garden centers this time of year. They are available in tree form as well as shrubs. If this is the case, the answer is yes, it must come indoors during the winter months. It would not survive the winter temperatures we have here in Kentucky. Bring your plant indoors before the first frost and place it in a bright room with good filtered light. You can cut back on your watering as well as fertilizing at this time. You do not want the hibiscus to completely dry out but the soil should not be sopping wet either. Watering will depend on the temperature and humidity of your home. The light levels are lower during the winter months and the hibiscus will not likely bloom, but can successfully be over-wintered indoors and then taken back outside after the frost-free date passes in May. Hibiscus blooms best in full sun but when you take your tropical back outside after the winter, remember to gradually move it to a sunny location. It will need to be acclimated from being inside all winter long. If you are growing a hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) it can remain in the garden year-round. The main visual difference between a hardy hibiscus and a tropical one is that the hardy have flowers that are dinner plate in size.|
|Can I leave ferns planted in my flower bed? Nancy, Camden|
|Hello, Nancy: The answer to your question really depends on the variety of ferns that you are growing. There are ferns that are hardy to zone 7, meaning that they can survive in the garden year-round, and then there are tropical ferns that are not tolerant of the winter temperature in zone 7. These ferns need to live indoors except for during the warmer months of the year. Do you know which ferns you have? If you still have the grower's tag it will tell you the scientific name as well as the hardiness zones. Kimberly Queen and Macho ferns are the most common tropical ferns sold in garden centers. If they were large ferns, more than a couple of feet wide and possibly in a hanging basket, these are most likely tropical ferns. If you purchased them in a quart or gallon size container they are probably hardy ferns. There are many more hardy ferns than there are tropical ferns for gardeners in USDA hardiness zone 7. If you can send me a picture I can tell you if they are hardy or tropical. Send your pictures to email@example.com. You could also take a sample of your ferns to your local garden center or to your county Cooperative Extension Office for identification. This way you will know for certain if you can leave them in the ground or if you need to dig them up and over-winter them indoors.
|Can I move my Knockout roses in November? Jan, Lexington|
|Hi, Jan in Kentucky: Late fall through early spring while your roses are dormant is a fine time to transplant, provided the ground is not frozen. The only time you really should not move your roses is during the hotter months of the year unless you are going to be around to make sure they receive sufficient moisture. It is less stressful on plant material to be moved during the cooler months and less maintenance on your part in terms of watering. It is always a good idea to have the new holes dug before you dig up your existing plantings. That way you can get the roots back into the soil as soon as possible. This reduces stress and that is the key to a successful transplant, plus making sure that the newly moved plants have ample moisture. You will want to keep as much of the roots/soil intact as possible. Make sure to use a clean, sharp spade and start digging farther out and work your way in, being careful not to damage the roots. Avoid fertilizing for the first year and remember to treat these roses like any other new addition to the garden.|
|Can I prune my azalea in November? It is so big I can't get close to my house to hang my Christmas lights. Pam, Owensboro|
|Hi, Pam: Wow, that must be a really big azalea! The best time to prune your azalea would be after it flowers in the spring. Pruning now will remove any potential flowers that you would enjoy next spring. It is getting to be late enough in the season to prune without worrying about winter injury. The light levels are much lower and pruning now would not encourage new growth that would be more susceptible to winter damage. So really it is up to you; unfortunately you will have to sacrifice the Christmas lights or the blooms on your azalea next spring. If you do decide to prune make sure your pruners are clean and sharp. The general rule is to remove no more than one-third of the size of the plant. Is it possible to straddle the azalea with a ladder? That way you can have both the Christmas lights and the following season's blooms. Another option would be to gently tie the plant up with twine so you can get behind it to string your lights. Azaleas are pretty tough plants and will not mind a few moments of being held or tied back.|
|Can I transplant ornamental grass this time of year? Sharon, Franklin|
|Hello, Sharon in Indiana: Ornamental grass is best transplanted in the spring just as the new blades begin to emerge. It will be much easier to move when you do not have to deal with the foliage at all. It can be quite overwhelming (depending on how large the grass is) and be sure to wear gloves and long sleeves; some of them have razor sharp blades. Ornamental grasses can be cut back in the fall or left up during the winter and cut back very early in the spring before new growth begins. Some varieties hold up better during the winter than others that tend to flop. For this reason, some gardeners purposely leave them up all winter long while others cut them back. If you need to move your grass before next spring you can cut back the foliage and transplant it this fall. This is also a good time to divide the root ball if needed. Grasses are low-maintenance but grow quickly and benefit from being divided every few years. When you cut your grass back, it helps to tie a string around it and then take a pair of loppers or pruners and cut the grass back to just a couple of inches. This allows for an easy cleanup. When you transplant remember to water your grass like it is a new addition to the garden.|
|Can Knock Out roses be grown near a septic tank? Do you have any other recommendations for small bushes that can be planted near a septic tank? Terri, Sonora|
|Hello, Terri in Kentucky: From my limited knowledge of landscaping around a septic tank, it is important to carefully place plant material so that it does not interfere with the functionality of the system. If placed properly, plants can be beneficial in terms of absorbing moisture and nutrients as well as preventing erosion. It is generally recommended that trees and shrubs should be planted a minimum of 20 feet away from the septic system. Choosing plant material that does not require a lot of consistent moisture will be the best options in the long run. Wild flowers and grasses are good choices for this environment. Asters, coneflowers, false sunflower (Helianthus), liatrus, penstemon, and monarda are all good options for sun-loving perennials. Switchgrass and Little Bluestem are great choices for a native grasses. As a general rule, the larger the plant the larger the root system. This does not necessarily mean that the roots go any deeper. As for planting a Knock Out rose in the area, you should be fine as long as you are not planting over an absorption field. Other small shrubs to choose from would be spirea, hypericum, and smaller viburnums. The Indiana Extension office has a good publication on plant material that does well around a septic system. To read this publication you can visit www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/HENV/HENV-15-W.pdf
. Always wear gloves when planting around a septic system, and avoid planting any edibles in this space.|
|Can you plant hibiscus outside in Ohio now? Carol, Grove City|
|Hi, Carol in Ohio: I assume that you are referring to a hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) grown in a container. These woody plants are show-stoppers with their large blooms. They can add a tropical feel to any sun-loving perennial garden. If you have already purchased this plant it is best to get it in the ground as opposed to leaving it in the container. The risk you take at this time of year is the lack of root-to-soil contact; this makes them more susceptible to frost heaving. This is when the soil temperature changes and causes the plant to be lifted up from the soil and exposed to damaging weather. It is always best to have the new hole prepared before removing the hibiscus from its container. Make sure the planting hole is just as deep and twice as wide as the container it is currently growing in. Plant and treat it like you would any new addition to the garden. At this time of year you do not want to fertilize or water as much as you would if it were planted in the spring, but do give it a good soaking when you plant so the roots can get settled in. A thin layer of mulch will help retain moisture and help keep the heat in as well. Make sure to choose a space where the hibiscus will receive full to part sun and keep in mind that these are one of the last to put on new growth in the spring. At this time of year the plants should be pruned back to about 6 inches.|
|Can you split rose bushes? Brenda, Belleville|
|Hello, Brenda: Roses cannot be split/divided as we can some perennials. If your rose has grown too big for its space, you can prune it to maintain a suitable size. This should be done during the winter months while the rose is dormant or early spring before new growth begins. Pruning at other times of the year will remove potential flowers. As a general rule, it is best not to remove more than one-third of the size of the rose in one season. If you are wondering about creating more than one rose from your current planting, the best way to go about doing this is propagation by cuttings. Spring or early summer is the best time to take your cuttings. Use a clean/sharp pair of pruners and take your cuttings from the newest growth. The cuttings should be 6-8 inches long. Remove all foliage except for the top leaves and dip the end of the cutting in water and then a rooting hormone, which you should be able to find at your local garden center. Plant your cuttings in small containers filled with a vermiculite, perlite mixture or any good container mix. Place in a bright place but out of the full sun. Keep the soil evenly moist. Your cutting should root in 6-8 weeks. You can tug gently on the cutting to see if it has rooted yet. Gradually work it into full sun so the new growth will not burn.|
|Can you tell me the name of a plant that has a rabbit-face shape? They come in different colors like white, purple, and pink. Joe, Monahans|
|Hi, Joe: I am sorry I do not a have an answer for you yet, it is difficult to identify plants without having a sample or a picture. If you want to send a picture you are welcome to send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or you can give me additional information about this plant, such as what time of the year it blooms, the shape of the foliage, and whether it is an annual or a perennial. How tall does it grow and does it prefer to grow in the sun or the shade? Any descriptive characteristics you can give me will help. If you actually have this plant, you can take a sample to your local garden center or to your county Cooperative Extension Service for a positive identification.|
|Could I do any pruning on my Knockout rose bushes now instead of waiting until early spring? Ladonna, Hopkinsville|
|Hello, Ladonna: If your roses are a constant source of scratch marks because they are too large for the space, you can certainly trim them back now. The downside to trimming now is that this may encourage new growth and the tender new growth can be damaged by any early frosts. You may also be removing potential flowers but they are prolific bloomers, so this should not be too much of a concern. If you have to prune them now, go ahead and do so but then to maintain the size you want them to be, future prunings should be done while they are dormant, late winter or early spring, before the new growth begins. Dead or diseased canes can be removed any time of the year.
|Could you please recommend where to buy fragrant hyacinth bulbs and black nursery pots at reasonable prices? Also, I'm looking for turmeric and ginger plants (organic if possible). Mel, Danville|
|Hello, Mel in Kentucky: Hyacinth flowers are such a lovely surprise in the very early spring. By the time they bloom we are all tired of old man winter and ready for warmer weather and color in the garden. Hyacinth bulbs are planted in the fall and are available in garden centers during the late summer/fall for planting, but you might be able to find flowering bulbs for sale and if so you can plant them in your garden for many years of fragrant flowers. As for black nursery pots, you should check with your local garden centers; if they are not growers they may be happy to give them to you or sell them for a reasonable price. A lot of garden centers have nursery pot recycling programs and if this is the case they may have an abundance of them. You could also check with the Master Gardeners in your county, they might have local suggestions for you. Both turmeric (Curcuma longa) and ginger (Zingiber officinale) belong to the same family and are considered tropical plants for us in Kentucky. The rhizomes of these plants are used for culinary purposes so for planting purposes you will want to find fresh, organically grown rhizomes. You should start by checking at your local farmers' market or natural food store. You will want to look for pieces that have plump nodes or ‘eyes’ and then plant the rhizomes about 5 inches deep with the nodes up. Both of these plants are happiest growing in morning sun and afternoon shade during the warm months and then bright filtered light indoors during the colder months. The soil should be loose, nutrient-rich, and well-drained. Both plants can reach 3 feet tall so keep this in mind when choosing your containers. It can take up to a year before you harvest your first rhizomes.|
|Do cedar chips repel hummingbirds or butterflies, and are they harmful to these critters? Jill, San Clemente|
|Hi, Jill in California: There are many options for mulching the garden and cedar mulch is one of the most popular. Cedar mulch does have an insect-repelling quality because of its scent. This is both good and bad depending on the insect; some are beneficial. It is not harmful to butterflies and hummingbirds but if your goal is to attract them then you might want to consider other options. Cedar mulch in general does not break down as fast as other mulches like pine straw or hardwood, so it does not add nutrients back to the soil as fast as other mulches may. Freshly chipped cedar can be harmful to plants and potentially change the pH of the soil, so you want to make sure it is fully composted for at least a year before you use it as mulch in the garden.|
|Do you have any special instructions on clematis? I remember my mother saying "head in the sun, feet in the shade." She put rocks around the roots. Marilyn, Columbus|
|Hello, Marilyn: “Head in the sun, feet in the shade” is a very true statement in terms of how clematis prefer to live. Mom is always right! There are so many varieties of clematis and they differ in color and shape of bloom as well of time of year that they bloom, but they all enjoy the same growing conditions. A minimum of four hours of direct sun is needed for the best blooms. A moist, well-drained soil is ideal for these climbers. Another way to provide shade to the roots is to plant a small, lower growing shrub in front of the clematis. As with any new addition to the garden, it will need to be watered two to three times per week during the hot summer months.|
|Does a foxtail fern take direct sunlight? Madonna, Frisco|
|Hello, Madonna: When we think of ferns we usually relate them to a shade garden. Some ferns can handle more sun than others and the foxtail fern (Asparagus meyeri) falls into this category. This fern is considered a tropical for those of us gardening in Kentucky, but in your garden it may be considered hardy. I think you are gardening in zone 8 but check with your county Cooperative Extension Service to be certain. This fern is hardy to zone 9 so it may be marginal in your garden. It has wonderful structure and is grown for its unusual foliage. It certainly can handle the full sun but the ideal location would be in a space where it is protected from the hot afternoon sun. Morning sun and afternoon shade would be ideal. If it is currently growing in the shade you will want to gradually acclimate it to the full sun so it does not burn. They are low maintenance in terms of water and will tolerate most soil conditions. If necessary this plant can be brought indoors and overwintered quite easily. I have seen this fern growing in a face planter, very fun!|
|Does Mountain Fire Pieris do well in our area? If so, what are good companion plants or shrubs? Also, what would you plant with red double Knockout roses? Mary, Philpot|
|Hi, Mary: Pieris japonica ‘Mountain Fire’ is a slow-growing evergreen shrub. It is hardy in gardening zones 5-8, which means that as Kentucky gardeners it will survive our winters. Although they are winter hardy, they are a bit picky when it comes to soil conditions. These broad-leafed evergreens are native to Japan and members of the Ericaceae family, which includes azaleas and rhododendrons. All members of this family require acidic soil with a pH between 4.5-5.5. The soil should be moist but well-drained. Pieris will not tolerate soil that does not drain well. If you have a space in the garden that receives morning sun and afternoon shade, this would be ideal for a pieris. They are nice as a specimen planting or as a border. However, if we incorporate them into the garden it is important that we give them the optimal growing conditions or they will struggle. Good companion plants would include other members of this family such as azaleas, but using shade or part shade loving perennials would be a nice combination as well. Epimedium, astilbe, helleborus, ferns, heuchera and Solomon's Seal are all good choices. As for your Knockout roses they are quite stunning all by themselves, but adding additional color will certainly make a statement. Choosing companion plants will depend on the look you are going for: if it is a more formal garden boxwoods would be nice but if you are going for more of a cottage look adding perennials such as salvia, lavender, geraniums, baptisia, and pervoskia would all be good options.|
|Every year since I was a small child, every late spring or early summer there is smell in the air that is sickening to me. It's kind of like a bleach smell. You can smell it all over the county in different places, so I always attributed it to some sort of flower or weeds. Any ideas? Cindy, Bedford|
|Hello, Cindy in Indiana: Smells can trigger memories and take us back to places we have been, but in some cases they can be offensive and there are certainly plants that can be attributed to smells that are not pleasing to our senses. From what you have described it sounds like you are referring to a chestnut tree and most likely a Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima). The Chinese chestnuts were replaced by the American chestnuts that were radically reduced in numbers in the 1900s due to chestnut blight. These nut-bearing trees (if they have a pollinator) are used as a medium-sized shade tree that doubles as an ornamental. They bloom in the late spring/early summer and occur in clusters at the ends of the new growth. Cream in color, both the male and female flowers omit a foul bleach-like odor. There is no mistaking these trees when they are in bloom; unfortunately, there is nothing we can do about the scent but thankfully they are not in bloom for very long! I hope this is helpful information.|
|For the second year in a row my hydrangea plants are not producing flowers. Any ideas why? Janet, Amherst|
|Hi, Janet: It is still very early in the growing season so do not be too discouraged quite yet, the season is just getting started. Were these hydrangeas new additions to your garden last year or are they established shrubs? If they were new to the garden last year, it may be that they are still getting settled in and using their energy for root development instead of producing blooms. Do you know what kind of hydrangeas you are growing? In some cases, the actual plant can be hardy but the blooms are not. These are often referred to as florist hydrangeas. If you know you have a hardy variety and they have been in the garden for several years with plenty of time to establish their roots, there may be something else going on. Did you prune them at all this year? Depending on which hydrangea you have, pruning at the wrong time of year can eliminate potential blooms. Some hydrangeas bloom on old wood, last season’s growth, and some on new wood, this season’s growth. Knowing what kind of hydrangea you have will matter in terms of when you should prune. Lack of nutrients or over-fertilizing with too much nitrogen can also prevent blooms, so it is always important to follow product recommendations rates for application. If you have not fertilized, they will benefit from a side dressing of compost or well-balanced fertilizer. Some hydrangeas like more sun than others, and if you are growing one that would like a bit more sunlight but is planted in the shade, this could be a reason for lack of blooms. A late spring freeze can also contribute to lack of blooms. As you can tell, there are many reasons why your shrubs are not blooming, and not having all the information I can only give you possibilities.|
|Hi Angie, I'm in zone 6 I have some questions here! 1. My neighbor has pine trees along his fence, so I have their needles all over that side. Would they poison the soils and crops in those area? I'm thinking about having a raised bed in that area for edible vegetables. 2. Is it true that pine needles will kill any plants under them? 3. I'm not sure how to get rid of the grass in the area I want to make the raised bed. Can I put a plastic sheet over the grass for a week to kill it, throw in the soil? Or do I really need to remove the grass? 4. The north side of my foundation bed is empty and I'm planning to put josee lilac and mock orange there. Is it okay to plant them close to the house? Do you have any fragrant plants or evergreen (nonstinky please) to suggest for the north side of the house? 5. The south of my house (this side is along the street) has some peonies, but once they die down the garden looks empty. What would be good to plant in that area? 6. Where can I get soil at a good price? It's sad that I spend more on soil than the plants! Cath, Danville|
|Hello, Cath in Kentucky: Pine needles are not harmful to plant material; if anything they may acidify the soil over time but some garden centers sell pine straw bales as a mulching option. Before constructing your beds, keep in mind that vegetables require full sun so make sure you have a space that will receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. The dimensions of your raised beds are going to be up to you and the space limitations you are working with. The most important dimension is the depth. Ideally you do not want it to be any less than a foot deep and in direct contact with the existing soil. This allows enough space for the roots to spread and continue into the earth if needed. This is especially true if you intend to grow any root vegetables. Growing in raised beds certainly has its advantages, one of the most important being that we can create the ideal soil mixture for our plants. A mixture of quality topsoil, compost, and manure provides plants with the optimal environment in which to grow. Soil structure, fertility, drainage, and pH are all important aspects in creating this environment. It can be expensive if you are trying to fill a raised bed so you may want to think about buying in bulk. First you will want to till up the base soil and then add topsoil, compost, and decomposed manure. Different layers of soil can create barriers, not allowing soil to penetrate, so make sure to mix it all together. Equal parts topsoil and amendments would be best, but heavier on the topsoil is fine as well. You also want to avoid working the soil if it is too wet because of compaction issues, which can lead to lack of oxygen movement. As for getting rid of the grass, removing it is ideal but killing it with plastic, layers of newspaper, or cardboard is effective as well. After the grass is removed/killed it is best to till the soil before adding any additional soil or amendment. You may want to consider planting the lilac and mock orange on the south side of your home since both of these plants are sun lovers. They will not receive as much sun on the north side of your home as they will on the south side. Evergreen options for the north side include: aucuba, pieris, mahonia, taxus, and evergreen azaleas. You always want to make sure each plant has enough room to reach its mature size before putting it in the ground. Read each grower's tag carefully and take into consideration both height and width. Companion plants for peonies will depend on the space you are dealing with but all sun-loving perennials, ground covers, and shrubs, such as amsonia, echinacea, asters, or even ornamental grass could all be nice options since they will give you color at different times of the season. I would suggest taking measurements of your space and then visit your local garden center to see what catches your eye.|
|How can I get my climbing hydrangea to bloom? It's very healthy in a hanging basket every spring but it never blooms. Norman, Houston|
|Hello, Norman: When our flowering plants do not bloom it is usually caused by one of the following reasons. Either it is not receiving the proper amount of sunlight that it requires, it is not old enough to bloom, or it is getting too many or too few nutrients. I have to say I have never heard of a climbing hydrangea in a hanging basket. This vine would prefer to have its roots in the ground and a structure to climb on. These hydrangeas can take a few years to produce any blooms. Young vines usually do not have any blooms for the first couple of years. The plant is using its energy to establish a root system. Severe pruning can also reduce blooms. This vine does not require any pruning until it is well-established, and then only to improve light filtration and air circulation. If you are looking for a showy hanging basket with a lot of colorful blooms, you are better off taking a trip to your local garden center/nursery and purchasing a basket filled with annual flowers. I am certain you will find many to choose from.|
|How can you get rid of or control unwanted Bermuda grass in lawns? Don, Glasgow|
|Hello, Don: Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) is not a desirable grass and unfortunately it is really difficult to eliminate in our Kentucky lawns. This invasive perennial grass is dormant this time of year; as you will notice it has turned brown so we have to wait until it is actively growing to apply any product that will be effective. Hand pulling this warm-season grass is feasible in a small space or a garden bed but not in a large lawn. Getting to the roots is essential and you may never be totally free of this grass, especially if your neighbors have the same problem, but the idea is just to keep it in check so it does not take over any desirable turfgrass. Bermuda grass is spread by rhizomes and seed so removing/spraying it before it flowers will help reduce future spread. Mowing without collecting the clippings only spreads the problem, especially as the seeds are formed. For now you can hand pull; otherwise wait until new growth begins in the spring when you can spot spray with Round-Up or any other product containing glyphosate. This is a non-selective product, meaning that will kill anything it comes into contact with. It will take several applications to get it under control. Safer brand offers a weed and grass killing product labeled for Bermuda grass that is more environmentally friendly. As with any product, always follow application instructions.|
|How can you kill Japanese anemone? Marie, Decize|
|Hello, Marie: Fall blooming, Japanese anemone can spread after they have become established but typically they are not aggressive. In the States, these plants are not considered a weed and many hybrids are sold in garden centers. This may not be the case in France, but the hybrid ‘Honorine Jobert’ was developed in France in the 1850s and is still very popular today. So, to answer your question, these long-lived perennials can be removed from the garden by digging up the plant as well as the fibrous roots. This would be the most environmentally conscious choice, but you can also kill them by spraying with Round-Up or any herbicide with the main ingredient being glyphosate. If the reason you do not want them has nothing to do with them being aggressive, you may check with your gardening friends to see if they want them. They may even come and dig them up for you.|
|How do I care for my Kimberly Queen fern that I bought March 3? I don't want my fern to die. Keisha, Sunrise|
|Hello, Keisha in Florida: ‘Kimberly Queen’ ferns (Nephrolepis obliterata) are hardy in zones 9 and above. This means they are considered a perennial fern where you live, but for those of us gardening in Kentucky they have to be over-wintered indoors. These ferns can handle a lot more sun than other ferns can. In fact, they are happy to grow in full sun, which is great for us fern lovers who might not have shade that many other ferns require. These upright sword ferns are great in containers or planted in a bed. They can become very large, reaching 3 feet tall and wide at maturity. They prefer consistently moist soil so if you have planted them in the garden, make sure they have sufficient moisture while they are getting established. If you are growing them in a container they will require more water since they will dry out faster. Your watering routine will depend on the temperature and other environmental conditions such as wind, but watering once every five to seven days should be fine. During the heat of the summer they may need watering every other day or so. It is best to test the soil before watering. If the soil feels moist, wait a couple of days and then water. Make sure your containers have good drainage and you can feed your ferns once a month with your favorite well balanced fertilizer.|
|How do I get rid of grass in the garden? I've tried everything but it just keeps spreading. I think it's whip grass. Scheryl, Perryville|
|Hello, Scheryl: The best way to get rid of grass in the garden is to dig it out. I realize this may sound like a daunting task, but in the long run it will be the most effective. Killing an entire lawn is sometimes easier than getting rid of grass in a garden bed. It is a good idea to have the grass identified so you know if it is an annual or perennial. If it is an annual grass, removing it before it goes to seed will dramatically reduce the problem next year. Applying a pre-emergent herbicide such as Preen may also be helpful with an annual weed. If it is a perennial grass, it will be more of a process. Spot spraying with a product such as Round-Up is an option but not the best one in my opinion. It will still require you to dig up the grass and you can potentially damage the flowers that you would like to keep in the process. You can take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Service so they can positively identify the culprit. After the grass is removed, a thin 2” layer of mulch will help prevent future problems.|
|How do I get rid of the buckthorn in my yard?
|Hello, Jo: Buckthorn (Rhamnus) is one of those plants that used to be commonly found in landscapes. We soon discovered that this European native has many insect disease problems and can be quite aggressive as the fruit is dispersed by birds and wind. Competition from native plants do not stand much of a chance. Eliminating this shrub from the garden will involve actually digging up the root system. This will ensure that the plant will not return from the roots. Another option would be to cut it down at the base and then spot spray the stump with a product such as Round-Up or any herbicide containing glyphosate.This is only effective while the plant is actively growing, so spraying now while the plant is dormant will not work. Seeds are viable for up to five years so keep an eye out for seedlings and pull them as soon as you notice them.|
|How do I get rid of the weeds growing through the tar driveway? Mark, Scottsville|
|Hello, Mark: Weeds can survive anywhere, even in the smallest of cracks. Ideally you would want to hand pull them, but in this situation hand pulling can be a tedious job and one that may not be worth it in the long run. If the actual roots are not removed you will be pulling the same weed again in no time. If you think you can get to the roots with a dandelion digger or a slender tool then start digging! Otherwise, you will want to use a liquid product as opposed to a granular one so that it can reach the root system. You may consider spot spraying with an herbicide such as RoundUp that contains glyphosate as the active ingredient. This is a toxic chemical so be sure to follow label instructions, and if you have a garden close by do not use on a windy day because it will kill any plant material it comes in contact with. If you want to avoid using chemicals there are more environmentally conscious options for killing weeds. Pouring boiling water over the weeds works really well, just be sure not to burn yourself in the process. A homemade mixture of 1 qt. vinegar, ¼ cup salt, and 2 Tbsp liquid detergent can also be effective. Whatever process you choose the main objective is to get to the root system. Eliminating them now will save you from trying to get rid of them next spring.|
|How do I get rid of thistles in my flower garden? Martha, Schaumburg|
|Hello, Martha: This seems to be a popular question these days. Getting rid of thistles in the garden can be quite an undertaking, especially if they have had time to multiply. Thistles are weeds that have an extensive tap root, making it even more difficult to get rid of them. Hand pulling or digging, which is more likely the case with this weed, can be a remedy for a small garden but for a larger one this may not be feasible. Round-Up is an herbicide used for spot spraying. This product contains glyphosate, which will kill most any plant it comes into contact with, so it must be used with caution. For a more natural control, not allowing the thistles to flower will help. Once they flower and the seeds are dispersed the task of removing them becomes a tougher one. The younger the plants are the easier it will be to remove them. Cutting back the existing foliage and then covering them with newspapers or cardboard and then a thin layer of mulch will prevent light from filtering through and the roots will not survive. Getting control of them now will help keep the population down. It may take more than one growing season to get them under control.|
|How do I kill a hibiscus tree? It's too hard to dig it up.
|Hi, Monique: If you are not able to actually dig up the existing hibiscus you can prune it back to the ground and then paint the tips of the cut branches with Round-Up or any product with the main ingredient being glyphosate. These plants can become very woody so make sure your pruners are sharp before you make any cuts. Be careful not to spray the glyphosate on any plants you intend on keeping because it is a nonselective herbicide that will kill any plant material it comes into contact with. You can literally take a paint brush and paint the tips so that it is absorbed throughout the rest of the plant, eventually killing the root system. Another option would be to offer it to your gardening friends on the condition that they dig it up and take it with them. Someone may be very happy to add this to their garden and then you have a pre-dug hole if you wanted to replace it with something else.|
|How do I kill those little purple violets that are in our yard? Janice, Glasgow|
|Hello, Janice in Kentucky: Wild violets are perennial broadleaf weeds that spread by underground rhizomes. Eliminating them from the lawn can be a daunting task and your lawn may never be violet-free, but keeping them under control is the goal. It may take a couple of years to get rid of most of the violets, but keeping the numbers down will help reduce new ones from popping up next year. The best way to keep the population down is to dig them up as soon as you notice them. This way they do not have a chance to flower and set seed. Unfortunately, they have already flowered and set seed this year: when the grass was mowed the seeds were spread, so keep an eye out for new plants throughout the growing season and next spring. Hand digging is the most effective means of elimination because it removes the root system as well as any potential flowers. I realize this is quite a task and depending on the space involved, hand digging may not be feasible. Wild violets have a waxy coating on the foliage that protects them against many common organic and chemical sprays. Using an herbicide containing 2,4-D
(2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) in combination with Triclopyr (Turflon or Weed-B-Gone) once in the spring as the foliage emerges and again in the fall will help reduce the population. Be sure to read and follow all recommendations when spraying any product in the lawn/garden.
|How do I prepare the soil for planting hydrangeas? The east side of my house has never been landscaped. Sherry, Clinton|
|Hello, Sherry in Kentucky: Hydrangeas have been a long-time favorite among southern gardeners. As with any new addition to the garden, it is important to prepare the planting space before installation. This is especially true if you are dealing with new construction or heavy, compact clay soil. When gardening in clay soil, like we have here in Kentucky, it is sometimes necessary to loosen and amend it, allowing for better air movement through the soil. Oxygen needs to be able to move freely through the soil or the plants will not survive. Permatil is an expanded slate material that helps break up the clay and improve the drainage. It is always a good idea to have your soil tested if you are preparing a new bed. This can be done through your county Cooperative Extension Service. Your current nutrient levels, as well as the pH of your soil, will help determine what needs to be added to enrich the soil. Hydrangeas as a genus thrive in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. If you intend on planting a hydrangea that blooms pink or blue (macrophylla or serrata) and prefer one color over the other, you might need to adjust the pH of your soil. Lower pH levels indicate a more acidic soil and aluminum is more available to the plant, producing blue blooms. With higher pH levels the soil is more alkaline and the blooms are pink because the aluminum is not readily available. Depending on the color you would like to have, you may need to add either lime (pink) or sulfur (blue). This will not change the color of your blooms overnight but gradually over time your flowers will be the color you intended them to be. If you are going to plant white-blooming hydrangeas (quercifolia, arborescens, and paniculata) you will not need to adjust the soil pH.|
|How do I store new rose plants here in Michigan until it's time to plant them? Cheryl, Saginaw|
|Hello, Cheryl in Michigan: I assume that you have purchased your roses in nursery pots as container grown plants. Until the soil thaws and can be worked, the roses should be healed in. They are perfectly hardy but living in containers instead of the ground, they are more susceptible to root damage due to winter weather. So, to prevent this from happening it is best to keep your roses in a protected spot, up against some type of foundation and huddled together. Pine straw bales, bags of mulch, or even soil work great for insulation; it would be even better if you can get some of the mulch on top of the soil in the container. The idea is to keep them warm and cozy until the soil can be worked and you can get them in the ground. You can keep them in the garage as well but they will not be exposed to any natural moisture, so it will be up to you to make sure they do not completely dry out. Plants certainly do not require as much moisture during the colder months but it is still essential for their survival. If roots dry out for an extended period of time, the plant will eventually die. If the roots are dry during dormancy the plant is more susceptible to winter damage. Wherever you decide to keep the roses just make sure you water them every couple of weeks.|
|How do we eliminate wild violets from our lawn?
|Hi, Rita: Eliminating violets from the lawn can be a daunting task and your lawn may never be violet-free, but keeping them under control is the goal. It may take a couple of years to get rid of most of the violets, but getting them under control in terms of population will help reduce new ones from popping up the next year. Wild violets are perennial broadleaf weeds that spread by underground rhizomes. It is best to dig them up as soon as you notice them so they cannot flower and set seed. Unfortunately, they have already flowered and set seed this year--when the grass was mowed the seeds were spread, so keep an eye out for new plants throughout the growing season and next spring. Hand digging is the most effective means of elimination because it removes the root system as well as any potential flowers. I realize this is quite a task and depending on the space involved, hand digging may not be feasible. Wild violets have a waxy coating on the foliage that protects them against many common organic and chemical sprays. Using an herbicide containing 2,4-D
(2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) in combination with Triclopyr (Turflon or Weed-B-Gone) once in the spring as the foliage emerges and again in the fall will help reduce the population. Be sure to read and follow all recommendations when spraying any product in the lawn/garden.
|How do you get rid of witch grass? I have tried almost everything and it keeps coming back! Catherine, Lexington|
|Hello, Catherine: Witch grass (Panicum capillare) is known by several common names, including panic grass and tumbleweed grass. This weedy, warm-season grass is a North American native that can be difficult to get rid of once it has found a home in your garden. It is an annual grass that can reach 1-3 feet tall. Since it is an annual we do not have to worry about the same plant returning year after year, but we do need to be concerned about the seeds it produces. If this grass is allowed to flower it can produce tens of thousands of seeds per plant. Since it is such a prolific seed producer, not allowing it to flower will drastically reduce the number that will show up in years to come. The seeds can remain in the soil for up to three years before they germinate. Do not be too discouraged, you have already started the elimination process from the effort you have already put into this project. It is that the seed can lay dormant for so long that eradicating them all in one year is not possible. As warmer weather arrives and the seeds germinate, the process will continue so tackling it early will leave less work for the upcoming years. The key is to not let the grass flower. I am not sure what you are dealing with in terms of space or what you have tried in the past, but here are a couple of options. First, hand digging is always the safest and most environmentally friendly. If this is not feasible, corn gluten is a great pre-emergent that will stop the seeds from germinating if applied early enough. This would not be an option if this is a space where other intentional seeds are germinating. Spot spraying with any weed killer containing glyphosate, such as Roundup, will work but always use caution when using chemicals. Getting to the grass while it is young will be less maintenance on your part if you can pull them, otherwise just make sure you get to them before they flower and produce more seeds.
|How do you kill kudzu vines? Does any one offer this service? Steve, Louisville|
|Hello, Steve: Kudzu (Pueraria lobata) was purposefully planted for erosion control in the late 1800s. Native to Asia, this rapid growing vine has literally taken over some areas of the Southeastern United States. It can climb up to 60 feet per year, suffocating entire forests and leaving native species to struggle for water and sunlight. One seed pod can contain up to 100 individual seeds that will germinate and grow in almost any condition. Once established these vines have a very extensive, woody root system. Unfortunately I do not have a good answer for you in terms of eradicating this vine. Depending on the space you are dealing with, hand pruning may be a huge undertaking but essential for control and further spread. Cut the foliage back to ground level and destroy. Do not add to your compost. Spot spraying with an herbicide will help destroy the roots although the roots can be as deep as 3-10 feet below the soil surface, so one application of glyphosate will not do much damage. This will need to be a consistent, ongoing task to control sprouting roots and tubers. If it is in an area where you can mow this is an effective way to keep it from growing. Eliminating kudzu altogether is not likely but keeping it under control in your garden is essential and will help prevent future spread. As far as resources that provide this service you can contact your Cooperative Extension Service to ask for local suggestions. The phone number for the Jefferson County Office is (502) 569-2344.
|How do you kill thistles that I got from bagged soil in my garden? They get worse every year. James, Medina|
|Hi, James: Getting rid of thistles in the garden can be quite an undertaking, especially if they have had time to multiply. Thistles are weeds that have an extensive tap root making it even more difficult to get rid of them. Hand pulling or digging, which is more likely the case with this weed, can be a remedy for a small garden but for a larger one this may not be feasible. Round-Up is an herbicide used for spot spraying. This product contains glyphosate, which will kill most any plant it comes into contact with, so it must be used with caution. For a more natural control, not allowing the thistles to flower will help. Once they flower and the seeds are dispersed, the task of removing them becomes a tougher one. The younger the plants are the easier it will be to remove them. Cutting back the existing foliage and then covering them with newspapers or cardboard and then a thin layer of mulch will prevent light from filtering through and the roots will not survive. Getting control of them now will help keep the population down. For future reference, purchasing high-quality soil or amendment products from a reputable garden center will ensure that you are not adding potential weeds to the garden.|
|How does Round-Up drift from a farmer's spray rig affect a Bradford pear tree? Mark, Jackson|
|Hello, Mark: Round-Up is a broad-spectrum herbicide used by many gardeners and farmers to kill unwanted weeds. The main ingredient of this product is glyphosate, which is absorbed through the foliage and eventually to the root system, killing the unwanted grass/weeds. Unfortunately, this product is not selective in terms of what it damages. This is why when we use this product we must be careful only to spot spray and do not use on windy days. If Round-Up is sprayed on a windy day, it can potentially drift to plant material that it was not intended for. I am not sure how close your tree is planted in relation to where the Round-Up was sprayed, but I would not think that your Bradford pear tree would have been subject to high concentrations of the weed killer. If your ornamental pear did come into contact with Round-Up, the foliage would look burned and eventually drop. This can certainly cause stress on your tree, but unless it was directly sprayed on your tree I think it will be fine. You can always take a sample of the damaged foliage to your County Cooperative Extension Service for them to diagnose. It is difficult to determine the extent of the damage without seeing the tree.
|How far should I cut back on rose bushes? Bruce, Stanton|
|Hi, Bruce in Kentucky: Roses are an old-fashioned favorite and some require more maintenance than others, but if you are pruning to control size or rejuvenate an older plant the best time do this is late winter/early spring before new growth begins. So, anytime between now and early spring is fine to cut back your roses. Pruning while they are dormant will make them less susceptible to winter injury and other potential problems. If your reason for pruning is to remove dead or diseased canes, this can be done anytime of the year; it is in the best interest to remove these canes as soon as you notice them to prevent disease spread. As a general rule, you do not want to remove more than one-third of the size of the rose during one season. If you are pruning an older neglected plant, you will want to prune one-third this year and then continue to take off another third during consecutive years to maintain the size you want. Remember to use a clean, sharp, and rust-free pair of pruners. Make your cuts flush to the nearest intersecting branch so there are no stubs and remove all crossing or rubbing canes.|
|How/where can I obtain Boston Ivy. When is it available? What's the cost? Ed, London|
|Hi, Ed in Kentucky: Boston ivy(Parthenocissus tricuspidata) is a fast-growing vine that has stunning fall color and berries that provide food for the birds during the winter months. It will probably be easier to locate during the spring or summer, and although it is not as common as some other vines it is available. Call around to your local garden centers now and see if this is something they usually carry, and if not ask if they would be willing to special order it for you when they do their spring ordering. You will have much better luck dealing with your locally owned garden centers as opposed to the big box stores. As far as price it will all depend on the size of the container the vine is growing in. I have seen it available in 1-gallon containers for around $20 and in a 5-gallon container and much larger plant priced around $50. If you are not able to find it in your area call The Plant Kingdom in Louisville at (502) 893-7333. We love this vine as it is growing on our structure and try to keep it in stock. If you are not able to make the drive to Louisville I am sure we can figure out a way to get it to you.|
|Hydrogels are being used in gardens: can they kill much-needed earthworms? Will they kill unwanted pests like red ants? Are hydrogels a good thing to add to a vegtable/fruit garden?
|Hello, Ms. Smith in Texas: Thank you for your question. Hydrogels are water-storing granules. Sometimes referred to as moisture crystals, they are synthetic polymers. These water-storing particles are available in soluble and insoluble form. The soluble form releases the water and then is just part of the makeup of the soil until it dissolves. The insoluble is a gel form that increases in size when water is added and it continuously absorbs and releases moisture and does not break down. I am not aware of any research that proves these products to be harmful to earthworms, ants, or any other insect. There are many brands of potting soil that have these moisture crystals added to their products. In my experience, they are more beneficial when used in container gardens since they tend dry out faster than our plants that are in the ground. These hydrogels are not organic, so it is up to you whether or not to use them in your edible gardens. It is not a substitute for irrigation and mulching is always beneficial in terms of moisture retention. Just as reminder, potting soil is never recommended for use in the ground. If you want more details on the chemical make-up of these polymers you can visit http://ag.arizona.edu/yavapai/anr/hort/byg/archive/hydrogels.html
|I am interested in making a worm bed to raise worms for fishing. Can you give me info on type of soil, type of box, which kind of worms to raise, can you raise earthworms and redworms together, etc.? Terry, Bowling Green|
|Hi, Terry in Kentucky: Vermiculture is a great way to reduce waste, add nutrients to the garden, and in your case, raise bait for fishing. It is quite simple, you will want to start off by either making or purchasing a home for your worms. It does not need to be fancy by any means, but if you decide to make your own it should be assembled out of exterior plywood. You will want to avoid using pressure-treated wood since there is potential for it to be toxic to your worms. In terms of dimensions of the container, they do not have to be exact but approximately 1 ft. tall, 2 ft. deep, and 3 ft. wide will suffice. Drainage is essential so drill a dozen or so holes in the bottom of the box. After the box is built/purchased, you will want to fill it with 10 lbs. of shredded newspaper (only the black and white sections), cardboard, or printer paper. Then add 1 gallon of basic garden soil or topsoil purchased from your local garden center. Then add 4 gallons of water. All this should be done a couple days before adding the worms. You can raise both redworms and earthworms together. The redworms tend to live closer to the surface and have an incredibly high reproduction rate. The earthworms are larger worms that may be better fishing bait but they do not have a very high reproduction rate. Feed your worms as often as you like with kitchen scraps, and anything that you would add to a compost bin such as veggies, fruits, coffee grinds, etc., but avoid any meat products. You will want to keep the bin where it will not be exposed to temperatures below 40 degrees F. Ideally the temperatures should range between 40 and 90 degrees F. You will want to harvest your worms at least every couple of months or sooner if you need fishing bait.|
|I am looking for a tree to plant at the corner of my house. I would like colorful foliage and also branches that would turn color in the winter. Also, I don't want it to get too large. Marlene, Spring Church|
|Hello, Marlene in Pennsylvania: I am happy to give you recommedations but without knowing specifics this is hard to do. Is it possible for you to give me more information in terms of height and width restrictions as well as light conditions? How many hours of sunlight does this space receive and at what time of the day? And what are you hoping for in terms of the branches changing color in the winter?|
|I am looking to transplant some flowers into a large pot. Would it be a bad idea to put something in the bottom of the pot to fill it up a bit, some mulch, rocks, a plastic bucket, or something? Or should we just get a lot of extra dirt? There are holes in the bottom, so drainage should not be a problem, but we would like to make the pot a little lighter in case we need to move it, and so we don't have to buy and move as much dirt. The flowers are about 6-10" tall, the pot is 2' round by about 20" deep. Roy, Denver|
|Hello, Roy in Colorado: Unless you are planting a larger tree or evergreen in a container, there is no reason to fill your container solely with potting soil. It can make the container even heavier than it already is and purchasing quality container mix can get expensive. So, yes, you can fill part of the container, one-third to one-fourth, with a different material that you might already have lying around. Mulch is a good choice since it is lighter, less expensive, and still allows for good drainage. Plastic bottles or even commercial nursery containers can be used to fill up space. The most important thing to remember is that the soil needs to be able to drain properly; blocking the drainage holes with large rocks should be avoided. As a general rule, annuals do not have extensive root systems. Since we change them out seasonally, they only need a limited amount of soil to grow in. If this is a planting that you intend on keeping in there for several years, it is a good idea to fill the entire container with potting soil.|
|I am moving to MN and decided to take a few of my favorite plants with me: roses, bulbs, daisies, peonies. I dug them up and put them in paper bags and then into boxes. If I leave them in my garage through winter and plant in the new location in early spring before growth starts, will they be okay? Susan, Milwaukee|
|Hello, Susan in Wisconsin: As gardeners, it is hard not to make sure that there is room for a few special plants in the moving truck. We cannot always control the time of year that we move, and of course certain times are better than others in terms of transplanting, but plants are pretty resilient and it is certainly worth the effort to include some of the old favorites in the new garden. I am sure it is much colder in Wisconsin than it is in Kentucky this time of the year, but in general you can plant trees and shrubs all year long as long as the ground is not frozen. So, if the bed is prepared and you know where you want to plant your rose you can go ahead and get it in the ground. It is getting to be a bit late to plant perennials because of the potential of the soil heaving as it freezes and thaws but the daisies should still be potted up. If they are left in the bag/box the roots may completely dry out and you risk losing the plant. You can pot the daisy up in a nursery container or even a decorative one if you want but it will still need to be watered every couple of weeks. It can stay in the garage until late winter or early spring. If your bulbs are perennial ones you can plant those as well. If they are tender then the best way to store them is in peat moss. You just want to make sure they are not exposed to moisture since they can rot. Peonies are technically tubers so the same goes for them in terms of moisture. The bulbs/tubers can remain in the paper bags in the garage until next spring.|
|I am moving to northern Kentucky this year and I'm curious to what fruits, veggies, flowers, and foliage grow in this climate. Is there a Web site or some literature you can recommend? Marcia, Coconut creek|
|Hello, Marcia: Gardening in Kentucky will be quite different from where you are gardening now. Most of the plants that you consider hardy we would think of as annuals or tropicals. The soil you will be digging in will also be very different as well; I assume the soil you are used to is more of a loose, coarsely textured sandy composition. In Kentucky you will be on the other end of the spectrum with compacted clay soil. When you get into your new home you can have your soil tested so you know what you are dealing with in terms of nutrients, and if you are building a new home or if you are moving into a home that has been built within the past 10 years you may need to amend your soil. The best option for having your soil tested is through your county Cooperative Extension Service. They will send it off to a land grant university and the results will indicate if you need to adjust the composition. As far as reliable resources for gardening in Kentucky the Extension Service is a wonderful one. I am not sure which county you will be moving to but you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/county
and click on your county to find contact information for the horticulture agent in your county. This resource is specifically for home gardeners and there are publications written by horticulturists on basically every subject from annuals to disease and insect problems. The following link will allow you to search all the publications that you can read online, print off, or you can contact your agent and have them mail you copies: www.uky.edu/Ag/Horticulture
. The following may be of interest to you: www.uky.edu/Ag/Horticulture/homefruitrec07.pdf and www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf
. If you are interested in taking a Master Gardener course this would introduce you to all aspects of gardening in Kentucky and other gardeners in your area.|
|I am thinking about buying Queen Ann palms. Can I keep them in the pots till spring? They are approximately 8 feet tall. I live in the Houston, Texas, area. Cindy, La Porte |
|Hello, Cindy: Queen palms (Syagrus romanzoffiana) are considered a tropical for those of us gardening in Kentucky, however, I believe you are gardening in hardiness zone 9, so you can add them to your landscape as a permanent addition. If you want to purchase them now and keep them in their nursery pots until spring, you certainly can but they will require more maintenance on your part in terms of consistent moisture than they would if they were in the ground. If you choose to keep them in their containers, it might not be a bad idea to keep them in a sheltered space, still in the full sun but somewhere the roots can be protected from hard freezes. Placing bags of mulch or loose pine straw around the containers will help. These palms are quite tolerant of cold weather and can handle temperatures into the mid-20s, but the roots will be more susceptible to damage if they are left in their containers exposed to the elements. Ideally, they should be planted in the ground or into a larger container so there is more soil mass that can keep the moisture and heat in. These fast-growing palms are native to Southern Brazil and Argentina. They require a minimum of six hours of full sun each day and prefer slightly acidic soil. Consider space limitations when you plant them since they can reach upward of 40 feet tall and 20 feet wide.|
|I am thinking of planting a ginkgo tree. Would it be able to survive and do well in this area? It will be in our front yard. Phyllis, Hopkinsville|
|Hello, Phyllis: Ginkgo trees are among some of the oldest trees on earth. They are quite impressive at maturity and have stunning fall color. Ginkgos are free of many pest and disease problems and are perfectly hardy for a Kentucky garden. Choosing a tree to plant in the front landscape is an important decision. Making sure you select a tree that can thrive in the conditions you can provide is important for the long term. Ginkgo trees require a minimum of six hours of sunlight each day but are not too picky in terms of soil conditions, although moist, well-drained would be preferred. They will reach upward of 50 feet tall and 30-40 feet wide. Ginkgos are slow growers but they will need that space to grow into. When it comes time to purchase your ginkgo, make sure to buy a named male cultivar such as ‘Autumn Gold.’ The fruit produced on a female ginkgo has a very distinct odor, and not in a good way. They may not fruit for many years but if/when they do you will not be happy about your purchase. Buy your tree from a reputable garden center or nursery to be certain that you are getting a male.|
|I am trying to raise 'Bluebird' hydrangea flowers but am not having much luck. The plants stay a light green but never bloom. I would like to know what is the best way to fertilize them and how often. Odis, Olive Hill|
|Hello, Odis: Are these hydrangeas new additions to your garden or are they established shrubs? If they are new to the garden this year, it may be that they are still becoming established and using their energy for root development and not producing blooms. If they have had time to establish roots and they have not bloomed for consecutive years, it may be a bigger issue. The yellowing foliage could be a sign of chlorosis. Chlorosis can be caused by a number of different reasons. Lack of nutrients, extreme moisture and temperature fluctuations, and iron deficiency are all possibilities. Soil pH is an important clue in solving the problem. Plants are more likely to suffer from chlorosis if the soil is alkaline. If you have not had your soil tested, you can contact your County Cooperative Extension Service. The veins typically remain green on the foliage if chlorosis is the problem. It would also explain the lack of blooms. Hydrangea ‘Bluebird’ is a moderate growing deciduous shrub. It can get 4-6 feet wide and tall at maturity. These shrubs are best planted in a space where they will receive morning sun and afternoon shade. In acidic soil they will produce blue lacecap flowers. Ideally, they should be planted in a nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Each spring these shrubs can be side-dressed with compost or with any well-balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Overfeeding can also cause a lack of blooms. Feeding twice during the growing season will be sufficient. Avoid fertilizing during the fall since this will encourage new growth, which can be damaged by frost. This hydrangea blooms on old wood (the previous year’s growth) and if needed it should be pruned after it has finished blooming.|
|I bought 10 roses at a Lowe's clearance section, and all of them are doing great after cutting deadwood and given some TLC. My question is, in zone 9 when can I plant in the ground? They are different sized containers. Yolanda, Ontario|
|Hello, Yolanda: It sounds like you have some holes to dig! The sooner you can get your roses in the ground, the happier they will be. The more time they are given to establish their roots and get settled in before the colder weather arrives, the better off they will be. Granted, you are in a much warmer zone than we are here in Kentucky, but the same rules apply when planting. It is certainly a much better option to plant your roses now as opposed to keeping them in their plastic nursery containers during the winter months. The roots will be more insulated and the moisture level will be easier to maintain in the ground. Make sure to choose a very sunny space for your new roses. For best blooms, they require a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day. Consider the mature size of the rose when you choose the design. The holes should be dug just as deep and twice as wide as the containers they are currently growing in. Water well and add a thin layer of mulch, no thicker than 2 inches. This will help keep the soil moist as well as work as an insulator during the winter. Avoid fertilizing at this time of the year because it will encourage new growth that can be damaged by frost. Next spring, they will benefit from a side dressing of compost.|
|I bought a persimmon tree. It arrived with the main branch, 3 feet long, growing sideways off the main trunk. When I plant it in the ground do I place the main trunk sideways so the branch is straight? Inez, Gaithersburg|
|Hello, Inez: I am wondering if you mailed ordered this tree and it was shipped to you after it had leafed out or possibly even bare root. Hopefully this is not the case since plants should not be shipped after they have broken dormancy and certainly not shipped bare root at this time of year. It also sounds like maybe you did not receive the best specimen in terms of structure. So, to answer your question, you want to plant the persimmon just as it is in the container. The roots should be oriented the same way they are now and the main trunk should be vertical. The side branch can eventually be pruned back if need be to create a better structure, but let it be for now since it may be the main source of stored energy for the tree. Dig your hole twice as wide as the container it is planted in and just as deep. Spread out the roots and back fill with the existing soil making sure it is not planted too deep. Water it well and give it about an inch of water per week for the first month. As the temperatures cool down you can cut back on your watering. Avoid fertilizing until next spring since it is better for the tree to become established in the soil/nutrients that exist naturally. Add a thin layer of mulch to help keep the moisture in and protect the roots during the winter.|
|I bought fragrant hyacinth from Sam's Club at Easter. At the time it was blooming, I transplanted it into the ground; when the blooms were gone was very careful not to overwater it. Now the foliage is all gone. How do I fix it? Can I move the bulbs to a new spot now? The peonies and poppy I planted last fall are growing to about a foot tall, no flowers yet. Is it okay to move them to a new spot or shall I wait until fall? Doug, Danville|
|Hi Doug: Hyacinth are such a sweet surprise in the spring. After the fragrant blooms have faded away the foliage will continue to collect nutrients to store in the bulb for next year's flowers. It is perfectly normal for the foliage to eventually die back as well. You can move the bulbs now if you know where they are. Be very careful when digging them up not to puncture the bulb. As long as the bulbs are firm they are still viable. As for moving your peony and poppy you can move them now but the sooner you do so the better or you can wait until the fall. You may sacrifice any potential flowers by moving them now although your peony should have already bloomed by now. Transplanting can be stressful on plants so reducing the stress is important. Pre-dig the new holes before lifting the plants out of the soil and replant them immediately. Take the entire root system with each plant and water them in after they are transplanted. Ideally we want to plant where they can live permanently but as long as you treat them like new additions to the garden and give them extra moisture they should be happy. Danville, KY|
|I bought my beautiful log cabin type house about seven years ago, and with it came trumpet vines planted at every cedar post positioned down off my front porch, which is about 80' across. I have tried numerous times to kill these trailing plants before they take over my entire house, but to no avail. I have dug and pulled and used brush killer, everything I can think of, but I believe the new shoots are numerous under my porch. What can I do? Yolaine , Campbellsville|
|Hello, Yolaine in Kentucky: Trumpet vines can be very invasive and I sympathize with your frustration in trying to eliminate these vines from your property. As you have found, they are difficult to control. Once established they become very aggressive and produce suckers. Some chemicals are not very effective in terms of control. I am not sure what you have tried in the past but if the product you used had glyphosate as its main ingredient, you might try products with the main active ingredient being either 2,4-D or triclopyr; even a combination of triclopyr and glyphosate would be more effective than glyphosate alone. Applying any of these products this time of year is not worth the effort. You want to spray while the vine is actively growing so the chemicals can be moved throughout the tissue of the plant and eventually to the root system. Before using a spray you will want to remove as much of the vine as possible and then use a paint brush and paint the tips of the remaining vine. This will prevent the chemicals from damaging any nearby plant material that you do not want to get rid of. Ideally, we want to remove the actual root system; otherwise you will be tackling the same problem year after year. Hopefully in your situation you have access under your porch to get to the vine. It may be worth having a reliable landscape company come out and dig up the vines for you and apply a chemical application to the suckers. I hope this is helpful.|
|I bought six creeping phlox and was about to plant them when I had a family emergency and was away for two weeks. They died due to lack of watering, and I was wondering if there's a chance they could come back or if they are toast? The same question goes for a calla lily, it too died, but that's a bulbed plant, is there the chance it can make it as well? Savannah, Charleroi|
|Hello, Savannah in Pennsylvania: Unfortunately once we allow plants to completely dry out there is little chance that they will recover. Do not feel too bad, you are certainly not the first person to have newly purchased plants dry out on them and when more important issues come up the loss of a few plants is not so bad in the grand scheme of things. Your calla lily may have enough moisture and energy stored up in the bulb to put on new growth but if the roots of the phlox dried up there is little hope for them. Only time will tell at this point but if they were not watered for two weeks I would be surprised if they came back. For now cut back all the dried up foliage and if you want to see if the phlox will come back keep the soil moderately moist, but if you do not see any new growth in the next few weeks the plants should be composted. I wish I had better news for you.|
|I bought three bald cypress trees and when I planted them they all turned yellow. They lost all their leaves, but then started growing back again. Now, three months later, they're turning yellow again. I don't understand what's going on. Wanda, Pensacola|
|Hello, Wanda: Baldcypress (Taxodium distichum) is a medium growing deciduous tree that can reach 70 feet tall by 30 feet wide. Once established they are tolerable of drought conditions and are more commonly grown in wet areas, but like any other new addition to the garden it will need sufficient moisture to become established. Typically when we see yellow foliage it is moisture-related, especially with newly installed plants. That being said, the bald cypress foliage can be a yellow-green color in the spring, turning darker green in the summer, followed by a yellow-orange color in the fall. Because your trees were dropping their foliage I suspect your issue is moisture-related. For now make sure your trees are getting an inch of water per week. It is not necessary to water the actual foliage, only the root ball of the trees and the surrounding soil so they can get their roots settled before the winter arrives. A thin layer of mulch, no more than 2 inches, will help the roots retain moisture. Avoid fertilizing until the spring; doing so now would encourage new growth that would be too tender this late in the season; living in Florida you may not have to worry about freezing temperatures but for Kentucky gardeners this is certainly a reality.|
|I cannot get a hummingbird vine to grow. I have gotten 100 or more over the years, and they will not grow for me. I've planted them in full sun, part sun, full shade, dry soil, wet soil, and still no vine. What am I doing wrong? Mildred, Auburn|
|Hi, Mildred: There are a couple of different vines commonly referred to as a hummingbird vine. The perennial trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), also known as a hummingbird vine, can be very aggressive and hard to keep under control once established. This vine can climb upward of 40 feet. The annual hummingbird vine (Ipomea quamoclit) will reach up to 20 feet in one growing season. Both vines when in bloom attract bees, butterflies, and of course hummingbirds. I am not sure which one you are referring to but I will assume it is the annual vine since you have planted it so many times. It sounds like you have tried to grow this vine in just about every situation possible. For best results, this vine is happiest when planted in full sun. This means it should receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day. It will tolerate part shade but will not bloom as well. It should not be planted in a space where it will get less than four hours of bright direct sunlight. As with any new addition to the garden, you will need to give the roots additional moisture if Mother Nature does not provide it. It is possible to over-water, which can cause the roots to rot, so it is always a good idea to feel the soil before you water to make sure the soil is dry at least a couple of inches below the surface. Have you tried starting from seed or actual plants? You can always ask your friend if she can save you some seeds from her plants so you can plant them next spring. You could start the seeds indoors or you can directly sow them in the garden after the frost-free date for your area has passed. When starting from seed, it is important to keep the soil evenly moist. It should not be allowed to completely dry out or remain sopping wet. If you have never had any growth when starting from seed, this could be why. Whether you are planting seed or starts, there is a fine line between over- and under-watering, so make sure to test the soil with your finger before adding any additional moisture.|
|I dug up my hibiscus and I lost all of the rootball. I went ahead and placed it in the new planting hole and covered it with the same dirt. Do you think it will survive? Bill, Reseda|
|Hello, Bill in California: Hibiscus are lovely plants that give any garden a tropical feel. I am going to assume that this is a perennial in your California garden. I am sorry to say that it does not sound good for your hibiscus. The function of a root system is to stabilize the plant and, more importantly, provide food and water. Without a root system to take up water and essential nutrients, the plant cannot survive. Unless there are some roots left and through the process of photosynthesis it develops more to replace what was lost, there is little chance of survival. It will just be a waiting game at this point. You will notice it decline quite rapidly if it is going to. If this happens, just go ahead and remove the plant because it will not recover. Hopefully, this is not a sentimental specimen and you can purchase a new one to replace it.|
|I got a white hibiscus last year. It was beautiful then, but now the branches look dead, though there is some new growth from the roots. Should I cut it back? Wilma, Somerset|
|Hello, Wilma: I am not sure if you are growing a tropical hibiscus or a hardy one. If this is a plant you brought inside to over-winter, it should not have lost its foliage. If this is the case, you can tell if the branches are still alive by scratching at the surface. If the branch is green underneath the bark, it is still alive. If not, the branch is dead and should be removed. This tropical hibiscus can be taken back outside in the next week. It prefers to grow in full sun but it will need to be slowly acclimated after being indoors all winter. If your hibiscus is growing in the garden, it is perfectly normal that it does not have any foliage this time of year. The perennial hibiscus is one of the last to break dormancy in the garden. They need to be pruned back to about 12 inches every fall. If the growth from last year is still on the plant, go ahead and get your pruners out. This is not a plant that can be divided. The good news is that your plant is still alive and putting on new growth.|
|I had a pachasandra removed, which I regret now, butI'm looking to replace it with an assortment of bushes and plants, flowering types. Any thoughts or names of plants that would be easy to maintain? The dimensions are around 9 x 12. Any bushes I can put in for privacy? Marcy, Fairfax|
|Hello again, Marcy: Do not be too upset with your decision to remove the pachysandra. Think of it as an opportunity to create a space that you will really enjoy. There are several shade-loving plants/shrubs to choose from. Your space is not huge so you can use a few evergreen shrubs for privacy and then under plant with some perennials and annuals for summer color. A few choices for evergreen shrubs include aucuba, taxus, pieris Japonica, schip laurel, and evergreen azaleas. There are many more perennials to choose from, including ferns, heuchera, brunnera, hosta, columbine, bleeding heart, hakonechloe grass, and Solomon seal, just to name a few. There are fewer options for shade-loving flowers than there are for a sun-loving garden, but a shade garden can be just as beautiful. We just have to get creative in terms of colors and textures. Visit your local garden center/nursery to see what catches your eye. Take a picture of your space with you and have a knowledgeable staff member help you choose some plants for you area. Don’t forget to leave some space for a few blooming annuals. After it is all planted you will not be sad about your pachysandra! Have fun with it.|
|I have 2 feet of dead grass circles in several areas of the yard; they appeared after a hot humid spell. Jerry, Hopkinsville|
|Hi, Jerry: There are a few different possibilities of why there are dead circles in your lawn. First, if you or your neighbors have dogs that use this area as a bathroom this could be the reason. The high acidity of the urine combined with the hot humid weather can cause the grass to burn. This is especially true with female dogs and Kentucky Bluegrass. Diluting the urine as soon as possible will help prevent future problems. Another possibility is grubs,: if you can pull up the grass easily in the areas where it is damaged the culprits will be easily seen if this is the reason. It is perfectly normal to have a few grubs in our lawn but an excessive amount of grubs feeding on the roots of the grass can cause large dead patches. Beneficial nematodes can help reduce grub populations, or insecticides will also help. The third possibility could be a fungal turf disease. For more information on grub control and turf diseases problems, visit the following: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id112/id112.htm
These are publications available to home gardeners from our Extension Service in collaboration with land grant universities. It is always important to diagnose the problem before treating for it.|
|I have a 20-foot witchhazel tree in my garden (in full sun) that has not bloomed in 20 years. Is there a secret, or should I cut it down? Richard, Cumberland|
|Hello, Richard in Maine: Witchhazels (Hamamelis) are great for winter interest in the garden. There are five species of this genus and a lot more hybrids and cultivars within each species. The most cold-hardy of all of them is Hamamelis virginiana, or common witchhazel, hardy to zone 3. Other species are not as cold-tolerant and are hardy to zone 5 at best. Since you are gardening in zone 5 and without knowing which species/cultivar you are growing, I would suspect it has more to do with a hardiness issue than anything else. Is the plant happy otherwise? Does the foliage look healthy throughout the growing season? Twenty years is a long time for any blooming plant not to produce flowers, and since yours is growing in full sun I would think maybe you are growing a grafted specimen and the plant itself is hardy but the flowers are not. If this were a new planting or it just didn’t flower this winter, I would suspect too much fertilizer since feeding our plants more than they need actually discourages blooms. Do you prune your witchhazel? If so and you are pruning after the flower buds have formed for next season, you could be removing potential flowers. You are a very patient gardener! Most of us would not wait 20 years for something to bloom. Removing it is your decision but chances that it starts blooming now are pretty slim.|
|I have a 3-year-old American Beauty bush that is doing well, but will not bloom. What is wrong? Kathy, Louisville|
|Hello, Kathy: American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana) is a nice understory shrub. It has an open growth habit with purple berries adding wonderful fall interest to the garden. There are a few reasons why your shrub may not be flowering/fruiting. This shrub requires full sun to light shade in order to bloom. If your plant is not receiving adequate sunlight this can cause it not to bloom. Ideally this native should get a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. Callicarpa blooms on new growth, meaning it will not produce flowers on previous years' growth. If you have not pruned your shrub I would suspect this is why you have not seen any flowers or fruit. Beautyberry should be pruned annually while it is dormant during the late winter or early spring. It is quite forgiving so later this winter go ahead and cut it back to around a foot. To promote healthy growth prune out one-quarter to one-third of the oldest stems each year. This will rejuvenate your shrub, and as long as it is getting enough sunlight it should bloom for you next summer and you will be able to enjoy the fruit next fall. It sounds like your shrub is healthy and Beautyberry does not have many insect or disease problems, so I would suspect that your shrub may need to be pruned or possibly moved to a sunnier location.
|I have a 3-year-old butterfly bush; I cut it back last year and now it is not blooming. What do I need to do? Sandra, Lawrenceburg|
|Hi, Sandra: Butterfly bush (buddleia) are summer bloomers so it is too early to have any blooms yet this year. As long as your plant is putting on new growth and looks healthy it will be full of blooms shortly. It is good that you pruned your plant last season and you should continue to do so since this woody shrub has a whimsical growth habit that can become unruly if not managed. These shrubs will benefit from annual pruning, removing all dead, damaged, diseased, or crossing branches as soon as you notice them. Buddleia are very forgiving, tolerant of being mistreated, and hard pruning is encouraged. The best time to prune these shrubs is while they are dormant during the late winter/early spring, before they put on any new growth. Cutting them back in the late summer or fall will make any new tender growth very susceptible to frost damage. Pruning our plants encourages them to put on new growth. Butterfly bushes bloom on new wood (current season's growth) so they can be pruned back hard; you can cut it back to around 12 inches. This will encourage larger flowers as opposed to not pruning at all. Before you prune, be sure that your tools are clean and sharp. Later on in the summer as the flowers fade, you can remove them; this will promote blooming throughout the rest of the summer and into the fall. These sun lovers will flower best when given a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight.|
|I have a 8-year-old yellow climbing rose that has become too large and is very gangly in appearence. Can I prune it back and when? It is about 14 feet in height. How close to the ground can I cut it? I am hoping for it to grow back thicker/bushier than it currently is. David, Louisville|
|Hello, David: Annual pruning is beneficial in keeping your climbing rose rejuvenated and productive. If you have not pruned at all your rose will certainly appreciate it after eight years! In terms of the time of year that is best to prune, it depends on what kind of climbing rose you are growing. Does your rose bloom just once a year or does it continuously bloom throughout the season? Repeat bloomers should be pruned while they are dormant. This is during the winter and early spring months before the buds break or any new growth begins. The climbing roses that only bloom once per season should be pruned immediately after they have finished flowering. You can prune out any dead, weak, or diseased canes as soon as you notice them no matter what time of year. When it is time to prune use a clean, sharp pair of pruners. This will help prevent disease spread. With an established rose such as yours you want to prune back the laterals to the second or third bud. Make your cuts parallel and a quarter inch above the bud. The lateral shoots that grow from the horizontal framework is where the flowering takes place so keep this in mind when making your cuts. Remove any crossing or rubbing canes to improve air circulation and decrease disease problems. It is a good idea to remove some of the older, less productive canes and then take a step back. This makes it easier to see where your next cut should be. For now, keep the space around the rose free of fallen plant debris, which will also decrease potential disease and insect problems.
|I have a bank in my back yard that is covered with honeysuckle. What can I do to get rid of it completely? I know I am likely to kill everything else also, but it is being killed anyway. The bank is about 50 feet long and 15 feet deep. Martha, Mayfield|
|Hello, Martha: Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) smells delightful but can be very invasive and difficult to get rid of. If left alone it will become very dense and certainly choke out any other plantings if they are growing in the same space. The best way to eliminate this vine is to dig it out, root system and all. I realize this is not always feasible, so if you cannot take on this task or do not want to hire someone to do it for you, the next best option is to cut back the honeysuckle to the ground. Go ahead and do this now and then when new growth appears, which may be next spring, spot spray with a systemic herbicide such as Round-Up. Spraying on a calm day will help prevent any wind gusts from carrying the spray onto wanted plants. This will surely keep the vine in check and give the plants that you want growing on your bank a fighting chance. Watch for new plants the next growing season and pull them immediately. It is always easier to weed when the plants are young and the soil is moist.|
|I have a bay leaf magnolia that is planted among various shrubs around the front of my house. The tree is rather large and is well above the roof line. Can I prune it back hard this time of year? I would be pruning it back to roughly 1/2 of its current size. Brian, Lexington|
|Hi, Brian: The best time to prune your sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) would be in the spring. Pruning it this late in the season would increase the chances of winter damage. It sounds like you are dealing with quite a large specimen and unfortunately it may have not been planted in the best space. Mature size is sometimes not taken into consideration at planting time and as a result the tree is not able to grow into its natural growth habit/size. Obviously it is too late to reconsider the planting space for your magnolia but taking it back to half its current height is pretty drastic. Pruning this hard will encourage an unnatural growth habit that will not make the tree look aesthetically pleasing. It is usually recommended that no more than one-third of the plant should be removed at one time. If you wanted to prune more than that it should be done in consecutive years. This is a big job and you might consider hiring a certified arborist, for your safety as well as the health of the tree. Another option is taking it back all the way to the ground and letting it sprout back up or removing the tree altogether and planting something more suitable in its space. You can contact the horticulture agent at the Fayette County Extension office for certified arborist recommendations at (859) 257-5582.|
|I have a bigleaf hydrangea, about 4 feet tall. It is well-established, but has only one big blue flower. It has fewer flowers every year. What is the problem? Phil, Bellevue|
|Hi, Phil: There are a few reasons that may explain the lack of blooms on your bigleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea macrophylla). In some cases, the specific cultivars are marginal and the flowers are not hardy. These are typically purchased at florists and not at a garden center or nursery. This does not seem to be the case with your shrub since it has bloomed for consecutive years. Other possibilities are lack of sunlight, nutrients, or both, and pruning at the wrong time of year. Is it possible that your hydrangea is receiving more shade than in the past? If your shrub is growing in dense shade, it would benefit from more sunlight, preferably morning light and afternoon shade. How often are you fertilizing? Hydrangeas will benefit from a side dressing of compost or a slow-release, well-balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Avoid feeding them in late summer since they are getting ready to go dormant and this will encourage growth that can be damaged by early frost. They can be fed twice during the growing season. Always follow recommended application rates since overfeeding our plants can have the reverse effect in that too much nitrogen will stop them from blooming. Hydrangea macrophylla bloom on growth from the previous year (old wood) and they should be pruned after they have finished blooming in the summer. Pruning at other times of year will result in bloomless hydrangeas. They should not be pruned in the spring other than to remove dead wood.|
|I have a butterfly bush. Should it be pruned and when? Carol, Bloomfield|
|Hi, Carol: During the mid to late summer months, butterfly bushes (buddleia) provide a nice splash of color in the sun-loving garden. Hence its name, the butterfly bush is a magnet for butterflies as well as hummingbirds and bees. This woody shrub has a whimsical growth habit that can become unruly if not managed. They will benefit from annual pruning, removing all dead, damaged, diseased, or crossing branches as soon as you notice them. Otherwise, they should be pruned while they are dormant, during the late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Pruning at this time will help prevent any potential winter injury. That being said, buddleia are very forgiving, tolerant of being mistreated, and hard pruning is encouraged. They bloom on new wood meaning that the buds are formed on the current season's growth, so pruning will invigorate your shrub and provide you with many blooms. Pruning is also used to maintain the shape you are after. When it is time to prune, use a clean, sharp pair of pruners and prune as far back as a foot or two from the base of the plant. For now, if you have not already mulched, go ahead and put down a 2-inch layer, surrounding the plant to give the roots some winter protection.
|I have a couple birch trees as decoration outside of my entryway, they are about 6 ft. tall and are not alive. They had fallen and I brought them home and potted them in some pebbles. This fall I noticed a larger branch broken off and missing, and next time I looked all of the branches seemed to have been snapped off about a foot or more! There is nothing lying around; do birds or squirrels do this in the fall? I wouldn't think so; any thoughts? Cindy, White Bear Lake|
|Hello, Cindy in Minnesota: Well, I love that you saw the vision and brought them home and potted them up. Birch trees have great bark but to be perfectly honest I do not know what the culprit is. I suppose it could be a few different critters but something large enough to actually carry the branch away. If it was more like a twig then certainly a bird could have picked it up, but they typically build their nests in the spring. Chances are it was a squirrel since this is the time of year they build their nest. Keep in mind that dead wood is brittle and easily broken, so if something landed or climbed into the tree and it accidentally snapped off, then they obviously found it as an opportunity to use it as nesting material, then came back for more. Unfortunately for you, your decorative birch trees may not be so appealing anymore.|
|I have a daisy-loooking flower that is fragrant brought to me by a neighborhood child. Also, the red blooming tree I referred to earlier blooms in July. I have seen the plant you are holding in your picture in a much taller form. What kind of plant is it? Valerie, Somerset|
|Hello again, Valerie: Daisies belong to a very large family. They are available in many different colors and some are perennial while others are annuals for those of us gardening in Kentucky. As for the tree in your yard that has red blooms this time of the year, I cannot say for sure but it is likely a sumac, more specifically, a smooth sumac (Rhus glabra). This deciduous shrub can reach upward of 15 feet tall. The females produce crimson red berries that can easily be mistaken for a bloom from a distance. Feel free to send pictures to my e-mail or take a sample to your favorite garden center/county Extension office for a positive identification. The plant I am holding is some type of Euphorbia. The succulent was given to me as a gift but I am not certain which species it is. There was no growers ID and the genus is so large I can only speculate as to the specific variety.|
|I have a giant rose bush that has been around for decades. It overlaps both sides of a wood fence, 4 feet on each side. It runs along the fence for 25 feet and its highest branch is 6 feet. Every year it gives me very large numbers of pink roses that I give to people in town. I cut all the roses that bloom and I have had no roses for more than two months. But today, October 18, there in the middle of the giant bush at the center of the fence was a perfect pink rose with around 16 petals from the outside into the center. I cut it to put in a vase with wildflowers as a shrine to my wife, who went to heaven in early 2009. I found a very colorful small spider living at the center and I let him silk his way to the ground for his great escape. I try to grow spiritually, and when I saw this lone rose today, I thought it was my wife reminding me about her or God letting me know he/she is still around. My question is, is this a rare occurrence for Halifax County? Charles, Littleton|
|Hello, Charles in North Carolina: I am sorry for your loss and think there are a lot of gardeners out there who would agree that there is something very spiritual about gardening. Your rose sounds lovely and passing the flowers along for others to enjoy is a great way to share its beauty. From the way you described the blooming habits it sounds like this rose is not a one-time bloomer. Roses that are considered re-bloomers can take a hiatus from blooming if the nutrient levels are off kilter one way or the other. Too much nitrogen can actually stop the plant from blooming and lack of nutrients can have the same effect. Sometimes they just go through waves of having lots of blooms and then periods of storing up energy to produce new blooms. But one lone rose on a large plant like yours certainly makes a powerful statement! Enjoy.
|I have a Knock Out rose tree that has grown fantastically! But it has grown so big that it split and I'm not sure how to trim it now and take care of it. Can you please assist me? Jared, Black Mountain|
|Hi Jared: Knock Out roses can get quite substantial in size but the wood should be strong enough to take the weight of all the flowers. Is the split on one upper branch or is it split on the trunk near the base of the shrub? Depending on the location and severity of the split, this could be bad. If it is just one branch that is affected then you should prune it back beyond the split to the nearest intersecting branch. You will want to remove the split because it is a nice place for insect and potential disease issues to thrive, which is why if it is on the lower part of the plant this could be detrimental to your rose. Roses are typically pruned during the late winter or early spring months while they are dormant and before they put on any new growth. Pruning now will jeopardize potential flowers but will not put it at risk for winter injury. Sometimes if a rose has not been pruned it will become spindly and some of the wood will be weaker than older, thicker branches. You might want to prune it back and remove some of the thinner branches. As a general rule you don't want to remove more than one-third the size of the plant during one pruning session. Black Mountain, NC|
|I have a large area (30 x 9) on the west side of my house. It has clay soil. It only gets about two hours of sun. What can I grow there? Weeds do well, but I want something pretty even if it's bushes, or something that requires minimal attention. John, Bedford|
|Hello, John in Kentucky: Unfortunately weeds will grow in just about any environment, and as gardeners we just have to deal with them. So the first thing to do is tackle the existing weeds and get the area ready to plant. Hand pulling is the best option, just make sure to get the root system as well as all the foliage. Some weeds have tap roots so a weeding tool may come in handy. Also keep in mind that there are cool- and warm-season weeds, so you may see warm-season ones pop up later in the season after you get the area planted. This is not a big deal, just a bit a maintenance on your part to keep them from spreading. As for planting options, you have several different choices. If you want an evergreen shrub that will give you year-round interest you might consider aucuba, mahonia, pieris japonica, taxus, boxwood, or evergreen azaleas. Oakleaf hydrangea would be another good option but is deciduous and would not provide any winter interest. There are many shade-loving perennials that would thrive in the area you are going to plant. Of course, we always think of ferns and hostas when it comes to a shade garden, but heuchera, tiarella, hellebore, columbine, epimedium, plumbago, acanthus, and spigelia are just a few perennial options. The garden centers will soon be full again and visiting the shade section just to walk around is a great way to become inspired. A grouping of shrubs is very simple with clean lines, but you have enough space to incorporate shrubs and perennials if you want to give the space a sense of depth. Creating a space with different colors and textures is a nice way to add interest to the garden. As with any new addition to the garden, these plants will require additional moisture if Mother Nature does not provide it, but after they have become established all of these options are considered low maintenance.|
|I have a large bag of cedar chips used for animal bedding. I no longer need it for bedding. Can I safely put it on my garden, prior to turning the soil, as compost? David, Louisville|
|Hi, David: The only reason not to use the cedar chips as mulch on the garden would be if it were not clean. If the animals used this bedding as their bathroom it would need to be composted before you add it to the soil. This is especially true if you are adding it to a vegetable garden. If your animals are injected with synthetic drugs there is reason to believe that the enzymes needed for decomposition would not be available, making the end composted product unsuitable for any garden amendment. If the bedding is clean and you want to use it as a mulch, go ahead and do so. As with any mulch it should not be applied any more than 2 inches thick. Having too much mulch can create a prime environment for insect and disease to thrive. Safely reusing your animal bedding is a great way to reduce waste and be more sustainable.|
|I have a line of Leyland cypresses that are around 8 years old and about 25-30 feet tall. After a recent severe ice storm, they are listing to one side and one of them has a part that broke off at the base. Will these trees recover from this and what do I do with the one that has a broken limb? I love these trees very much and would love to see them survive. Dawn, Louisville|
|Hi, Dawn: I am sorry to hear about your cypress. I hope that other than your trees you survived the storm okay. With all the crazy weather we have had in Louisville over the past year, I am actually surprised there has not been more damage to your cypress. Because of the growth habit of these evergreens, they have a reputation for breaking during any inclement weather. The also have very brittle wood that makes them more susceptible to injury from wind/ice and whatever else Mother Nature shakes up. This is not a plant that is normally recommended for our area specifically because of our compact clay soil. It sounds like yours have done very well. Your soil must have good drainage! Driving around town you can tell which plants were bogged down to the ground with ice. They are slowly returning to their upright shape. This can take a while to happen as you can attest, but if there are not any broken limbs they should eventually stand up straight. As for the one that broke off at the base, it is hard to say how extensive the damage is without seeing it. If the actual trunk is damaged it may need to be removed, but if it is just a limb it can be pruned back to the trunk, or depending on where it broke you can take it back to the closest intersecting branch. If you have a digital camera you can take a picture and bring it into The Plant Kingdom and we will be happy to look at it for you. Otherwise, both Greenhaven Tree Care and Limbwalkers are reliable arborists in our area.
|I have a magnolia tree that came up from a tree that is about 30 years old. I planted it about six years ago and it has never bloomed. It is about 10 feet tall. Will it ever bloom? Brenda, Windsor|
|Hi, Brenda in Kentucky: There are a number of different factors that can contribute to your magnolia not blooming. Are you growing a Saucer or Sweetbay magnolia and is the original tree single-trunked or multi-trunked? The reason I ask is because if it is single-trunked it is likely grafted. This means it is growing on a rootstock of another tree. To put in simple terms, the bottom of the tree and the top of the tree are actually two different trees. Growers do this to manipulate hardiness, disease resistance, and size as well as incorporate other desirable characteristics that the original tree may not have. If this is the case the younger tree will have different qualities than your original tree. You mentioned that the younger tree came up from the original one; does this mean there was a sucker that you dug up and planted or did it start from seed? Seedlings can take 15-20 years to begin blooming, which is why they are typically propagated from cuttings. As long as it continues to put on new growth and is given the proper amount of sunlight and nutrition, it should eventually bloom. If gardening teaches us anything, it is patience!|
|I have a new house completed last fall; we were a little late with the yard (November). The grass came up to about 1 inch--will it be okay or should I re-seed again for good measure? There is straw on the lawn. Kathy, Leitchfield|
|Hi, Kathy: Since the grass seed did not have much time to become established before the winter arrived, it is possible you may need to re-seed. If the grass looks patchy or thin in certain areas, you should consider re-seeding. The good news is that the second-best opportunity to seed is coming up soon when the day temperatures are warm and the night temperatures are still a bit cool, ususally mid-March. Otherwise, the existing grass should become stronger and healthier and you can begin mowing when it grows to 2-2.5 inches tall. Is the straw still down from when you seeded the lawn? If so, you should take this up. Different grasses have different seeding rates. For example, tall fescue requires 6 pounds per 1,000 square feet. You may also consider having your soil tested for lime and fertilizer needs. This can be done through your County Cooperative Extension Service. Ideally, this would have been done before seeding, but with new construction it is important to make sure the nutrients are still available. New construction can compact the soil--in turn, the oxygen is not able to move freely. So as long as the site was prepared properly before the initial seeding I think you should be fine, but if there are areas that look like they could be more dense, go ahead and loosen the soil, then re-seed those areas. Keep these areas moist for the next two or three weeks after seeding. The following is a the link to some literature from the Extension Service on establishing lawns in Kentucky: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/agr/agr50/agr50.htm
|I have a perennial hibiscus I want to move to a sunnier location. Can I move it now, Sept. 15? I live 60 miles north of Detriot in Canada. The hibiscus is still blooming. Lynda, Sarnia|
|Hello, Lynda in Canada: Hardy hibiscus are best transplanted in the spring just as the new growth begins to emerge. They are typically one of the last plants to break dormancy and put on new growth. Hibiscus thrive when grown in an area of the garden that receives a minimum of six hours of direct sun. They like nutrient-rich, consistently moist but well-drained soil. So, it is a good idea to move your hibiscus to a sunnier location, but if you can wait until next spring it would be beneficial to your plant. If you need to move your plant now, do it as soon as possible. I suspect that the cold temperatures are just around the corner where you live and the hibiscus would need time to get its roots settled before winter arrives. If the roots do not have time to get established, the freezing and thawing of the soil can lift the plant and expose the roots to dangerous temperatures. When you transplant it is always a good idea to dig the new hole before digging up the existing plant. Reducing stress is the key here and getting the roots back into the soil is the best way to reduce stress. Keep as much of the root ball intact as possible and make sure the new hole is twice the width and just as deep as the root ball. Treat it like a new addition to the garden in terms of water. A thin layer of mulch will help keep the moisture in and the weeds down.|
|I have a perennial hibiscus that receives plenty of sun during the summer, but this winter there will be no sun in the area it is planted. I worry that it will rot and will not come back next year if left in this spot. Can you give me any advice about moving it or leaving it alone? Kathy, Lexington|
|Hi, Kathy: Hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) are show-stoppers with their large, dinner plate-size blooms. They can add a tropical feel to any sun-loving perennial garden. Light conditions are not going to be a factor during the winter months since the plant will go dormant. Light levels are much lower during the colder months and so when planting conditions are specified for individual plants this is taken into account. As long as your hibiscus will receive full sun (a minimum of six hours daily) during the growing season it will be perfectly happy growing just where it is. After the plant has dropped its foliage this fall go ahead and prune it back to about 6 inches. It will produce new growth next season and will eventually flower on this new growth. These plants are one of the last to break dormancy in the garden so do not be alarmed when they do not begin to put on new growth as everything else begins to do so. So, for now prune and mulch to help insulate the roots. Next spring you can apply your favorite fertilizer and once again enjoy the stunning blooms.|
|I have a pink flowering nonfruit-bearing crabapple tree. If I use Preen weed killing mulch around this tree, will it hurt it? It appears from the packaging that apple trees are safe, so does that include nonfruit crabapple as well? Phyllis, Newton|
|Hi Phyllis: Preen mulch is safe to use around your crabapple. Unlike other mulches, it has a pre-emergent herbicide added to the product. This pre-emergent herbicide is used to prevent unwanted seedlings from sprouting. It is nonselective so it will also prevent any seeds that you intentionally planted from growing. This would be the only reason that Preen mulch should not be used under your tree. It is basically the same thing as applying the Preen weed preventer and then adding mulch on top of it. Mulching in general helps to keep the weeds down and also helps with moisture retention. Mulch should never be piled up around the base of the tree trunk since this can create an inviting place for insects and potential disease to live. Mulch should be no more than 3 inches thick and spread evenly around the base of the tree. Newton, Iowa
|I have a problem with loose running dogs, they are urinating on my shrubs and causing damage. Are there any
sprays or treatments I can use to control this?
|Hi, Griff: Loose running dogs that are using your garden as a bathroom can certainly be frustrating. Once a dog ‘marks its spot’ it can be difficult to deter other dogs from doing the same. Dog urine is alkaline, it can over time alter the pH of the soil and damage plant material. Fortunately there are options that do not include constructing a fence. There are many non-toxic products available that are made specifically for repelling dogs. Liquid Fence makes one that is made of natural plant oils such as citronella and cinnamon oils. It is environmentally safe and not harmful to the dogs, they just do not like the smell. These kinds of products will have to be re-applied every few months. Hosing off the shrubs if you can get to them shortly after the dogs do will help dilute the urine. Otherwise, adding layers of pine cones around the shrubs or anything else that is not nice to walk on may also help deter dogs. One last suggestion would be to speak with their owners if possible.|
|I have a question that kind of relates to a little bit of geology. This is a two part question. The first part is, I am wondering if holly trees can grow on ridges. I am referring to ridges like a chain of hills or mountains. The other part is, what are a few types of trees that can grow on ridges? I know some oaks do, and specific pines; are there any others? Daniel, Rosedale|
|Hello, Daniel in Maryland: The simple answer to your question is that as long as there is sufficient moisture, light, and soil conditions, most any tree could happily grow on a ridge, including hollies. The most common trees species that make up the Appalachian and Blue Ridge mountains in your state are beech, yellow poplar, oaks, hickories, and black gums. These trees tend to like the drier/rockier conditions found at the top of the ridges. Elevation does come into play and it also makes a difference what side of a ridge the trees are growing on. If a ridge runs north and south, it has an east and a west side. In this case, there would not be much of a difference between what would grow on either side because they would get equal sun and probably the same in terms of moisture levels. If the ridge runs east and west, there is a north side and a south side. This is where you will notice a difference in plant species because the south side tends to be much drier than the north side since it does not receive the amount of sunlight that the south side does. So, if you are planting on a ridge you will need to take these conditions into consideration before planting. Hopefully this has answered your question, but if you want more information you can contact the Maryland Department of Natural Resources/Forest Service.|
|I have a river birch tree too close to my house; as it grows I'm concerned that it could crack the foundation. I'm planning to take it out along with five spiria bushes that surround it. Would it be better to take it out now or wait until spring? I haven't decided what to replace it with and it's on a small decline, which causes concern about rain water drainage. Could you give me some suggestions on what would look good and wouldn't get too big? Marie, Elizabethtown|
|Hi, Marie: It is important to consider space limitations when we choose our plantings so they can reach their mature size. In your case, it does sound like the river birch (Betula nigra) is too close to the house. If your intentions are to transplant the tree as well as the spirea, the best time to do this would be later in the fall or early spring. If you are removing them and not transplanting them, you can take them out anytime. Unless you have water pooling in that space, I would not be concerned with the drainage, especially because it sounds like there is a slight slope to the land. As for replacement planting suggestions, what is too big? Are you thinking about a smaller ornamental tree, smaller shrubs, or a combination planting? Dogwoods, redbuds, and serviceberries are all smaller trees, but depending on the space you are dealing with they may still be too large. Some smaller flowering shrubs include dwarf nandina, compact abelia, and certain crape myrtle such as ‘Razzle Dazzle.’ A sun-loving perennial mix might be nice. Russian sage, amsonia, anemone, and baptisia are some of my favorites. Ornamental grass or smaller evergreens may also be options for your space. If you give me more specifics on what you’re a looking for, I can give you more suggestions.|
|I have a rose bush, but it does not have any blooms on it. It has been planted for about three years, it had blooms the first year, but none since. Diane, Jeffersonville|
|Hello, Diane: When roses do not bloom it is usually due to lack of sufficient sunlight and/or inadequate nutrient levels. You mentioned that your shrub flowered the first year but has not in the past couple. Is it planted in a space where it gets a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight? Is it receiving less light than the past for any reason? If it is not getting adequate light it will not bloom. Same goes for nutrient levels. Both too little and too much can cause plants not to bloom. This is why following recommended application rates is so important. So these are the two main reasons why roses stop blooming but they certainly have their share of insect and disease problems (some more than others). Does the overall health of the plant look good? If not you should take a sample to your County Extension Service to have the horticulture agent take a look or to a local garden center or nursery that has a knowledgeable staff. You can also have your soil tested through the Extension office. For a small fee they will send it off to have it analyzed and the results will tell you what you need to add to the soil, if anything. The Montgomery County offices are located at 106 East Locust Street in Mt. Sterling. Their phone number is (859) 498-8741.|
|I have a rose that is needing help. It is in a pot and I have been keeping it inside since the weather started getting cooler. The stems look like they are dying on the lower half but the upper half is still green and healthy looking, and I have noticed there is new growth on the bottom half of the stems. I'm wondering what I should do to keep it alive. Carla, Jeffersonville|
|Hello, Carla: If your rose is putting on new growth it sounds healthy. Sometimes older woodier growth has a darker color than the new growth so it would make sense that the newer growth is more green in color than the lower older growth. Did you bring the rose indoors because it is not hardy? You are gardening in zone 6, so if you still have the grower's tag take a look to see the hardiness zones your rose will grow in. If the tag indicates 6 or below you should plant the rose outdoors. These roses benefit from going through a dormancy period each winter. If the grower's tag says the hardiness zone is 6 or above it is what we call a floral rose and it will not survive our winter temperatures outside. Indoors it will prefer to grow in a south-facing window or any brightly lit room. Since the light levels are lower during the winter months all indoor plants require less food and water. Let the soil dry out before adding additional moisture and cut back on your fertilizer. Do not be surprised if your rose does not bloom during the winter months. If you are going to plant the rose outdoors get it in the ground as soon as possible. The temperatures are dropping quickly and you want the roots to get settled in before winter arrives. Dig your hole twice as wide and just as deep as the container it is growing in. Back fill with the existing soil and add a thin layer of mulch, no more than 2 inches to help protect the roots. Initially you will want to water but since the temperatures are cooler you do not need to water like you would in the spring or summer. Avoid fertilizing because encouraging new growth at this time of year will make this tender growth susceptible to winter damage. Make sure to choose a sunny location for your rose. It will be happiest with a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day.|
|I have a shaded back yard with a large section of dwarf mondo grass. I also have an elm tree that contributes not only shade but thousands of elm seedlings. Is there a pre-emergent that can prevent this? The manual method of removal is just too exhausting and trying to cut with a trimmer, and also cuts the mondo grass (and I am not sure it is that effective). If there is a pre-emergent, is it best applied in the fall or the spring or both? Gary, Garland|
|Hello, Gary: There are foliar pre-emergent sprays that are not recommended by most certified arborists because of the potential damage it can cause to the long-term health of the tree. That said, it certainly is not practical to mow down the mondo grass every time an elm seedling pops up. The mondo grass would prefer that you do not do this and mowing will not get rid of the seedling roots. These trees can be high-maintenance because they are messy and hand pulling is still the best method of control, but there are pre-emergents that will help prevent the fallen fruit from producing seedling growth. Preen is a very common pre-emergent found in most garden centers. If applied at the proper time it can be effective but it will need to be reapplied according to product label. Corn gluten meal is an organic alternative to Preen and other chemically derived pre-emergents. It works in the same manner as it prevents seeds from germinating and forming roots. Both the chemical and organic products will need to be reapplied every four to six weeks depending on product. Either way, timing is essential to being successful. You can start applying a pre-emergent in the early spring and continue to do so throughout the growing season. Be sure to water it in well, especially if the mondo grass is really dense. You want the product to be absorbed into the soil and if left dry it will not be effective. Refer to label for application rates. Do not get too discouraged if you see a few seedlings pop up after the initial application; it will take several applications to get the seedlings under control.
|I have a small potted pussy willow (about 1 foot tall) I bought in Manhattan about two months ago. It was healthy when I bought it, the buds had pollen on them, and the branches were still limber. It started to sprout new growth after a couple weeks, then I gave it some plant food and within a week the new growth died and now the branches are starting to dry out. I water it often, and it gets plenty of sun. I thought if I put it in a larger pot that it might help, but I've seen no change. I scratched the trunk of it with my nail and it's still green, but all the branches have dried out. I have no idea how to save this tree. I would hate to lose it. Any advice you can give me would be awesome! Jenn, Brooklyn|
|Hi, Jenn: It is difficult to say what is happening with your willow not being able to see it, but here are some thoughts. Anytime we bring a new plant home we want to make sure it is happy, and sometimes we give them too much attention. There is always a certain amount of stress on a plant when it is moved from one environment to another, and since you bought it in Manhattan I would suspect it was shipped, usually on a truck from the grower to the garden center where you purchased it. This means it has done a bit of traveling as a young plant. It is probably just adjusting to its new home. It is best not to fertilize new plants for the first year. Not knowing what it has been given recently in terms of food makes the potential of over-feeding a possibility and this will do more harm than good. When we re-pot, it is always best to only bump up the size of the container a couple of inches. Although willows are water lovers, the container must have drain holes so that the roots are not subject to standing water. Make sure you used a good container mix potting soil and not topsoil. The good news is that these plants are really tough and it is a positive sign that the cambium layer is still green. You will want to remove the growth that is brittle with no foliage. It should put on some new growth but avoid fertilizing. These willows belong to the Salix genus and prefer to be grown in full sun (at least six hours each day) and they are adaptable to most soil conditions as long as they receive enough moisture.|
|I have a snowball bush that I would like to move. It is leafing out now. When can I safely move it? Mary, Summer Shade|
|Hi Mary, in Kentucky: I am not sure if you are referring to a viburnum or hydrangea (both are commonly called snowball bushes) but regardless, early spring is a fine time to move existing plants. It gives them plenty of time to get their roots established before winter returns. The shrub will concentrate its energy on root establishment as opposed to blooms this year, but this will make for a healthier plant in the long run. You will want to treat your plant like any new addition to the garden. Sufficient moisture is essential from spring until autumn. Newly planted shrubs should receive 1.5-2 inches of moisture each week from April through October. If Mother Nature provides more than 1 inch of rain per week you will not need to hand water, but this is unlikely so a slow trickle from the hose for 30-40 minutes will do. During the hottest part of the summer you should do this two to three times per week if no rain falls. A thin layer of mulch, no more than 3 inches, is a great way to keep the moisture in. Reducing stress during transplanting is the goal. You will want to get the shrub back into the soil as soon as possible, so having the new hole dug before digging up the plant is a good idea. Try to keep as much of the root ball attached as possible; damage to the roots can be devastating. Start digging farther out and work your way in to prevent root damage. The new home should be twice as wide as the root ball and just as deep as it was planted before. The top of the soil on the root ball should be flush with the soil in the ground. Avoid fertilizing and water well.|
|I have a Star magnolia tree that has brown nodules growing up and down many of its branches. Is this something I should address or is it okay to leave alone? Also, during the summer, bees and flies swarm in this tree. Is this normal? Kimberly, Louisville|
|Hi, Kimberly: Magnolia stellata, commonly known as Star magnolia, is a small, deciduous tree/shrub that is a welcome sight in the spring. Their star-shaped flowers are sure to put a smile on your face. For the most part these trees are free of insect and disease problems. They are not susceptible to cankers or galls. Since these nodules you are wondering about only occur on the branches, is it possible they are the dormant flower buds? If they have a fuzzy texture, this is certainly what you are referring to. It could also be leaf scars left from previous year’s foliage. It is difficult to say without seeing your tree. You are welcome to me send pictures at email@example.com or bring them by The Plant Kingdom on Westport Road. As for the insects that are around your tree, this is completely normal. They are frequent visitors to magnolias but are not the primary pollinators. Beetles are responsible for the majority of the pollination. They actually burrow into the flowers before they open to feed on the nectar and then as they feed they are covered in pollen, which is then transferred from flower to flower as they continue to feed. So, not to worry, it sounds like your tree is perfectly healthy but I would be happy to look at pictures.|
|I have a steep slope at the front of our house that can be seen from a number of rooms in the house. The slope gets full sun and the soil is red clay. I would like to plant juniper Gray Owl as the focal point. My question is, what would you recommend as companion plants? There are no other plants on the slope. Nancy, Asheville|
|Hi, Nancy in North Carolina: Planting on a slope can be tricky but choosing the right plant material to fill in the space can give you a well-landscaped, low-maintenance garden in a space that otherwise might be an eyesore. Juniperus virginiana ‘Grey Owl’ is a great choice for planting on a slope. It tolerates a wide range of soil types and its silvery-blue evergreen foliage will provide winter interest. It will only reach 2-3 feet tall and 5-6 feet wide at maturity. It has a nice arching growth habit, making it perfect for use as a groundcover. It is also helpful in terms of erosion control if this is an issue for you. As for companion plantings we want to only consider those plants that are just as low-maintenance as the juniper, so once they are planted they will not require pruning or cutting back each season. I am not sure of the size of your space or what you are thinking in terms of height, but I am going to assume you are looking for creeping, low-growing groundcovers to fill the space. Some options to consider are: Carolina jasmine, which has green foliage and yellow flowers in the spring. Any of the sedums would be a great choice. They all spread and thrive in the full sun. ‘Angelina’ is a chartreuse colored sedum that would be a nice contrast to the junipers. Lamb’s Ear would also be a good lighter green foliage option. Black Mondo grass would be an interesting color contrast. Dianthus has a mat-forming growth habit with a bluish-green grass-like foliage. These evergreen perennials flower in May. Creeping thyme is an option that would offer some fragrance. For other ideas for evergreen groundcovers in North Carolina you can visit www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/consumer/quickref/ground%20cover/groundcover.html. Another smaller evergreen shrub you might consider is Nandina ‘Gulf Stream.’ This is a dwarf variety that does not have a spreading growth habit but the new foliage has a burgundy color, which would be a nice contrast to the juniper. Chamaecyparis ‘Filifera Mops’ is a low-growing evergreen with a spreading habit and chartreuse foliage, which would also be a nice contrast. Whichever plants you choose it is always a good idea to draw a sketch before planting. Designing the space before you install the plants will be helpful, especially in your case since planting on a slope is not the easiest of tasks.|
|I have a very nice mature weeping cherry about 6 years old. I would like to move it. Can I "bare root" the tree and move it that way? If so, how does one bare root a weeping cherry tree? Michelle, Cornelius|
|Hi, Michelle: Transplanting an established tree can be tricky and trying to bare root your tree in order to move can be even trickier. This is not a practice usually recommended for homeowners. Historically this was the only method used to harvest and sell fruit trees but as the industry grew, growers realized they could grow containerized plants as well as balled in burlap (B&B). Bare root planting is usually reserved for smaller trees. It takes special equipment and a lot of experience to make sure you do not damage the roots in the process. Air spades are the newest piece of equipment used by many arborists to unearth the root system of larger trees. The roots are then sometimes dipped into a nontoxic hydrogel solution to ensure they do not dry out during the moving process. For your situation the roots should be immediately put back into the soil so the dipping may not be necessary. The benefit to harvesting bare root trees is that they are much lighter to move than if the soil ball were intact. If this all seems overwhelming you might consider contacting a local certified arborist to see if they offer this service. Otherwise you can transplant your cherry by hand digging up as much of the root system as possible and getting it back into the ground as soon as possible. It is always a good idea to have your new hole predug and water accessible to reduce the stress of transplanting. Now is a fine time to move your tree. You will want to start digging a few feet out from the drip line and work your way in to make sure you are not removing any roots in the process. Treat it like any other new planting and avoid fertilizing at least until the spring.|
|I have an ugly concrete block retaining wall behind my house that I'd like to cover with something green. I'd have to plant above it and have something trail down it. Will an ivy do this? Or what else would you recommend? Martha, Union|
|Hi, Martha in Kentucky: Using plant material to disguise features like you have is a great way to soften the space and make it more aesthetically pleasing. Choosing the right plant for the space will depend on the amount of sunlight the area receives. If ivy is your number one choice then you are in luck since it is not too picky in terms of growing conditions, and since it is evergreen it will provide you with year-round coverage. If you have more sun than shade, other evergreen options include Carolina Jasmine vine (Gelsemium sempervirens) and Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata). Yes, these are technically climbers but if you plant them on top of the retaining wall they will happily trail as well. If you are not concerned about the plant providing year-round coverage you might consider creeping phlox, climbing roses, clematis, or any of the trailing sedums as sun loving, non-evergreen options. If this area is more shade than sun, a climbing hydrangea would work but it is not evergreen. Actually ivy would be a great choice as you are dealing with more of a shady situation. The climbing hydrangea can take a while to get established and put on new growth, where the ivy will take off and cover the wall in no time. Whatever you decide to plant it is better to wait until the spring to plant these perennials as opposed to getting them in the ground now. As the soil freezes and thaws it can heave up newly planted perennials that have not had time to establish their roots. If you are only interested in covering the wall during the warmer months you will have many more annual options.|
|I have applied Preen for gardens on the rocks and dirt in my back yard. I have three dogs that usually have the run of the area. I'm worried about them ingesting the granules, even though the container says pets may re-enter after watering in. Do you know if it is safe? Sheri, Dayton|
|Hello, Sheri: Preen does have organic products, but I assume the one you have applied is not since the label warns against pets in the area before the granules are watered in. I spoke with the company just to verify their recommendations and I was told to make sure to water thoroughly so that the granules are not on the surface for your dogs to walk on or possibly ingest. They said to wait at least one hour before letting the dogs in the area. I am not sure why you are using this product on your rocks, but you want to make sure that the granules are not just lying on the surface of your rocks but are watered into the soil instead. As with any chemical used in the garden, it can put our four-legged friends in danger of an allergic reaction or worse. In the future, you might consider using an organic product that is safe for your pets immediately after it is applied. For now just make sure that you cannot see any of the granules on the surface and discourage your dogs from digging.|
|I have azaleas, butterfly bush, crape myrtles, rose of Sharon, and Knockout roses. Can I prune them now that we have had couple hard frosts? Wilma, Somerset|
|Hello, Wilma in Kentucky: Pruning can be done to thin, shape, and rejuvenate our flowering shrubs. The correct time to prune them depends on what the shrub is and what time of year it blooms. As a general rule we prune spring-flowering shrubs after they have finished blooming. This includes all plants that flower before June 1. For the summer-flowering shrubs, those that bloom after June 1, they should be pruned during the winter months or in the early spring before new growth begins. It is best not to prune more than one-third of any shrub at one time. If you need to take more than one-third off your plant, do it during consecutive years. It is fine to prune any broken, diseased, or dead branches off as soon as you notice them. At this point we are sort of in between pruning opportunities. It is too late to prune your azaleas and too soon to prune your rose of Sharon, crape myrtle, roses, and butterfly bush. If you need proper pruning instructions, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho59/ho59.htm
|I have bad crabgrass. When should I treat my yard to get rid of it? Also, can I use a spray since a lot of it is on hills and is difficult to use a spreader?
|Hi, Steve: Crabgrass belongs to the Digitaria genus. Depending on how much it has spread, it can be a challenge to control but it is possible, and understating the life cycle will help you to be successful. This grass is a shallow-rooted, warm-season, annual weed. It sets seed in the fall and then germinates the following spring when the soil temperatures rise between 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit. The foliage dies during the winter months so treatment is most successful during the spring just before new growth begins. Timing is essential when it comes to killing crabgrass. Applying a pre-emergent herbicide before the seed germinates is the most effective means of elimination. Pre-emergents are available in both liquid and granular form, so whatever is easier for you to use on your slope is fine. Corn gluten is an organic pre-emergent option but here are other non-organic options as well. Visit your local garden center to see what products they carry. Hand pulling is also an option since this weed does not have an extensive root system but this may be difficult on a hillside. You will want to avoid using a pre-emergent in areas where you have purposely seeded since these products are not selective and will prevent any seed from germinating. Maintaining a healthy lawn is very helpful in eliminating unwanted grasses. Proper fertilization and moisture level help in reducing weeds and competitive grasses from taking over. Mowing at a height of no less than 2 inches will help shade out the crabgrass and encourage the intended turf to thrive.|
|I have been having trouble growing peppermint, lemon balm, and spearmint even though I have been warned those things will grow like weed! I have kept them in a wide mouth pot. I used potting mix from the store and water them two to three times on a hot day, two times on a regular day, yet they don't grow much, no spreading out, and half of them died. Should I keep them in partial shade? Mel, Danville|
|Hello, Mel in Kentucky:: You are smart to plant both the mint and the lemon balm in a container. They will certainly take over if planted in the garden. These are low-maintenance plants that are happiest when grown in full sun. This means they should receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day. It sounds like they are growing in a good amount of light so I would suspect that the issue has more to do with moisture than anything else. It is true that we need to water our containers more than we would any plant in the garden, and on extremely hot days when temperatures reach the upper 90s we might need to water our container a couple times a day, but really once should be sufficient unless it is hot and windy. Make sure your containers have drainage holes and are not clogged. As long as you did not use topsoil the container mix you purchased should be just fine for these plants. Before you water in the future you can test the moisture level by sticking your finger down a couple of inches into the soil. Even if the top layer of soil seems dry there may be sufficient water in the sub-surface. If there is still moisture when you test the soil do not water until the first few inches seem dry. Too much water can be just as detrimental as not enough.|
|I have been researching how to use vinegar as a vegetation killer. I think this would work great for us, but I cannot find out if it's okay to replant the area after the weeds and grass have died. I'm thinking of using this method particularly in a new flower bed where I have removed the grass, but want to spray any roots I might have left behind. Can you tell me if it's safe to spray vinegar to kill the grass roots and then replant? Holly, Plains|
|Hi, Holly in Texas: Vinegar is perfectly safe to use as a natural weed killer and in concentrated form it can be effective, although it may take several applications. It is sure to burn the foliage, especially if it is applied on a sunny day, but it does not always get to the roots of the plant so it may not be a long-term solution. You mentioned that you have already removed the grass in your new flower bed but want to make sure that you killed all the roots. Have you turned your soil yet? Doing so will uplift any remaining roots and you will not need to apply any weed killer. The acetic acid in vinegar is not going to change the soil composition unless it is used in extremely high amounts on a regular basis, so there is no reason to be concerned about planting in the space after it is applied.|
|I have Bermuda grass in my lawn in big patches. How can I get rid of it? Elizabeth, Russell Springs|
|Hi, Elizabeth in Kentucky: Once Bermuda grass, Cynodon dactylon, finds its way into our lawns it is difficult to completely eliminate. This grass is considered an invasive perennial. When winter arrives it goes dormant and turns brown. Control will be an ongoing task and methods will depend on the amount of space you are dealing with. Hand pulling is the most environmentally friendly option and is feasible in a small space or a garden bed but not in a large lawn. Unless you get the roots, hand pulling is not worth the effort. If you want to spot spray with glyphosate you will have to wait until the spring while it is actively growing. This is a nonselective product, meaning it will kill anything it comes into contact with. If you decide to spray remember it will take several applications and still you may never be rid of this grass especially if your neighbors have the same problem, but the idea is just to keep it in check so it does not take over any desirable turf grass. Bermuda grass is spread by rhizomes and seed, so removing or spraying it before it flowers will help reduce future spread.
|I have bulbs to plant, and the instructions say wait till the ground temperature is 50 degrees. How do I check the soil temp? Flo, Frankfort|
|Hello, Flo: Good question! We take a lot of things into consideration before planting, but soil temperature is not always at the top of this list. In some cases, it can make the difference between a healthy plant and one that will not survive. When spring arrives, the soil will warm from the surface down, so the first few inches are going to be warmer compared to soil at a deeper depth. South-facing areas receive more sunlight so they will warm faster than north-facing sites. Solar radiation and air temperature are the two primary factors that influence soil temperature. These temperature requirements differ depending on what you are planting. You can measure the temperature of your soil using a soil thermometer. You should be able to find one at your local garden center or farm supply store. It is usually mid-April before soil temperatures in Kentucky reach 50 degrees F. This of course all depends on Mother Nature!|
|I have five flower pots with coco liners on my deck. Do you have suggestions as to how I can keep the birds from picking out the fibers to use for building their nests? Cheri, LaGrange|
|Hi, Cheri: Good question! Unfortunately I do not have a great answer for you. Really the only substitute for coco liner would be moss and I think they actually prefer the moss. Replacing your liners each year with ones that are tightly woven as opposed to more loosely used ones will make it more difficult for the birds to get at them. Another thought would be to use clear bird netting with very small openings and cut it to fit over the coco liner. You would know it was there but it would not be visible unless you were right up on it. You could do the same with burlap, or any outdoor fabric for that matter, but the burlap is very close to the same color and inexpensive. Birds can be difficult to deter and you often hear about people using objects that move or make noise, but for your situation this may not be feasible unless you wanted to stick a pinwheel in each basket. Choosing plants like sweet potato vine that really trail over the baskets will also make it more difficult for the birds to peck. Of course it would still take the better part of the summer for these plants to get that big. Sorry I do not have better advice.|
|I have four spiral evergreens, two out front (full sun) and two in the side yard (full to partial sun). The two out front I have had for two years and aren't doing well. The two in the side yard are much older and doing well. I would like to transfer front to side yard and side yard to front. I'm not sure on the outcome or how to do this. Naomi, Caldwell|
|Hello, Naomi in Idaho: Before you start digging up any of your evergreens it is best to determine why the two planted out front are not thriving. Have you noticed any unusual insect activity or discoloration of the foliage? Is there a drainage issue or have you had your soil tested recently? All these are factors that could lead to unhappy plants, but not knowing what type of evergreens you are growing I cannot give you specifics in terms adequate soil conditions, fertility, or potential insect or disease problems. My guess would be that you are growing Alberta spruce, only because this seems to be the most common evergreen to be pruned into a spiral shape. If this is the case they demand full sun and well-drained soil. The downside to these plants is that they are very prone to spider mites. The best thing to do at this point is to take a sample of the evergreens to the horticulturist at your County Cooperative Extension Office or have a certified arborist come out and take a look. Just moving locations may not take care of the issue and all the effort moving the plants is not going to ensure that they will be happier. Moving established plants such as the ones on the side yard can be a bit tricky. If you do end up moving them it would be best to wait until later this fall when the temperatures cool down. There is always a certain amount of stress involved with transplanting. It is best to have your holes pre-dug before digging up the existing plants and get them back in the ground as soon as possible. You will want to keep as much of the root system intact as you can and be sure to water immediately after planting. Treat these transplants like new plantings in terms of water and fertilization.|
|I have grass growing and spreading and choking out my day lilies. It has such strong roots, I cannot pull it out. Is there any other way to get rid of it? Phyllis, Bowling Green|
|Hello, Phyllis: Once a flower bed is planted and established, it's more difficult to get rid of the weeds. Of course, we all have weeds in the garden and weeding is just part of the gig. Hand pulling is the preferred method of removing them from an existing bed. It is the only guaranteed way to make certain the plants you intend on keeping are not damaged. Hand pulling may be a task depending on the size of your planting area, but to make it easier you can soak the area the day before and then try to loosen the soil with any useful tool such as a dandelion weeder. This way you can get up under the root system by letting the tool give you more leverage. Spraying an herbicide made specifically for grass is an option, but you take the risk of killing your existing plants. For future reference, a thick layer of newspaper and a few inches of mulch will kill grass over time. This is a great way to create a new planting bed and may be worth a try in your existing bed, but you will have to work around your plants. However you decide to tackle this grass, you want to be sure to remove the root system so that you are not fighting the same problem in the future. If the bed is not edged and this is how the grass is creeping in, you should consider adding a border or dig an edge to create a barrier between the grass and the bed.|
|I have had a wisteria vine and lilac bush for seven to eight years and neither have bloomed. I was wondering why? Alisha, Cumberland|
|Hi, Alisha in Kentucky: There are a few possible reasons why your wisteria and lilac are not blooming. They both require full sun so if they are not getting a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day this could be the problem. Otherwise, let's start with the wisteria; these vines can take up to seven years to bloom. This is especially true for both Asian and native species. Cultivars tend to flower sooner so depending on which one you are growing and the age of your vine, this might be a reason for lack of blooms. Wisteria are really tough plants and opposite of what we typically think of in terms of getting our plants to bloom; they tend to bloom when they are stressed, so severe pruning can encourage to them to bloom. Too much fertilizer is a bad thing for these vines, especially fertilizer high in nitrogen, because it encourages leafy growth instead of blooms. As for your lilac, these also do not bloom as young plants and it can take them at least three years before they produce their first flowers. Depending on the age/size of the plant you purchased, this may be the case. If you planted it bare-root it could be even longer before you see any flowers. Over-feeding our plants can also cause them not to bloom. If you are fertilizing your shrubs, be sure to follow recommended rate applications for the product you are using. I assume you have not pruned your lilacs; pruning too late in the summer can remove flower buds for the following season. Hopefully this gives you some ideas of why your plants are not blooming.|
|I have had Knock Out roses for about seven years now. Is there an age limit on when they need to be replaced and do they have to be cut back every year? Also, do the old roses need to be snipped off? William, Corinth|
|Hello, William: Knock Out roses are prolific bloomers and as far as roses go they are very low-maintenance. The only reason to replace your roses is if they are not healthy. Otherwise they will happily grow and bloom in your sun-loving garden for years and years. After giving them a year or two to get their roots settled and become established in your garden, they will benefit from an annual pruning. This should be done during the late winter or early spring while they are dormant and before bud break. The general rule is that you do not want to prune more than one-third of the size of the shrub. If they have not been pruned for several years and have become leggy, it is best to prune back one-third and then the following year another one-third until they are dense and lovely again. Annual pruning will encourage your roses to bloom as well as give them a more manicured appearance. Knock Out roses are considered to be self-cleaning: yes, just like your oven! After the roses are spent they will fall off on their own. Of course if you are a hands-on gardener and like the garden to be neat and tidy, by all means you can remove the spent blooms.|
|I have hickory nut trees in my yard. The nuts fell off in the winter and now are sprouting in my new zoysia lawn that was put down last spring. How can I get rid of the sprouting trees without huring my zoysia grass? Cindy, Ashland|
|Hello, Cindy in Mississippi: There are several species of hickory trees and some produce more desirable nuts than others; if you are growing these trees for the purpose of consumption, harvesting them will help reduce the number of seedlings in the future. As for the seedlings that have already sprouted, you have a couple of options. First, you can hand pull them if you are not dealing with a large space, but if this is not feasible you can spot spray with any product labeled with Triclopyr as its active ingredient. Many of these products might also contain 2,4-D (also an herbicide) as an active ingredient. Triclopyr is a nonorganic, selective herbicide you can spray without harming your grass. It is effective on woody plants and herbaceous weeds. It is usually available in granular and liquid form. For your purpose a foliar liquid application would work best. Spot spray the foliage and you will notice the decline of the seedling in a few days. As with any chemical, be sure to follow all application instructions.|
|I have just bought a home on a corner lot in front of a school. On the corner side I have a privacy fence about halfway down. Then there's the open yard along the sidewalk. During the school year I have students and people cutting through the yard and leaving me their trash. So I'd like to put some shrubs or trees (maybe pine, boxwood, ect.) there to stop traffic plus provide some screening. What would be the best? How far back from the sidewalk and apart from each other should I plant them? Daphne, Lexington|
|Hello, Daphne: Landscaping sounds like a great idea to remedy your situation. Planting evergreens in this space will provide you with a year-round screen as well as discourage people from cutting through your lawn. There are a few things that need to be considered before you choose your plants. Selecting plant material that will thrive in the conditions you can provide is essential to the long-term health of any plant. First, you need to consider how many hours of sunlight this space receives and then how much space you have to plant. Do you have any planting restrictions such as overhead wires? Depending on the tree or shrub you choose they will mature at different sizes, so think about how tall and wide you would like your screen to be. Most taller evergreens are sun lovers that will be happiest if they receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. This is true for hollies, pines, arborvitae, juniper, and evergreen viburnums. Evergreen options for a shady space include taxus, aucuba, schipka laurel, pieris japonica, and evergreen azaleas. Boxwoods are very tolerant of most growing conditions. Fall is a great time to plant and your local garden centers should have a wide variety to choose from. You can take your measurements with you and find a knowledgeable staff member to show you your options. It may be worth purchasing larger plants to create your screen so that people do not continue to cut through your property. Smaller ones may be stepped over or damaged before they have time to mature and do the job you want them to do.|
|I have just dug up everything in my landscape bed and am starting over. What types of hostas and liriope are suitable for sun and what type of flowers can tolerate full sun best? Judy, LaGrange|
|Hello, Judy in Kentucky: Wow, it sounds like you have got quite a project ahead of you. This is a great time to rethink the sun-loving garden and it gives you the opportunity to plant something new. Liriope, commonly known as monkey grass, is happy growing in the sun. It really is not too picky about where it grows but it will flower better with more sun. Hostas, on the other hand, are mostly shade-lovers; there are a few that will tolerate more sun than others but if this space you are planting is going to receive six or more hours of sun then you might want to consider other options. A few hostas that will tolerate more sun are ‘Sum and Substance,’ ‘Patriot,’ ‘Gold Standard,’ ‘Fried Green Tomato,’ and ‘Guacamole.’ As for other sun-loving flowering plants, the list is way too long for me to ramble off but a few perennial favorites and some standards include Russian sage (Pervoskia), Baptisia, perennial geraniums, amsonia, black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), cone flowers (Echinacea), crocosmia, Shasta daisy and Veronica, salvia, and dianthus. For a more detailed list of sun-loving perennials for Kentucky gardens you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho76/ho76.htm. There are also a lot of flowering shrubs that you might want to consider. This all depends on the space you are gardening in, but when choosing your plants keep the mature size of the plant in mind so they don’t grow and overcrowd each other. A well-planted garden is one that has year-round interest. Choosing plant material that blooms different times throughout the year is a good idea. You might also want to incorporate some evergreens or plants that have berries or blooms during the winter months. Deciduous hollies, witchhazel, and red/yellow twig dogwoods are good choices for winter interest. You should take a trip to your local garden center and wander around the sun section to see what catches your eye.
|I have just planted some burning bushes and the ends of the new growth are being stripped away. Could birds be doing this? Or could it be the dry weather? Jim, London|
|Hi, Jim: I do not think the birds are defoliating the tips of your burning bush. It is more likely related to stress involved with transplanting and possibly moisture levels. As with any new plantings, it is important to make sure they receive adequate moisture and it is up to us if Mother Nature does not provide rainfall. Newly planted shrubs require 1 inch of water per week. It is better to water deeply and less frequently than to water lightly and more frequently. It is also important to make sure your shrubs were planted properly. The holes should have been dug twice as wide as the container they were purchased in and just as deep. Planting too deeply can cause problems. A thin layer of mulch, no more than 2 inches thick, will help the soil retain moisture and keep your plants happy. Burning bush (Euonymus alatus) will grow in just about any light/soil conditions. For now, take your pruners or any sharp object and scrape the bark where there is no foliage. When you peel the bark back, if it is still green then leave it alone and the shrub should put on new growth. If the wood is brown and brittle, go ahead and prune back to where there is healthy foliage. There is no need to fertilize these shrubs.|
|I have Knock Out roses that are 3 years old; they bloom beautifully the first of the season and then they don't bloom anymore. The first year they bloomed every six weeks like they should. They do show signs of insects damaging the leaves. We have been watering them during these hot summer days. I also sprayed them for bugs. Fae, Morgantown|
|Hello, Fae: Assuming your roses are getting a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight, there are a couple of possibilities why your roses are not blooming well. Since they did bloom earlier in the season, that is a good sign but something has happened since then to cause them not to produce new buds. One possibility is that they are stressed from the insect damage. We saw a lot of rose slug damage this year, which is not typically detrimental to the shrubs but it does make them look bad. It gives the foliage almost a skeletonized appearance. At this stage they are long gone and the plants should be recovering from the damage. You mentioned that it looked like your roses has insect damage; it important to identify the problem so you know what you are dealing with, and control measures will be more effective. Spraying is not always the best way to go when we do not know exactly what we are dealing with. Specific products are made for specific pests so what you sprayed may not have been effective. You can always take a sample to your local garden center with a knowledgeable staff or to your County Cooperative Extension Service to have the insect identified. Another possibility for the lack of blooms is lack of nutrients. Have you fed your roses this summer? If not, they will benefit from a dose of your favorite fertilizer. A well-balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 is fine, or one that is made specifically for roses such as Rose-Tone. Compost would also be beneficial. Always follow label instructions when feeding plants because over-feeding such as in the case of your roses can cause them not to bloom. It has been a very hot summer so keep watering if Mother Nature does not provide enough moisture.|
|I have Knock Outs and Floral Carpet roses. I want to expand to larger blooming roses with sweet smells and I don't know when to plant. When should I prepare the soil and get them in the ground for next summer, and what's the best soil conditioning method? Liz, LaGrange|
|Hello, Liz: The best time to plant is during the fall. September and October are ideal since the soil temperatures are still warm, encouraging root growth, but the air temperatures are not too hot or cold. This allows enough time for the roses to get their roots settled before the winter arrives. Planting during the cooler fall months will require less water than planting other times of the year. Spring is a fine time to plant as well, but if Mother Nature does not provide enough moisture it will be more maintenance on your part. Soil temperatures are cooler during the spring months so it will take a bit longer for your spring planting to become established, making the hot dry summer months a bit more stressful. The fall planted roses will have more of an established root system, making them more prepared to handle the stress of the summer months. As far as preparing the soil, August is certainly a good time to get your beds ready for fall planting. As Kentucky gardeners we are blessed with lovely clay soil. In some cases, especially in new construction areas, we need to amend the soil so that air and water can freely pass through. This will depend on how compact your soil is, but adding an expanded slate material such as PermaTill will help to break up the clay and improve drainage. Adding hen manure or worm castings is a wonderful way to enrich the soil. You might check with Crane Landscaping to see what they carry since they are closer to you, but I know The Plant Kingdom on Westport Road in St. Matthews carries Mr. Natural products that are wonderful soil amendments. They also carry soil conditioner that can be used as mulch and will eventually work its way into the soil. These products can be worked into the soil using a pitch fork or a spade. It is best not to use a tiller since the earthworms will not survive and they are an important makeup of the soil. You can always have your soil tested through the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service for a small fee. Remember not to fertilize your roses if your plant them in the fall. This will encourage leafy growth that can be damaged by the upcoming frost and cold winter temperatures.|
|I have Leyland cypress, roughly 15-20 feet tall. They are starting to brown this spring after Superstorm Sandy blew through this past October. What could be the cause and solution? Ray, Bellport|
|Hello, Ray in New York: As spring weather arrives the truth will be told about landscapes subject to Superstorm Sandy. Since your evergreens are just starting to show signs of stress they may be salvageable. It really depends on how much salt they were exposed to; some plant species are more tolerant of higher levels of salt than others. The good news is that once established, Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis Leylandii) are tolerant of salt spray. Unfortunately, in most cases once the foliage on an evergreen turns brown, they do not put on new growth to replace the lost. The fear is that the increase in salt levels has dried out the roots. I assume these were happy established plantings before the storm hit, so at this point it is important to find out why the foliage is turning brown. You can have your soil tested for soluble salt levels through the Rutgers soil testing lab. You can visit them at http://njaes.rutgers.edu/soiltestinglab. You can also call your County Cooperative Extension Service to see if they offer this service as well. It would be beneficial to know the salt levels and if this is the reason for the decline in your cypress. If so, gypsum can be effective in removing salt from soil. I realize you are in New York but there is an informative publication provided by the Ocean County Extension Service in New Jersey on landscape plants after the storm: http://ocean.njaes.rutgers.edu/documents/copingwsaltwtrNov28.pdf. It is never a bad idea to have a certified arborist come out and take a look at your cypress just to make sure you are not dealing with any insect or disease issue.|
|I have lived in a very wooded area (many evergreens) for the past 34 years. In the last two days one tree has been dropping green cones all over the ground and on my deck. They appear to be coming from near the top of the tree, which is very tall. There is no wind and no sign of any animal or bird. I have never seen this happen before and can't imagine what is causing it. Paula, Kirkland|
|Hello, Paula in Washington: The only logical explanation to this question is that the squirrels have found this pine and are scavenging for seeds. You would think that you would have seen this happen in the past 34 years of living in your home but some years are more productive than others in terms of pine cone production. Squirrels bite off unripe cones this time of year, gather them, and store their seeds for food. The cones that conifers produce are actually organs necessary for reproduction. The female cones contain seeds inside them. The male cones produce pollen and are usually much smaller than the female cones. When the cones become mature they fall off and break open or break down, allowing the seeds inside to be dispersed either by wind or sometimes birds, depending on the species. In your case they are being removed from the evergreen before they mature, making it easier for the squirrels to harvest them. It would make sense that these cones are coming from the top of the evergreen. Female cones are found at the top of the trees and the smaller male cones are found lower on the same tree..|
|I have lots of herbs and amd looking for a white basil that is a perennial, as well as the witch hazel that was recently talked about in Kentucky Living magazine. Tessie, Morgantown|
|Hello, Tessie in Kentucky: There are many varieties of basil and the foliage color ranges from shades of green to purple. Some varieties bloom white while others have lavender flowers, but unfortunately none of them are hardy for those of us gardening in Kentucky. You can, however, over-winter basil indoors if you have a sunny window. I assume you are referring to the culinary basil and not the sun-loving perennial Monarda clinopodia, which is sometimes commonly referred to as white basil-balm. This perennial should be available at your local garden center. You should also be able to find a variety of different witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana) at your local garden center/nursery. If either of these are plants that they typically do not carry you can ask about having them special ordered for you. In most cases the smaller garden centers do not have to order in such large quantities and are able to order just one or two plants if the growers have them available.|
|I have multiple hardy hibiscus plants and am wondering if I can plant them in a group? I have two corners on an outbuilding that I am trying to soften. I have about 5 feet on one side and about 3 feet on the other side where Endless Summer hydrangeas are planted. Would one be enough? Angie, Friendsville|
|Hi, Angie: Hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos) will certainly soften a building. They are prolific summer bloomers if given a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day. Even though the blooms only last for one day they are continuously producing new ones throughout the growing season, so the plant is never in short supply. You can certainly plant them in a group but it does not sound like you have the space to do so. These plants will grow to be 4-6 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide each season. They should be pruned back to around 6 inches each fall but in order to give them enough space during the warmer months, it sounds like one on each side will be all the space can handle. They are stunning in a mass planting but are still lovely planted individually. Make sure you space them far enough away from the building so they have sufficient room to grow each season. If you are transplanting these hibiscus the best time to do this would be late winter/early spring just as new growth starts. These plants are one of the last to break dormancy in the garden so you will have plenty of time to move them in the spring. The second best time to move them is now. Late summer or early fall is better than moving them in the middle of the summer, but they will be more subject to frost damage being moved at this time. The root-to-soil contact is minimal and this makes them more susceptible to frost heaving. This is when the soil temperature changes and causes the plant to be lifted up from the soil and exposed to damaging weather. So, if you can wait until the spring the plants will thank you.|
|I have passion flower that I cannot get rid of and need to have a suggestion on what to try. Cynthia, Cincinnati|
|Hi, Cynthia: There are several hundred species in the passiflora genus. Most are tropical vines that are not native to the United States. Passiflora incarnata is the species native to the Southeastern part of the country. I assume this is the one you are trying to get rid of. Despite its very complex and beautiful flowers, this vigorous vine can reach upward of 30 feet and be a challenge to get rid of once established. If your goal it to eliminate it from the garden completely you will want to cut back all of the current season’s growth and dig up as much of the root system as possible. This is the part that will be a challenge. The roots can grow as deep as 2 feet and depending on how old the vine is the roots can be quite thick as well. Spot spraying the tips of the roots with Roundup will help kill the roots. Be careful if you choose to use this herbicide since it is nonselective and will damage any plant material you may want to keep in the garden. It may take a few applications to kill the root system so keep an eye out for new growth for the rest of the growing season and next spring as well. Cutting back new growth before it has a chance to take off is key to keeping this vine under control. This vine is spread by root suckers and seed so removing the flowers before the seeds dry and the birds or wind have a chance to spread them will help eliminate future plants from popping up.
|I have planted my plumeria in the ground; would it be okay to plant impatiens around the base of the plumeria or should I plant the impatiens at least a couple feet away from the base? I know that plumeria doesn't like a lot of water and impatiens do. Bill, Reseda|
|Hi, Bill in California: When we think about garden design we have to take into consideration plants that thrive in like conditions. Ideally we want to install plants that require the same growing conditions in the same area. That being said, there are always exceptions and if you are careful about your watering, I think you will be fine to plant impatiens a few feet away from your plumeria (Frangipani). You are correct that plumeria do not like wet feet so it is important that they are planted in well-drained soil and are not over-watered. Impatiens, on the other hand, do appreciate consistent water and we have to take into consideration the size of the plants as well. In most cases the impatiens are going to have a smaller root system than your plumeria, solely because of the size of the plants that are available for purchase. The smaller plants will dry out faster and require more frequent watering. As long as you hand water the impatiens the plumeria should not be subject to too much moisture. I would not put a soaker hose in the area and let it run for any extended period of time. This may be detrimental to your plumeria. Remember that your plumeria will go through a dormant period and will not require any water at all. The main concern to think about is the fact that plumeria thrive when planted in full sun and impatiens are shade-lovers. Unless you are planning on planting the hybrid SunPatiens that tolerate more sun you might consider another sun-loving plant.|
|I have planted two strawberry plants, and four Magical Michael, in a 5 by 5 area, but now have decided I don't want grass in there. Please help. Matsha, Elyria|
|Hello, Matsha: It is always a good idea to get rid of grass before planting edibles or any other plant material in a bed. It is a lot easier to prepare a bed before planting, but removing grass after planting can be done, it is just trickier. So, you have a couple of options; you can skim the grass out using a sharp spade. This method is probably your best bet. Be careful not to damage the roots of your plants. You can temporarily remove the plants then skim the grass out and replant. If you do this make sure you place the plants in a shady location while you are removing the grass, and get them back in the ground as soon as possible. Spraying with any herbicide is not realistic in your situation since it will likely kill your existing plants as well as the grass. Smothering the grass with a thick layer of newspaper and mulch will work but can take up to a year. This method is typically used for spaces that will not be planted for a while. Whichever way you choose to remove the grass, the plants will thank you; it will help the plants in terms of less competition for moisture as well as nutrients. It will also be less maintenance on your part in the long run. Thankfully the space you are dealing with is not huge. Keep in mind that the strawberries will take over this area in just a couple of seasons.
|I have pulled up some extremely hardy pink flowers from a graveled area that contains several other plants and small trees. This spring I just noticed they multiplied and look like hundreds. How can I permanently get rid of them without harming my good plants? Joyce, Somerset|
|Hello, Joyce: I am not certain of the pink blooming plant you are referring to, but the best way to remove them from your garden is to dig them out. This is time-consuming I realize, but digging out the roots will help prevent further spread. It is also a good idea to remove them before they flower and set seed. This will also help prevent future plants from popping up. Another option is spot spraying with a broad-spectrum herbicide product such as Round-Up. The active ingredient glyphosate should be sprayed on the foliage and then it will be absorbed by the rest of the plant, eventually killing it. This product should be used with caution since it will also kill any other plants it touches. Avoid using on a windy day and use a piece of cardboard to prevent the spray from reaching the plants you would like to keep in the garden. This option still requires you to dig out the plants, so this is why I would suggest just to dig them up in the first place. It will save you money and time. Digging these plants up is much easier when they are young and have not developed much of a root system. It will also be easier to get them out of the ground after a good soaking rain.|
|I have recently pruned my Knockout roses way back. The local drought and heat has done a real number on them. I know they are supposed to be resistant, but mine were looking horrible and I felt I had no other choice. I know this is not the ideal time of year to prune, but these two bushes were in front of my house; have I killed them or will they survive this? Diana, Smiths Grove|
|Hello, Diana in Kentucky: Given the hot and dry conditions we have had this growing season, it has been a stressful year for all plant material. That being said, the ideal time to prune roses is late winter/early spring before new growth begins. Pruning while they are dormant will make them less susceptible to winter injury and other potential problems. Pruning to remove dead, diseased, or crossing canes should be done as soon as you notice them no matter what time of the year. As a general rule, it is best not to remove more than one-third of the size of the rose each season. Do this year after year to maintain the size you want. When pruning, use a clean, sharp, and rust-free pair of pruners. Make your cuts flush to the nearest intersecting branch so there are no stubs. To answer your question, you have not killed your roses by pruning during the growing season, and sometimes we have to when we need to control their size, but in the future pruning while they are dormant will be in the best interest of your roses. For now, reducing stress is the main objective so make sure they are being watered if we do not get sufficient rainfall.
|I have river birch with a dead circle of grass at the tips of the branches. As the tree grows this circle gets bigger. Why is this happening? Judy, Brandenburg|
|Hello, Judy: It is often times difficult to get grass to thrive under any tree. While once there was healthy strand of grass, this can all change when you add a tree to the landscape. The grass may suffer due to competition in terms of light and moisture. As the tree grows so do the roots as well as the canopy. The grass will be shaded out by the foliage and the roots will always win when it comes down to who is going to get the water. So, you have a couple of options: first you can limb up the tree by removing some of the lower branches; this allow for better light filtration. You could also try planting more of a shade-loving grass such as creeping red fescue. If you are not married to having grass under the birch you could always under plant with shade-loving perennials such as ferns, hostas, and coral bells, just to name a few. Keeping the grass watered is essential in order for it to thrive. This is especially true during hot and dry summers. As the canopy expands so does the drip line. So when it rains the water is landing on the foliage of the tree and then rolls off the tips of the branches, eventually landing on the grass. The grass inside the drip line/canopy does not ever get that rainfall so it is up to you to make sure it receives enough moisture.|
|I have rose bushes that won't bloom. I have fertilized and done what I could to get them to bloom but they won't. What should i do to get them to bloom? Mary, Cloverport|
|Hello, Mary: This seems to be a popular question these days. As I have told other gardeners recently there are a couple different reasons why roses typically do not bloom. The most common is not enough light and sometimes in combination with too much or too few nutrients. If your rose is not getting a minimum of six hours of direct sun each day it should definitely should be moved to a sunnier location. You mentioned that you did fertilize, so as long as you followed the application rates recommended by the product you used this should not be the issue. If the plant looks healthy otherwise and is getting enough sun it could be a nutrient issue. You can always have your soil tested just to be sure. Your County Cooperative Extension Service offers this service for a small fee. If your plant is not blooming and not looking healthy you should take a sample to a garden center/nursery or to your horticulture agent at the Extension office for analysis. The Breckinridge County offices are located at 1377 Hwy 261 South in Hardinsburg. Their phone number is (270) 756-2182.|
|I have roses that can be kept in the house or outside; they are in the house in pots and I just really do not know how to take care of them. Can you help me out? Anna, Corbin|
|Hello, Anna: If the roses you have are hardy to our gardening zone they will be much happier outdoors. Do you know what kind of roses you have? Some of the floral roses we see in the grocery stores or florists are not hardy for us here in Kentucky. Do they have the grower's tag on them? If so it should give a hardiness zone so depending on what kind of rose you are growing, it may or may not survive our winter temperatures outdoors. If they are hardy to zone 6 or below they are fine to plant in the garden. Otherwise you will want to keep them inside. Indoors they will prefer to grow in a south-facing window or any brightly lit room. Since the light levels are lower during the winter months, all indoor plants require less food and water. Let the soil dry out before adding additional moisture and cut back on your fertilizer. If you are going to plant these roses outdoors get them in the ground as soon as possible. The temperatures are dropping quickly and you want the roots to get settled in before winter arrives. Dig your holes twice as wide and just as deep as the container they are growing in. Back-fill with the existing soil and add a thin layer of mulch, no more than 2 inches, to help protect the roots. Initially you will want to water but since the temperatures are cooler you do not need to water like you would in the spring or summer. Avoid fertilizing because encouraging new growth at this time of the year will make this tender growth susceptible to winter damage.
|I have several Knockout roses that have over taken my walkway. How much can I cut them back and when should I do it? June, Lancaster|
|Hello, June: Knockout roses are considered low-maintenance and disease-resistant. When they are planted in favorable conditions, which yours seem to be, they can grow to be 3 to 5 feet tall and wide. This does not mean they cannot be pruned yearly to keep them a smaller size and prevent them from invading your walkway. The best time to prune your roses is late winter/early spring before new growth begins. Pruning while they are dormant will make them less susceptible to winter injury and other potential problems. As a general rule, it is best not to remove more than one-third of the size of the rose each year. If you need to remove more than this to keep them off your walkway, do so during consecutive years. Prune year after year to maintain the size you want. When it is time to cut them back, put on a thick pair of gloves and use a clean, sharp, and rust-free pair of pruners. Make your cuts flush to the nearest intersecting branch so there are no stubs. Remove all crossing canes and dead wood anytime of the year.|
|I have several ornamental grasses that I planted last year, five clusters, and none of them are blooming yet. I did cut them back in the fall. Should I have waited till the spring? Will they come back this year? Kathleen, Enfield|
|Hi Kathleen: Ornamental grasses can be cut back in the fall or early spring before they put on new growth. It really is a personal preference; some gardeners like to keep them for winter interest and others prefer to get this chore done in the fall for a more tidy appearance. If you are referring to the plumes that ornamental grasses produce, it is still too early in the growing season so not to worry. If your ornamental grasses have not put on any new growth at all this year then this is reason to be concerned. At this time of year they should certainly be green. If they are not green, then you either planted ones that were not hardy for your gardening zone or they did not survive the winter for other reasons, such as lack of moisture. If the grasses have not put on any new growth by now you should did them up and replace them. There are hundreds of ornamental grasses so make sure you are planting ones that are winter-hardy for your area. Garden centers typically sell both hardy and nonhardy since some people use them in their summer containers. Enfield, CO
|I have several questions for you. I love to raise flowers. I will ask two questions this round.
I have several rose bushes and I am having a lot of trouble with them having black spots and yellow leaves. I have sprayed and cut back so much I am concerned they will die on me. Any ideas on what to do next ? Also. when is a good time to move your bushes ? I have been told the best time is any month with an R in it (old tale). Please help, I have several that need moving. Vickie, Irvine|
|Hello, Vickie: What kind of roses are you growing? Depending on the type of roses you have in the garden, this may be an ongoing battle. Some of the old-fashioned roses are very susceptible to insect and disease problems. They will require a regular spray routine. Growing disease-resistant roses leads to far less maintenance. Making sure that your shrubs are living in ideal conditions will make them less likely to have problems. Roses demand a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. Good air movement is important in reducing insect/disease problems and good sanitation practices are essential in maintaining a healthy garden. Remove all plant debris throughout the growing season, but especially during the winter months so that the insects/disease have nowhere to survive the winter. As for transplanting, in general the only time you should not move your plants is during the hotter months of the year (the only months without an R). Late fall through early spring while the plants are dormant is a fine time to transplant, provided the ground is not frozen. Specific plants may establish themselves better during a certain time so let me know if you need specifics.
When it is time to transplant, make sure to start digging farther out and work your way in, being careful not to damage the roots and keep them attached. It is always a good idea to have the new holes dug before you dig up your existing plantings. That way you can get the roots back into the soil as soon as possible. This reduces stress and that is the key to a successful transplant, plus making sure that the newly moved plants have sufficient moisture.
|I have several small burning bushes that I've planted in a sloping back yard. I have attempted with all the rain to trench away the rain we have had in abundance, knowing that they need to be in well-drained soil. They don't seem to be doing very well and I need advice as to what I might do for them. James, London|
|Hi, James: The amount of rainfall that we received earlier this month broke records, so at least we know this will not be a normal occurrence. As long as every time it rains your plantings are not in standing water, it should not be a problem. It sounds like there is a natural slope to the land and this will help with the drainage. If there is standing water every time it rains, then that is more of a concern. To help with this, you can amend your soil with a product such as Permatill, which is an expanded slate material. When it is mixed into the existing soil, it will help to break up the clay and improve the drainage. Check with your local garden centers to see if they carry this product. Are these new additions to the garden? If so, they need to be given a bit of extra attention until they have enough time to become established. What about them does not look healthy? You are correct in saying that burning bush (Euonymus) needs well-drained soil. The concern here would be if they are living in consistently saturated soil, the roots will rot and the plants will eventually die so dealing with the drainage would be the first step in maintaining healthy plants. Ideally they should be planted in full sun for best fall color.|
|I have several white pine trees. Is it okay to use the needles for mulch around any type of plants ? Carol, Shepherdsville|
|Hello, Carol: Mulching your garden with your own pine needles is a wonderfully economic and beneficial use of your fallen needles. Garden centers sell bales of pine straw and you have your own supply! This organic mulch will benefit your plants in terms of moisture levels and soil temperatures. It will also help prevent weeds from growing. Pine needles are a good choice for mulch because they do not compact as much as other choices, allowing air to circulate. As they break down, the needles will add nutrients back to the soil and improve the soil structure. It is safe to use on all plant material, but your acid-loving plants will especially enjoy this mulch. As with any mulch, make sure that it is no more than 2-3 inches thick.|
|I have six winterberry bushes that have never produced berries (five years). I discovered these "girls" needed a "boyfriend" so I got them two, but now I need to know if I should prune the bushes back or leave them alone and see what happens? Sonja, Brandenburg|
|Hello, Sonja: Yes, indeed these deciduous female hollies need a male that flowers at the same time to pollinate them. One male can pollinate up to five females within an acre, so two will be sufficient for you. They do not need to be planted right next to each other, just within the same acre. In urban areas it is likely that your neighbor might have a male to pollinate your females, but in rural areas this would not be the case. So, in terms of pruning it really is not required unless you are removing dead, diseased, or crossing branches. You did not give any indication that your hollies were not healthy so this should not be necessary in your case. Pruning can also be done to thin and shape your plants, but otherwise they will require little to no pruning if planted in a location where they can grow to their mature size. Thinning your shrubs will allow more light to filter through the plant and rejuvenate older plants, but your hollies are still young and not being able to see them I cannot say for certain, but I would just let them be for this year. Hopefully this time next year your females will be full of berries. Make sure your shrubs are planted in a space where they will receive a minimum of six hours of direct light, and if you have not fed them recently you may consider giving the females some Holly-Tone this spring. Let the males become established for a year and then feed them as well. If you want more information on thinning your plants, visit http://ces.ca.uky.edu/floyd-files/HO59.pdf
. This is a publication available to home gardeners provided by the Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with the University of Kentucky and other land grant universities.
|I have some boxwood bushes that were dug up today and some have bare roots but I cannot plant them till tomorrow. I have them wrapped in plastic bags and keeping them wet; what else should I do? Maria, Crest Hill|
|Hello, Maria: I’m afraid this information will not reach you until after you have transplanted your boxwoods, but for future reference here are a couple of tips. There is always a certain amount of stress involved when we move plants from one space in the garden to another. Spring and fall are the best times to transplant, mainly because of the air and soil temperatures. When digging up any plant it is best to remove as much of the root ball as possible so that the roots are protected by the soil while they are out the ground. If we leave roots behind that were attached to the plant this can be very stressful and make it a harder transition for the plant. If you cannot replant them immediately, place them in a nursery container or any container you have on hand. Wrapping the roots in plastic may not be ideal since the plastic can trap the heat and damage the roots, especially if the plastic is black. Place the plants in the shade and keep the roots moist until you can transplant. When digging the new home, make sure that the hole is twice as wide as the existing root ball and just as deep. Treat like any new addition to the garden by keeping it well-watered for the first year. Avoid fertilizing for this first year and let it become established in the environment that naturally exists. After a year has passed, go ahead and give it some food. A thin, even layer of mulch will help keep the moisture in and the weeds down. Mulch should never be more than 2 inches thick, otherwise it becomes a host for insect and potential disease problems. I am sure that your boxwoods will transition just fine since they were only out of the ground for a day.|
|I have some local hardy ferns in pots and I don't know if I should bring them in for the winter or leave them outdoors to winterize naturally. Amy, Kingsport|
|Hi, Amy in Tennessee: The term hardy is thrown around in the plant world and sometimes does not have the same meaning from one gardener to the next. So, to make sure we are on the same page in terms of the definition, hardy plants are just that, meaning they can survive in the garden year-round. There are hundreds of hardy ferns in your zone, and there are many ferns sold in garden centers during the warmer months that are considered tropicals for us but in warmer zones are considered hardy. The two most common are the Boston and Kimberly Queen fern. If in fact the fern you are growing in your container is hardy then it would be happiest growing in the garden. Perennials can certainly survive in containers from year to year, especially if we have a mild winter, but they are more subject to winter injury and more exposed to the elements since they do not have protection of the soil around them. If you choose to leave your shade-loving fern in the container just make sure to add some mulch to the top of the soil and maybe even around the container to help protect it. It is getting to be a bit late to put perennials in the garden but the weather has been pretty mild so far this fall, so if you want to put it in the garden, go ahead and dig your hole and remember to add a thin layer of mulch.|
|I have some resurrection lilies that I'd like to take with me when I move. Is there a way to dig them and save them out of the ground for up to a year before replanting? What about ditch lilies? Belinda, Elizabethtown|
|Hi, Belinda: When moving plant material we would ideally want to dig just before they are transplanted to their new home. If this is not an option and you do not have another holding space in the ground, then you can dig them up and keep them in containers. Make sure the containers are large enough and have drainage holes. These containers do not have to be decorative; they can be a plain old nursery pot; you can ask your local garden center if they have larger nursery pots you could have/buy. During this transition phase you will want to reduce as much stress as possible until you can get them back in the ground. Moisture levels are harder to maintain in a container and cold hardiness becomes a factor when the plants do not have the surrounding soil to help insulate in the colder months and help retain moisture during the warmer months. Both the resurrection lilies (Lycoris squamigera) and the ditch lilies (Hemerocallis fulva) can be saved in this manner. When you dig them up you will want to keep as much of the bulb/root system and the soil ball intact as possible. Replant them in the containers at the same depth as they were in the ground. It would be good if you can do this and avoid having them in transition during the winter months. If this is not possible you might consider packing some pine straw around your containers to help insulate them.|
|I have some seeds whose directions said to leave them in the ground during winter but I don't know if I'm supposed to mulch the area. Will they sprout if I put mulch over them?
I don't know what to do with the Russian sage, wormwood, false indigo, and chrysler imperial rose we have. It is too late to prune them? How much pruning do they need?
Is it too late to seed lemon balm and spearmint in the ground now?
I would like to prep the ground for spring sowing. With all the leaves we have right now, we'd have perfect compost. Do I need to remove the grass? Can I can just dump soil and leaves over them?
|Hello, Mel in Kentucky: You do have several questions so let’s get to it. Yes, you can mulch over the top of your seeds. Mulch will help keep the soil moist and warm as well as keep the weeds down. It is also nice in terms of aesthetics but be sure it is no more than 2-3 inches thick, otherwise this can create an environment for insects and disease to thrive. Your Russian sage can be pruned now or during the late winter/early spring. It should be cut back to about 6 inches. Some gardeners like the silvery color it has during the winter months but when to prune it is entirely up to you. Wormwood (Artemesia) is best pruned back in the winter or early spring before new growth begins. You can cut back your false indigo (Baptisia) now. Both the Artemesia and Baptisia should be cut back to the ground. Your rose should be pruned during the winter months while it is dormant. It can be pruned to control the size and shape, but it is best not to remove more than one-third of the size of the shrub each year. It would be best if you wait to seed lemon balm and spearmint in the spring. As for prepping your beds for planting next spring, there are a couple of different ways to go about it. First, you need to kill the grass so you are not fighting it in the beds for years to come. You can lay a thick pile of newspaper down and then the leaves/soil on top of the newspaper. This will kill the grass and as long as the leaves are fully composted you can work them into the soil and the area should be ready to plant in the spring. Spraying the area with Round-up or any product that has glyphosate as its main ingredient will kill the grass. It will take a couple of weeks but then you can add the compost and soil mixture for planting next spring.|
|I have three and a half acres of flowers. This year the tops of all my plants are turning white, even my vegetable garden. They are not dying. Do you know what's causing this? Mildred, Gibsonville|
|Hello, Mildred in North Carolina: To be honest, this is not a situation I have ever encountered, but ruling out other possibilities it has to be due to environmental conditions. In some cases the soil pH can change the bloom color but you are dealing with such a large garden and I assume many different plants, so we can rule this out as well. Insects and diseases that affect our plants do not jump from one plant to the next. They all have their own issues specific to each genus/species. This is why it only makes sense that it is something environmental, the most likely cause being an herbicide drift because you are dealing with such a large garden space. Is it possible that a neighbor, potentially a farmer, sprayed an herbicide earlier this spring? If so and they happened to do so on a windy day as your plants were emerging, this could have caused tip chlorosis. Injury symptoms are what you described as the tips of your plants appearing white or bleached out but the rest of the plant appearing healthy. If this is what happened the roots are perfectly healthy, but the top part of the foliage has lost its pigment. For a positive diagnosis you can take samples to your County Cooperative Extension Service for them to send off for analysis.
|I have three beautiful mini rose bushes and they have hundreds of blooms, but we have had 3 inches of rain over the last week and the weight of the rain has made them look ugly and many stems and petals have collapsed toward the lawn. Should I prune them back to lessen the weight so they look nice again, or just wait til next winter and prune them? David, West Springfield|
|Hi, David: Heavy and accumulating rainfall can make our gardens look beat-up. Usually after a couple of dry and sunny days the plants will perk up but if this is not the case you always have the option of staking your roses. There are all kinds of plant stakes on the market; a half hoop or two half hoops placed together to create a circle would be ideal. Check to see what they carry at your local garden center or get creative and make your own. Staking will be an easy task considering you are dealing with miniature roses. Pruning is also an option and doing so now will encourage new growth but you will obviously lose any flowers already blooming or in bud stage if you prune at this point. If you decide to prune make sure your tools are clean and sharp. The general rule is that you do not want to remove more than one-third the size of the plant at one time. So keep this in mind when visualizing how far back to cut. You will want to prune slightly above an outward-facing bud.|
|I have three lilac bushes that need to be transplanted. Would you tell me the best way to do this? They aren't very large. Phyllis, Buffalo|
|Hi, Phyllis: The best time of year to move your lilacs is going to be in the fall or early spring. Moving them now in the heat of summer is just too stressful on the plants. Transplanting in the fall when the temperatures drop will help them get their roots settled before winter arrives. Moving them in the spring should be less maintenance on your part in terms of watering if Mother Nature cooperates. Before beginning the process of moving your lilacs, you will want to choose a space in the garden where they will receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. Otherwise, your shrubs can become leggy and will likely not bloom very well. The main objective is to reduce as much stress as possible when transplanting your shrubs. Having your new holes pre-dug will help eliminate stress by getting the roots back in the soil as soon as possible. Otherwise, they are exposed to the elements and can dry out quite quickly. When you dig up your lilacs, you want to use a sharp spade and start a couple of feet out from the base of the shrub. You can eventually work your way in but you want to make sure to keep as much of the root system intact as possible. This will make it easier on the shrubs in terms of becoming established in their new homes. They should be planted at the same depth they were before, so you may need to adjust the size of your holes after you have gotten them out of the ground. Water them immediately and apply a layer of mulch no more than 2 inches thick. This will help keep the moisture in and the weeds down. Treat your newly moved lilacs like any new addition to the garden. They will need extra attention from you for the first year while they get settled into their new home. Avoid fertilizing for the first year. It is better for the long-term health of your shrubs to become established in the existing environment rather than giving them nutrients that may not always be there. If you choose to move your lilacs in the spring, you may have to wait a year for them to bloom again. This is because they will be using their energy getting the roots established.|
|I have three questions. First, I have sugar maple trees that have saplings growing up from the ground next to them and I wondered when and how to cut them. Second, I have a crabapple tree that isn't growing up, its branches just keeping getting longer; is there anything I can or should do for it? Last, I have Bradford pear trees that need the bottom branches pruned and I wondered when and how to do that. Lynda, Leitchfield|
|Hello, Lynda: The suckers coming up from your sugar maples can and should be pruned back as soon as you notice them. It is undergrowth coming up from the root system and there is no reason to let them grow. It can make your trees look unruly but are not a serious cause for concern. Take your pruners and cut back to the base of each sucker. This will probably continue to happen but very easy in terms of maintenance. As for your crabapple, do you know which one you are growing? There are certain varieties of these ornamental trees that have more of an umbrella shape growth habit. Sargent crabapple (Malus sargentii) for example is grown for its horizontal growth. It can spread 15 feet but only reach 8 feet tall at maturity. Specific plants have their own growth habits and we cannot manipulate the way they want to grow without stressing them out. Pruning your pear should be done in the winter while the tree is dormant. It is easier to see the structure of the tree without the foliage. Winter/early spring pruning is valid for your Bradford pear trees as well. These trees serve an ornamental purpose but the main concern is their structure. These fast-growing trees have a branching habit that makes them very susceptible to splitting during wind/ice storms. Pruning out some of the inferior limbs, making the crown less dense, might help the longevity of your trees. Visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho45/ho45.pdf
for more detailed information on pruning landscape trees in Kentucky.|
|I have two Cottage Farms rose stumps. I followed the directions and buried them in both sides of my flower bed. One started blooming but the other did not, it's still a stump. Why? Alpha, Chicago|
|Hello, Alpha: I assume by “stump” you mean that you purchased your roses bare root. Let me know if this is not the case. So, it sounds like one is happy while the other is struggling or already dead. Does the latter have any foliage at all? If it does this is encouraging; as long as it gets enough sunlight and nutrition it will bloom eventually. If there is no growth at all this year the rose is a lost cause; remove it from the garden: decaying plant material is a great place for insects and disease to live. As far as purchasing bare root roses, plant failure is part of the risk we gardeners take when ordering any bare root material. A lot of care is taken by the growers to ship them in ideal conditions but there is always going to be a small amount of loss. Moisture levels are extremely important during this process; the roots cannot be allowed to dry out and too much moisture can cause root rot. Did your roses look the same when you unwrapped and installed them? Consistent moisture levels are just as important as newly planted roses. Check the guarantee policy you received with your order. Hopefully the rose has foliage and it is concentrating all of its energy on getting its roots established before it blooms.|
|I have two forsythia bushes in the yard; one blooms, and the other, a larger untrimmed bush, never blooms. Why not? Mary Ann, Owenton|
|Hello, Mary Ann: Are your forsythia planted in the same space? If one is receiving more sun than the other, this may be part of the problem. Forsythia blooms best when planted in full sun. This means it should get at least six hours of direct sun each day. Another likely possibility is that it would like to be pruned. Have you pruned one and not the other? Forsythia will benefit from an annual pruning to remove old woody canes that no longer produce flowers. The best time to prune is after they bloom, or should have bloomed, in the spring. Use a sharp, clean pair of pruners and remove the thicker canes. We typically do not want to remove more than one-third of the entire size of the plant, so depending on how big your shrub is it may take a couple of seasons to rejuvenate, but pruning now will certainly promote new growth and allow for flowering next spring. I hope this is helpful and next spring both of your shrubs will bloom!|
|I have two hazelnut bushes that are 4 or 5 years old but have never had nuts on them. I see little bloom-like things on them. What can I do to get them to bear? Joyce, Morehead|
|Hi, Joyce: I apologize for the delayed response. Hazelnuts are also known as filberts. They prefer to grow in fertile, well-drained soil. They will not tolerate consistently wet conditions. It sounds like your plants are happy; do you know which variety of hazelnut you are growing? If you are growing the same variety this may be the problem. There are a few different kinds of hazelnuts, including some like the contorted filbert, that do produce nuts. Otherwise, the nut varieties need to be cross-pollinated. Hazelnuts have both male and female flower parts on the same plant but it is necessary to have at least two different varieties that bloom at the same time for pollination to occur. These plants are pollinated by wind, not by insects. For successful pollination the different varieties should be within 100-200 feet from one another. Your plants are old enough to produce nuts so I would suspect that it is a pollination issue. For more information on growing hazelnuts in Kentucky visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id77/id77.pdf.|
|I have two hydrangeas planted next to each other getting morning sun. One is full of blooms and the other has not the first bloom. Why? Sandie, Blythe|
|Hi, Sandie: I would not be too concerned about your hydrangea not having any blooms quite yet. It is still very early in the growing season and as long as your shrub looks healthy and has flowered in the past, just give it time and you should see blooms soon. I know it does not make much sense that one is in bloom and the other is not, but there are other factors to take into consideration. How old are your hydrangeas? If they were planted within the past year, it may be that the one is concentrating its energy on establishing a root system. Is it possible there is more root competition for one plant than the other? Did you prune them at all this year? Depending on which hydrangea you are growing, pruning at the wrong time of year can eliminate potential blooms. If they have been planted for more than a year, go ahead and fertilize if you have not already done so. Always follow recommendations for application rates since over-fertilizing can also prevent blooms. Don’t be too discouraged, the season is just getting started.|
|I have two magnolia trees I planted five years ago. They have grown alot but no blooms. How can I get them to bloom? I also planted another one last year. It was blooming and beautiful, but now is losing a lot of leaves and does not look as healthy as it did. Patricia, Wellington|
|Hello, Patricia in Kentucky: I am not sure if you are growing evergreen or deciduous magnolias but they both produce lovely flowers in the spring. The evergreen varieties' flowers are creamy white and the deciduous blooms are available in different shades of white, yellow, and pink. Magnolia blooms can be lost to a hard freeze but that certainly was not the case this year or last if my memory serves me right. If the overall health of your trees seems fine and you have not noticed any buds at all then I would suspect the issue to be the amount of light and/or nutrients that the trees are receiving. Ideally, magnolias should be planted in a space where they will get a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. If your trees get plenty of light then they may be lacking the nutrients that are essential for flower production. You can have your soil tested through your County Extension Office; the results will determine if you need to add any nutrients back to the soil. As for the newly planted magnolia, it is going to require more moisture than your older, more established trees. It has been such as hot and dry summer that newly planted trees that are not given sufficient moisture are going to drop their foliage prematurely. Your tree should be watered two to three times per week for 20-30 minutes each time. A thin layer of mulch will help your tree retain moisture. No need for it to be any more than 3 inches thick and it should be spread evenly so that it does not cone up around the trunk of the tree. The Menifee Extension office Web site is http://ces.ca.uky.edu/menifee
or you can call them at (606) 768-3866.|
|I have two magnolia trees that are more than 5 years old and will not bloom; also a big beautiful wisteria that will not bloom. Can you help me, please? Pat, Wellington|
|Hello, Pat in Kentucky: Please correct me if I am wrong but I think that I just answered your magnolia question. As far as your wisteria not blooming, these vines can take up to seven years to bloom, sometimes longer. This is especially true for both Asian (Japanese and Chinese) native species. Do you know which one you are growing and if it was grown from a cutting or a seedling? For best results in terms of flower production, vines grown from cuttings are a better choice as opposed to seedling grown vines. In general, native species such as the American wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) and the Kentucky wisteria (Wisteria macrostachys) bloom sooner than the Asian ones. Named cultivars such as ‘Amethyst Falls’ and ‘Clara Mack’ tend to flower sooner so depending on which one you are growing, the age of your vine, the nutrient level, and light availability could all be reasons for the lack of blooms on your vine. Wisteria are really tough plants and opposite of what we typically think of in terms of getting our plants to bloom; they tend to bloom when they are stressed, so severe pruning can encourage to them to bloom. Root pruning as well as shoot pruning is recommended. Late spring or early summer is the best time to prune since these woody vines produce buds in the early spring on old wood. Pruning before then can actually remove potential flowers for the upcoming season. Too much fertilizer is a bad thing for these vines, especially fertilizer high in nitrogen, because it encourages leafy growth instead of blooms. If your vine is not given a minimum of six hours of direct sun it will likely not bloom.|
|I have two small dogwoods that came up volunteer
about 2 feet apart. I want to move one: when can I do that?
|Hello, Wilma in Kentucky: There are a few different species of dogwoods (Cornus); all of them are propagated from seed but named cultivars will not come true from seed. Regardless, it is always a bonus when an animal plants something worth growing in the garden! Since yours are growing so close to each other it is a good idea to move one of them while they are young and manageable. This way they will not be competing for space, light, or nutrients as they mature. As for transplanting, now, as long as the ground is not frozen, is a fine time to transplant. Anytime from late fall through early spring while the dogwood is dormant is a good time to move. The only time you should not move your plants is during the hotter months of the year. It is always a good idea to prepare the new planting space before digging up the existing plant. Reducing stress during the move will help ensure a successful transplant. Choose an area of the garden that receives full to part sun. When you are ready to dig, use a sharp spade and start digging farther out from the dogwood and work your way in. The idea is to keep as much of the root ball intact as possible. It should be planted immediately and the soil level should be flush with the ground. Water well and apply a 2-3 inch layer of mulch to help keep the moisture in and the soil warm. Mulch should not be coned up around the trunk. Treat like a new addition to the garden for the next couple of years.|
|I have two snow ball bushes. They bloomed the second year after I planted them. I've had them for approximately five years. They have not bloomed for the past four years. Is there something I can do to get them to bloom?
Virginia, Mount Vernon|
|Hi, Virginia in Kentucky: I assume you are referring to hydrangeas when you mention snow ball bushes. This common name is sometimes used for viburnums as well, so please let me know if I am assuming wrong. So, the first year they did not bloom in your garden was probably related to the plants concentrating their energy on root establishment instead of flower development or maybe they were planted past their bloom time. What, if anything, has changed between the second year when they bloomed and the following several years that they did not? It is still very early in this growing season and they should not be blooming at this point. Potential possibilities for bloomless hydrangeas are lack of sunlight, nutrients, or both, and pruning at the wrong time of year. Is it possible that your hydrangeas are receiving more shade than in the past? If your shrubs are growing in dense shade, they would benefit from more sunlight, preferably morning light and afternoon shade. How often are you fertilizing? Hydrangeas will benefit from a side dressing of compost or a slow-release, well-balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10. Avoid feeding them in late summer since they are getting ready to go dormant and this will encourage growth that can be damaged by early frost. They can be fed twice during the growing season. Always follow recommended application rates since over-feeding our plants can have the reverse effect in that too much nitrogen will stop them from blooming. Some species of hydrangea, like the common macrophylla, bloom on previous year’s growth (old wood) and they should be pruned after they have finished blooming in the summer. Pruning at other times of the year will result in bloomless hydrangeas. These should not be pruned in the spring other than to remove dead wood. Hopefully one of these possibilities will make sense and you can remedy the problem.|
|I have two Yoshino cherry trees that are 10 years old; I am having problems with the roots sprouting new growth. I have cut them off but they come right back and make the landscaping look bad. Do you have any suggestions on how to stop this? Roy, McCormick|
|Hi, Roy: The growth coming up from the base of the plant is what is known as suckers. Like many other ornamental trees, Yoshino cherries are propagated by a method known as grafting. This means that the top of your tree is exactly what you think it is, a Yoshino cherry, but the root system of your tree is that of another Prunus. Growers do this for different reasons but mainly to give plants certain characteristics they would not have otherwise, such as being hardier and more disease-resistant. So, the suckers that keep sprouting are not something you want to allow to grow, so the easiest way to get rid of them is to prune them back. Usually as grafted plants mature they stop producing suckers so as the trees age you should see a decrease in the amount of suckers you will need to prune. Suckers tend to be more common if trees are planted too deep. There are no safe products that I know of to stop them from growing. Using any chemical will affect the rest of your tree, jeopardizing its health. You really are doing the best thing possible by just removing them. It does make the tree look unkept and it is an easy task in terms of maintenance so just keep your pruners sharp and hopefully in the following years the trees will stop suckering.
|I have vines under my maple trees. They are growing up on the tree clear to the top. Will they kill the tree? I cut them off but they won't die. Are they living off the tree? Debbie, Owenton|
|Hello, Debbie: There are many vines and some are more aggressive than others, but ideally we do not want any vine climbing to the top of our trees. If the maples are healthy to begin with it should not be much of a problem, but they will compete for sunlight and nutrients. This can make photosynthesis a challenge and the health of the trees will decline if this is an issue. The maples have a much more extensive root system than the vine and will always win when it comes to moisture. So to answer your question, no, the vine is not living off of the tree but it is using it as a source to climb and reach for sunlight. Since the vine is all the way to the top of your maple it may be difficult to get it all out depending on how tall your trees are. Cutting it back and digging up the roots is the only way to get rid of the vine without damaging the tree. Continuously cutting it back may eventually kill the vine due to lack of sunlight but digging up the roots will ensure that the vine is removed. Avoid spraying since this will damage your maple trees.|
|I just lost a huge pin oak that shaded my house. What type of tree should I plant, and when, to replace it? It will get sun all day. Ann, Louisville|
|Hello, Ann: Losing a large shade tree immediately changes the landscape of your home and gives a once shady garden more sun than it can handle. As far a replacing a pin oak there are many good choices. Assuming you are looking for another large majestic tree the following are all options: white oak (Quercus alba), bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa), American elm (Ulmus americana) both ‘Princeton’ and ‘Valley Forge’ are good cultivars, dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), European beech (Fagus sylvatica), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), Kentucky coffeetree (Gymnocladus dioicus), Northern pecan (carya illinoiensis), and a male ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) would all be similar in terms of height and width. In terms of planting you can install these trees all year except when the ground is frozen. That being said there are certain times of the year that are going to require less maintenance on your part. Adding a tree to the garden in the middle of the summer is going to require you to be around to water if Mother Nature does not provide enough moisture. Fall planting is ideal since the temperatures are cooler and it still give the tree enough time to get its root settled before winter arrives. Of course spring is normally wet and moderate in temperature, which is very suitable for root establishment. If your goal is to get a new tree as soon as possible you can certainly plant one now but just make sure you or someone is going to be in town to water if needed. The next best time would be in the fall. Depending on whether or not you had the stump ground out you may not be able to plant in the exact space where your oak was planted but in the same general area will be fine.|
|I just planted a Vanderwolf's pyramid; how much should I water it now? Ron, Guilford|
|Hello, Ron in Connecticut: Proper planting and watering are the most important factors in the establishment of any new addition to the garden. Newly planted trees should receive 1.5-2 inches of water per week from April until late fall. If Mother Nature provides an inch of rain each week no additional watering will be needed. Otherwise, soaking the evergreen two to three times per week during the hottest, driest months will be necessary. You can let the hose trickle at the base of the evergreen for approximately 20-30 minutes. It is best to mimic a steady rain so deep, infrequent soakings are preferred to frequent, shallow watering. A thin layer of mulch will help retain the moisture. Avoid piling the mulch around the base of the trunk and make sure that it is no more than 2 inches thick. Otherwise it can encourage insect and disease issues. Vanderwolf’s pine is a cultivar of Pinus flexilis, commonly known as a limber pine. This upright evergreen will reach 20-25 feet tall and 10-15 feet wide at maturity. Unlike the species, this cultivar is a fast grower, putting on an average of 25 inches per year. The foliage is bluish-green with twisted needles. These pines will perform best when planted in a space where they will receive at least six hours of sunlight each day. They are adaptable to soil conditions but prefer moist, well-drained sites. These evergreens are not susceptible to many insect or disease problems.|
|I just purchased a bunch of red canna bulbs to plant in my gardens. In Louisville, when is the right time to plant them? Should I be concerned about frost occurring if plant prior to the Kentucky
Derby date? I also purchased lily of the valley and plan to grow them in a huge shady area as a groundcover. Is April okay to plant them, or should I wait until after the Derby?
|Hello, Charlotte: We are zone 6 here in Louisville according to the USDA hardiness zone map. There has been some debate recently that the metro area may now be zone 7 but nothing is confirmed yet. As for your canna lily bulbs, you do want to wait until Derby to put them in the ground. Our frost-free date is May 10. Cannas are considered a tropical for us, so we need to wait until the danger of frost has passed to plant outdoors. You can dig the bulbs up in the fall and put them in a paper bag to store them for the winter. Keep the bag in a cool, dark space like a closet and bring them back out the following spring. Lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), on the other hand, is a hardy perennial for those of us gardening in Kentucky. You can go ahead and plant anytime now. This is a great option for a shady groundcover. The fragrant white blooms are very sweet and the foliage will remain green throughout the growing season. It will tolerate a dry site once established, but try to keep the soil evenly moist this summer. Lily of the valley is a spreading perennial, so make sure to plant it where it is free to do so, otherwise you will find yourself digging it out of a space where you did not intend for it to grow.|
|I know absolutely nothing about plants first of all. My husband and I just built a new house and I have a patio area that is at my basement enterance. It gets the morning and midday sun and then is shaded for the late day and afternoon. I would like to have some potted plants on the patio to give it some life and color. What would you recommend, maybe a tree? Jennifer, Campton|
|Hello, Jennifer in Kentucky: Congratulations on your new home! The first thing you need to do is determine how many hours of sun this space actually receives. I am not quite clear what your definition of midday and afternoon is so this becomes tricky in terms of giving you planting suggestions. Technically six hours or more is considered full sun, four to six hours of sun is part sun/shade depending on the time of day, and two hours or less of sun is considered full shade. Also, the time of day the sunlight hits the area needs to be taken into account. If the area receives direct sun in the morning and/or late afternoon, it is not the same in terms of intensity as the high, midday sun between the hours of 11-2. From what you mentioned I assume you are dealing with full or part sun. The next thing to consider is your containers. You want to make sure that if they are going to be planted year-round that they are good quality and can withstand the winter weather. High-fired clay and polyurethane (light-weight) containers are best for this purpose. Glazed are typically fine for a few years if you put them up on pot feet so the air can circulate under them, preventing them from freezing when the ground does. Whichever ones you choose, be certain that they have sufficient drainage holes and fill them with a good quality potting mixture. As for choosing a plant, it is true of all trees that they are not going to want to live their entire lives in containers. If you are referring to a tropical that has been trained into a tree form this is a great option for the summer months. In general, plant material is switched out seasonally for container planting. That being said you can certainly plant a smaller tree and leave it in there for a couple of years and then plant it in the garden. If this is what you choose to do make sure you choose containers that are significantly bigger than the nursery pots the trees are growing in. This will allow their roots to spread and give them extra protection during the winter months. If you can give me details in terms of sulight and a planting wish list, I can give you specific suggestions.|
|I live in Brooklyn, where one house is on top of the other. When I come out on the deck, I feel like the neighbor is sitting next to me. I'd love to add some privacy to my deck, without having to use huge pots along the side of my deck, which would take away a good chunk of the deck space. My deck is 8'x16', and for the most part, I just want to cover one of the sides that is 8' long. The deck has a standard plastic railing. Ideally, I'd love to use a long pot that is not very deep so that I can place it on one of the sides of the deck and use a runner plant to grow around the railing. I might use a trellis as well to add some height. Would you have any recommendations as to what would be the best plant for such a task?
|Hello, Ed: Gardens and other outdoor spaces are additions to our homes; just like an indoor room, they have walls that create privacy. As my sister would attest to, living in Brooklyn you need to take advantage of any outdoor space you may be lucky enough to have. So, you have a few options depending on how low to the ground the deck is and if there is any planting space below it. Ideally it would be nice if you could plant below the deck so the containers would not take up valuable space. If this is possible and if there is existing soil then this would be the place to plant. If there is no soil you can use large containers that can stay outdoors year-round. If planting on the deck is your only option you will want to make sure the container(s) are deep enough for the roots to grow. This is especially true if you intend to keep this planting year-round. Using a rectangular planting box that you can attach to the railing would be an option as well. I think using a trellis for height is a good idea. The plant material you choose will depend on the available sunlight and whether or not you want an annual (just for the warmer months) or perennial vine and if you want it to be evergreen or deciduous. If privacy is really the goal here you can always create outdoor curtains as your walls. Three thick bamboo stakes made into a frame with twine and some outdoor fabric or inexpensive burlap and you have instant privacy. Of course a pergola would be nice as well. If you give me more details I would be happy to give you planting suggestions.|
|I live in disaster area where all my garden evergreens, etc., were immersed in salt water when the bay and ocean overflowed. They are still brown and look half dead. Is there any miracle drug for plants, any special remedy you can reccommend to help us bring them back to life? Melanie, Brooklyn|
|Hello, Melanie in New York: I am sorry for all that you have been through and I wish I could tell you that your plants will pull through and be green and lush in no time, but the reality is that only time will tell. As for perennials, bulbs, ornamental grasses, and deciduous trees/shrubs, we will have to wait until later in the spring to see how they fared. Hopefully you will not have too much loss but it all depends on the specific plant in your garden and how much salt they were exposed to; some plant species are more tolerant of higher levels of salt than others. As for your evergreens, if you can already see the damage that has been done this is not encouraging. In most cases once the foliage on an evergreen turns brown, they do not put on new growth to replace the lost. Without knowing specifics in terms of plant species or being able to see your evergreens I can’t give you a definitive answer. It would be best to have a certified arborist come out and take a look at your landscape. The horticulture agents or Master Gardeners at the Kings County Cooperative Extension Service will be a good source for local certified arborist recommendations. You can visit their Web site at www.cce.cornell.edu/Gardening/Pages/default.aspx. The Brooklyn Botanic Gardens would also be a reliable source. Visit them at www.bbg.org. It is important that you hire a certified arborist as opposed to someone who is a self-proclaimed arborist. As the warm weather approaches I hope you see a lot of new growth on your plants!
|I live in Fairview, NC. There is a bed in front of my house that gets an hour of sun in the morning then again from 4:00-5:00 p.m. Would you consider this full or part shade? Nancy, Fairview|
|Hello, Nancy in North Carolina: When it comes to determining the amount of light your garden receives, it can be confusing, especially if it is a situation like yours where the space is basically in the shade except for an hour of sun during the morning and another hour in the late afternoon. Technically speaking, six hours or more of direct sun is considered full sun. Four to six hours of sun is part sun/shade depending on the time of day, and two hours or less of sun is considered full shade. Also, the time of day the sunlight hits the area needs to be taken into account. If the area receives direct sun in the morning and/or late afternoon, it is not the same in terms of intensity as the high, midday sun between the hours of 11-2. So to answer your question, the bed in the front of your home would be considered full shade. When choosing plant material to landscape this space, make sure they are shade-loving options.|
|I live in Washington State; my back lawn is 90 percent dead, the soil is hard and doesn't drain well, and is 95 percent all shade. How can I get a thick, beautiful green lawn? Rod, Lakewood|
|Hello, Rod in Washington: Although there is grass seed specifically for shady areas, establishing a lush green lawn in a shady area that does not drain well is certainly a challenge and may not be worth the time or effort, depending on the amount of shade and lack of drainage. From what you have described it sounds like you might fall into this category. Turf grass does best in a sunny, well-drained space. It really is not worth the frustration of replanting grass seed every year when it simply is not going to thrive. There are, however, other planting solutions so that you do not have to deal with a blank space that turns into an eyesore. Choosing plant material that is happy growing in a shady, poorly drained space will be less maintenance for you in the long run and will be aesthetically pleasing. The Pierce County Cooperative Extension Service would be a good resource for you in terms of what plant material does well in your area. It does not look like they have a horticulture agent but they do have a Master Gardener program. Their Web site is http://county.wsu.edu/pierce/Pages/default.aspx. Gardening in Kentucky, I have limited knowledge of what plant choices you have for the area that you are dealing with. You might consider moss or pachysandra, which is an evergreen groundcover that tolerates wet soil.|
|I live in Zone 7. I have a Knockout rose bush that has bloomed every year except this one. I trimmed it in May, not sure if I was trimming it correctly with hedge clippers. Now it is not blomming. I put Holley Tone at the drip line and watered it July 31, 2012, hoping this will help; should I just dig it up ? I used to have loads of blooms on this bush, and it is only 3 or 4 years old. Althea, Greensboro|
|Hello, Althea in North Carolina: Is the foliage on your rose still green? If so then there are a couple reasons why it is not blooming, but if the foliage is brown and crispy then go ahead and dig it up. Hopefully it is still green and the lack of blooms are due to the time you pruned or used too much fertilizer. Since this is an established plant and has bloomed in the past we know it is receiving adequate sunlight. This is usually the reason for roses not blooming. As far as pruning your rose, the best time to do this chore is late winter/early spring, while they are dormant and before new growth begins. Pruning to remove dead, diseased, or crossing canes should be done as soon as you notice them no matter what time of the year. It is best not to remove more than one-third of the size of the rose each season. If you pruned more than this I would suspect this to be the reason for the lack of blooms. When pruning you want to make your cuts are flush to the nearest intersecting branch so there are no stubs. Since you pruned in May it could be that you actually removed potential flower buds and the plant has not had time to recover and produce more. Knockout roses are typically prolific bloomers but if given too much fertilizer, this can have the reverse effect of what we are looking for. Too much food can stop your roses from blooming. This is why it is so important to follow recommended application rates for any product that you apply. For now, make sure your rose is getting sufficient moisture, avoid feeding, and wait to see if it recovers.|
|I live on a hill with a retaining wall, and I would like to plant some flowers there, or create a small bed that runs atop the wall. However, when it rains, whatever is there atop the wall is flooded, and sometimes washes down the hill. What would be best to plant there, if anything? Chasity, Edmonton|
|Hi, Chasity in Kentucky: Planting for erosion control can be effective if you choose the right plant material. The first factor that needs to be considered is the amount of sunlight the area receives. Six or more hours each day is considered full sun. Any amount less than three hours is shade and anything in between is part sun/shade. Choosing the right plant material will make your effort worthwhile. Groundcovers that are relatively fast growing and will form a dense mat would be ideal for erosion control. For shade, traditional ivy is a great choice because it has runners and the roots establish they will help keep the soil in place. Other shade-loving groundcovers include: pachysandra, ajuga, plumbago, evergreen ferns, and wild ginger. Choices for sun include sedums, perennial geraniums, creeping phlox, lysmachia, creeping thyme, vinca, and dianthus. Depending on the size of the space, you could also incorporate some low-growing shrubs such as juniper ‘Grey Owl’ or any of the dwarf nandinas. Not all of these options given are technically considered creepers and, depending on the grade of the slope, this may not be a necessity. With any new planting there is always more maintenance on our part for the first year, just to make sure the plants receive enough moisture if Mother Nature does not provide it. Once the plantings become established this should be a low-maintenance space. The garden centers are filling up with plants so take a trip to your favorite one and see what options they have. Plantings now will require less water than they will in the heat of the summer.|
|I live on Long Beach Island, NJ, and my property was flooded with salt water during Superstorm Sandy. Subsequently, all of my leyland cypress are browned out. In addition, all hollies have dropped their leaves, photinia leaves are burned, privet has dropped leaves. Any chance for new growth on any of these or should I just have everything pulled and start over? I live on the water so salt-tolerant suggestions are welcome. Benee, High Bar Harbor|
|Hello, Benee in New Jersey: With all the challenges you have faced recently I wish I had better news for you, but from what you described it sounds like these plants were submerged in water for an extended period of time. Plants are pretty tough and can withstand some foul weather but what you and your plants have experienced is altogether a different story. Really only time will tell if they will recover and put on new growth, but when evergreens lose their foliage they typically do not put on new growth to replace the lost. It could take years for them to become lush and happy again and so in the end it may be easier to have them replaced. Choosing plant material that can deal with the environment in which you live is going to be important in terms of longevity. Salt tolerance within plants is divided into three different categories: highly, moderately, and slightly salt tolerant. Plant hardiness, sun exposure, and proximity to the water need to be taken into account when selecting new plant material. The Ocean County Cooperative Extension Service is a great resource for home gardeners. The horticulture agent and/or the Master Gardeners in your area will be a wealth of knowledge. You can visit their Web site at http://ocean.njaes.rutgers.edu
or you can reach them by phone at (732) 349-1152. Your Extension office has posted a publication on their Web site specifically related to plant material damaged by Superstorm Sandy; you can read it at: http://ocean.njaes.rutgers.edu/documents/copingwsaltwtrNov28.pdf.
As for options for replacement plants, The North Carolina Extension Office has provided a detailed list of plant species and cultivars that are salt tolerant: http://pender.ces.ncsu.edu/files/library/71/Salt%20Tolerant%20Plants.pdf. Some of these plants may not be suitable for your gardening zone so you should check with your Extension office or local garden center/nursery before planting. You may want to wait until spring arrives until you do anything. This way you will give the plants a chance to break dormancy and you can better evaluate the damage. Hopefully there will be some lovely surprises.
|I live on Sandy land and have oak trees with just a little sunlight coming through. What would be good shrubs and flowers to plant in this area? Rhonda, Marion|
|Hi, Rhonda: Gardening in South Carolina is quite different from gardening in Kentucky, but having lived near your town I can give you a few suggestions. Some shade-loving shrubs include aucuba, which are broadleaf evergreens. Azaleas and camellias are other options depending on the amount of filtered light available through the oak trees. Some shade-loving perennials that you might consider are of course ferns and hostas, but it sounds like you would prefer something that blooms so here are other possibilities: columbine, lily-of-the-valley, plumbago, euphorbia, spigelia, bleeding heart, helleborus (lenton Rose), and acanthus. Some of these will do better than others depending on the available sunlight as well as nutrients. You can have your soil tested through the Marion County Extension Service. The horticulture/agriculture agent(s) are valuable resources and they will be able to provide you with literature/publications on growing shade-loving shrubs and perennials specifically for your part of the state. Clemson Extension is a wonderful source of information as well.
|I need a fast-growing evergreen vine to grow on a trellis in shade: can you help? Kevin, Dublin|
|Hello, Kevin: To be honest your request is a bit of a tricky one, not impossible, just challenging. There are a number of vines that will grow in the shade but evergreen vines that prefer the shade limit the possibilities. All of this depends on how much shade you actually have. If you truly have full shade, ivy would be a good choice. Euonymus would be another although this should be your last resort. This vine is very prone to scale and can be a maintenance nightmare. If you have morning sun or filtered light in the space you are wanting to plant, then crossvine (bignonia capreolata) would be a good choice. It will tolerate low light as long as it gets some filtered light. This evergreen vine has trumpet shaped, orange-yellow blooms. Tangerine Beauty is a good cultivar. It will flower better when planted in more direct light but will remain evergreen regardless. Crossvine is hardy to gardening zone 6a. Have you thought about planting some evergreen shrubs around the trellis to break it up? There are a lot more choices in terms of evergreen shrubs than there are vines. Mahonia, aucuba, pieris, and taxus are just a few options. If you are willing to let the evergreen part of the vine go, then you would have other options such as a climbing hydrangea. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service or your local garden centers to make sure what zone you are in and if they have any other suggestions.|
|I need a weed killer that is safe for my kids and pets to be used in my yard. There are large places where there is no grass. Billie, Morehead|
|Hi, Billie: Choosing a weed killer that is not harmful to your children or pets is also much safer in terms of the environment. There are alternative herbicides available for home use. Vinegar or lemon juice based, also known as acetic acid, weed killers are effective. A homemade concentrated solution of 1 qt. cider vinegar and 4 oz. of lemon juice mixed in a spray bottle is an option. This can be purchased as Burnout Weed and Grass Killer. Safer Brand makes a weed killer from soap salts, otherwise known as potassium salts of fatty acids. These sprays are non-selective and will harm any desirable plants so avoid spraying on a windy day. Spot spraying when the weeds are young and during the heat of the day will give you the best results. Larger more established weeds may require a couple of applications. If you are trying to kill weeds in a grassy space, the next option may not be ideal, aesthetically speaking, but it works great for preparing a new garden bed. Spreading a layer of newspaper and then adding a thin layer of mulch on top of the newspaper is a safe and effective way of killing weeds. This is not a process that will work overnight, but if you are willing to wait it is easy, safe, and a good way to recycle your newspaper. Corn gluten is an organic pre-emergent herbicide that works great for eliminating future weeds by preventing the seeds from germinating. Unfortunately it does not work for existing weeds.|
|I need suggestions for vine to climb an arbor and stay nice looking through the winter (will I need two for an arbor?), something noninvasive and nontoxic, and
hopefully fast growing to hide an ugly meter box. Carol, Lexington|
|Hi, Carol in Kentucky: Utility meters are eyesores but essential for modern conveniences, so we live with them but try to hide them. Just make sure that if someone needs to get to the meter to read it that the arbor still allows for access. As for a vine that will climb and provide interest all year, there are a few possibilities depending on your light situation. There are a number of vines that will grow in the shade, but evergreen vines that prefer the shade limit the possibilities. If you truly have full shade, ivy would be a good choice. Although not evergreen, both Boston ivy and climbing hydrangea would be good options for shade vines. If you have more sun or filtered light in the space you are wanting to plant, then crossvine would be a good choice. It will tolerate low light as long as it gets some filtered light. This evergreen vine has trumpet-shaped, orange-yellow blooms. Tangerine Beauty is a good cultivar. Carolina Jessamine has similar shaped yellow flowers and is also evergreen. Both will flower better when planted in more direct light. Ivy is probably the fastest growers out of all of these, but once they get settled in their new home all vines will take off. The number of plants will depend on the size of your arbor but one plant will work for a small arbor. If the arbor is only big enough to hide the meter box then you definitely only need one plant.|
|I need to know when to trim shrubs like lemon cypress, boxwood, Hapanese holly, and other shrubs in the garden. And how about roses that bloom only in the spring?
|Hello, Annette: Ideally, we want to plant evergreens in a space where they can grow to their mature size without any drastic pruning. Annual pruning to shape your cypress, boxwood, and Japanese holly can be done in late winter or early spring. Pruning can be done to thin, shape, as well as rejuvenate our flowering shrubs. The correct time to prune them depends on what the shrub is and what time of the year it blooms. As a general rule, we prune spring-flowering shrubs after they have finished blooming. This includes all plants that flower before June 1. For the summer-flowering shrubs, those that bloom after June 1, they should be pruned during the winter months or in the early spring before new growth begins. It is best not to prune more than one-third off any shrub at one time. If you need to take more than one-third off your plant, do so during consecutive years. It is fine to prune any broken, diseased, or dead branches off as soon as you notice them. If you need proper pruning instructions, visit http://www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho59/ho59.htm.
|I occasionally see a serviceberry tree and I think they are beautiful. Where can I buy one in southern Indiana or Kentucky? Jean, New Salisbury|
|Hi, Jean: I agree with you! Serviceberries (Amelanchier) are very beautiful trees and a wonderful addition to any garden. They can be grown as either single- or multi-trunked trees. The white flowers are a sign of spring and the edible fruit is enjoyed by the birds. If you can get to the fruit before the birds do, the berries can make a delicious pie or cobbler. The bark is smooth and gray with a red undertone, an additional bonus to this lovely tree. Serviceberry trees can reach 20-25 feet at maturity. ‘Autumn Brilliance’ is a cultivar that has stunning red fall color. As far as local sources, I know that we carry them at The Plant Kingdom in Louisville; our phone number is (502) 893-7333. In southern Indiana you should try Hidden Hill Nursery in Jeffersonville. The phone number is (812) 282-0524.|
|I planted a Cleveland pear several years ago. It grows straight up. If I trim the top, will it spread out? If so, when is the best time to trim? Gary, California|
|Hi, Gary: The ‘Cleveland Select’ pear (Pyrus calleryana) is a nice ornamental tree that has better branching structure than the ‘Bradford’ pear. Its growth habit is exactly what you have described, narrow and upright. At maturity this tree will reach 35 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Pruning is not an option for changing the pyramidal habit of this tree. On some woody plants we can manipulate the branching habit by pruning, but not so for this tree. Pruning to remove dead, diseased, or crossing branches can be done any time of the year. Heavy pruning should be done in the winter months while the tree is dormant. It may not be the shape you were anticipating, but be thankful you are not growing a ‘Bradford,’ typically a shorter-lived tree because of its branching structure. It typically has pretty good fall color.|
|I planted lilacs three years ago and they have grown tall, spreading out wide, shooting out more stems, and look very healthy but no flowers. What can I do to start them blooming? Hiroko, Bowling Green|
|Hi, Hiroko: There are a few reasons why your shrubs are not blooming. Lilacs do not bloom as young plants and it can take them at least three years before they produce their first flowers. Depending on the age/size of the plant you purchased, this may be the case. If you planted them bare-root it could be even longer before you see any flowers. It is essential for these shrubs to be planted in full sun. They will not bloom well if they do not receive a minimum of six hours of direct light. If this is not the case for your shrubs, then you should consider moving them to a sunnier location. Over-feeding our plants can also cause them not to bloom. If you are fertilizing your shrubs, be sure to follow recommended rate applications for the product you are using. I assume you have not pruned your lilacs; pruning too late in the summer can remove flower buds for the following season. From the information you gave, I suspect your shrubs are just too young to bloom. It sounds like they are very healthy otherwise, so I would say just be patient and it will be worth the wait.|
|I pulled up and replanted my pussy willow tree and I think it is in shock. I really want to save it and don't know what to do. Do you have any advice for me? In previous years it has done really well. I moved and could not bear to leave it behind. It is very young and only about 6 feet tall. Connie, Ypsilanti|
|Hello, Connie: Anytime we move an established planting there is going to be some amount of transplant shock. Reducing the amount of stress is the key to a successful move. When digging up the existing planting, we always want to keep as many of the roots attached as possible. This means when we start digging, we should start farther away from the root ball and work our way in so as not to damage the roots. It is best to re-plant as soon as possible. Leaving the planting exposed to wind and other weather can harm the roots, so it is important to protect them during the move and get them back into the soil as soon as possible. Preparing the new planting hole before digging up the current planting will reduce the time out of soil. The hole should be twice as wide as the root ball and just as deep. Planting too deep can cause problems. Once it is in its new home, we need to treat it like a new planting. It will require at least 1 inch of water per week and avoid fertilizing for one year. Hopefully you took these steps and your tree is adjusting to its new home. Only time will determine the outcome. Make sure that your tree is getting enough moisture; a thin layer of mulch will help keep the soil moist and reduce potential weeds.|
|I purchased 24 Leyland cypress trees to serve as a landscaping wall. I did not plant immediately, as our outside temperatures were 100 degrees plus for weeks on end. I watered them almost daily. I am wanting to plant them now that the weather is a bit cooler, but several of them have started browning. Fearing that the roots were constricted, I started my planting with the browning ones and am working on the green ones now. I have read much on the Internet about diseases, etc., and am very worried. I see no outward signs of disease or stress. Lisa, Culpeper|
|Hello, Lisa in Virginia: The best thing you can do for your Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii) at this stage is to get them in the ground. The summer temperatures and lack of rainfall have been stressful for plants both in the ground and in containers. As long as you can give them the growing conditions they need, they should be fine in the long run. Fall is a great time to plant since the temperatures cool down and the plants will not require as much moisture as they would during the summer months. At this time of year the evergreens still have time to get their roots established before winter arrives. All plant material goes through a certain amount of stress when they are transplanted, but there are steps we can take to reduce this stress. It is always a good idea to pre-dig your holes before removing the plants from their current home. The less exposure the roots have to wind and direct sun the better. Dig your holes twice as wide as the container they are currently living in and just as deep. The top of the soil line attached to the cypress should be flush with the ground. Water immediately and if Mother Nature does not provide rainfall make sure your new plantings receive 1.5-2 inches of water until mid-October. A slow trickle of irrigation for 30-40 minutes is sufficient for a deep soaking. These evergreens do have their share of problems, including bagworms and various fungal diseases, but I would not suspect this in your case. The brown foliage is more likely a result of uneven moisture levels. Leyland cypress thrive when planted in full sun, at least six hours each day, and demand well-drained soil. Root rot can become a problem if the plants are exposed to excessive moisture.|
|I purchased five B&B Natchez white crepe myrtles from a wholesale nursery in late March and planted them the next day. They still have not leafed out. Is this normal? Scratching the bark on any size limb shows green healthy tissue.
|Hello, Jeff in Louisiana: Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia) are a great Southern planting. They are grown in hardiness zones 6 through 9. In Kentucky we do not recommend planting these until later in the spring or early summer because they can be temperamental in our zone(s). We also avoid planting them later in the fall for the same reason. This should not be the case for you since Louisiana is located in zones 8 and 9. In ideal conditions your Natchez crape myrtles should have put on new growth by now, but the fact that the cambium layer is still green means they are still alive. There is always a certain amount of stress involved when trees are dug and replanted. It may be that they just need extra time to get their roots settled. At this point it is a waiting game. As long as they were planted properly and are given sufficient moisture, it sounds like they will be fine. Newly planted trees should receive 1.5-2 inches of water per week from April through October. Hopefully Mother Nature provides this, but if not then you will need to hand water. It is best to avoid fertilizing for the first year and let the trees become established in the environment that exists naturally. If they do not leaf out in the next few weeks, you should check into the guarantee policy from the nursery where you purchased them.|
|I read the article about the 'Crimson Spire' oak and want to buy one but can't find any for sale. Do you know of local nurseries that have them? Rose, Richmond|
|Hi Rose, in Kentucky: The ‘Crimson Spire’ oak has many sought-after characteristics. This cultivated tree is available in the nursery trade but may not be a variety that is carried by the local garden centers or nurseries in your area. If you are willing to travel, The Plant Kingdom in Louisville likes to keep this tree in stock. If there are not any in the store they can put you in the wish book and call when they get them back in. If you do not want to travel that far you could ask around at the garden centers/nurseries closer to you and see if they are able to special order one for you. As long as they are available from the growers they purchase from it should not be a problem. You will probably have better luck asking at a smaller store since they do not have to order in large quantities.|
|I received a 'Blue Girl' tea rose bush for Valentine's Day. It said to plant immediately. But with the bad weather I did not and it is growing like a weed in the packaging! I feel like I should wait til all freezes are over to plant. What do you think? Maybe plant it in a 5-gallon bucket and then transplant it when it is warmer? Holly, Lexington|
|Hello, Holly: The grower's planting instructions attached to plant material do not always take into consideration the time of year or what zone you are gardening in, so you are smart to ask! Does your rose currently have foliage or blooms? If the answer is yes, and I assume it is since you said “it is growing like a weed,” it is better to wait until at least the end of March-early April to plant it in the ground. If you plant it now, the new growth would likely be damaged by the cold temperatures. It would be too much of a shock to the plant and could result in lack of flowers or even worse, so for now keep your Valentine's gift in a sunny, cool space. Keep the soil evenly moist and avoid fertilizing. If you received this rose as a bare root plant, meaning it does not have any foliage, you can go ahead and plant it. Otherwise wait a few weeks, and when it is time to plant your hybrid tea rose pick a space in the garden that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight. Dig your hole twice as wide and just as deep as the container it is currently growing in. This will give the roots enough space to spread out and continue growing. Back fill with the soil that you dug out and amend the soil with compost. Add a thin layer of mulch no more than 2 inches thick around the base of the plant, and be careful not to pile it up around the canes. This will help the soil stay moist and keep the weeds down. ‘Blue Girl’ hybrid tea rose is a smaller rose, only reaching 2-3 feet tall and 3-4 wide at maturity. I have never seen one in bloom but they are supposed to produce a lavender-blue flower. Sounds delightful!|
|I recently asked you about my hibiscus that I dug up to replant in another part of my garden and I said I lost the rootball. I'm sorry, what I meant was that the dirt around the roots came away. I still have all the roots. I put it down inside the new hole and put the dirt that gave way back in the new hole. Do you think it will survive? Bill, Reseda|
|Hello again, Bill in California: I am glad to hear that the roots were still attached to your hibiscus and it was just the soil that did not remain intact. This is common when we transplant something in the garden that has not been established. It is perfectly fine that the soil did not come with the root ball as long as you replaced the soil in the new home. Hopefully the new hole was just as deep as the previous one and just as wide if not wider. The roots should have been spread out in order to prevent any circular growth habit that could lead to girdling. The soil level should be flush with the surrounding landscape and a thin layer of mulch is always helpful in terms of retaining moisture. This will need to be treated like a new planting for the next year. It will require additional moisture during dry periods. As a general rule new plantings should be watered twice per week for the first month and then as needed depending on Mother Nature. It is best to let the hibiscus become established with the nutrients that are present in the soil as opposed to feeding the plant and letting it think that it will always have these nutrients available. It is better for the long-term health of the plant to avoid fertilizing for the first growing season.|
|I recently purchased a contorted filbert in a 3-gallon pot and am ready to plant it. I've read that one should make cuts in the roots to encourage growth, but I'm afraid to do so. What's your opinion?
|Hi, Diane: As gardeners we want to do everything we can to make sure our new addition is properly cared for. You are correct in wondering if you should cut the roots or not. The last thing we want to do is damage our plants before we even get them in the ground. When it is time to plant the contorted filbert, gingerly remove it from the nursery pot and loosen the roots. Your hands will work just fine for this task. There is no reason to cut the roots unless they are REALLY root-bound or girdled in the container, meaning that they are literally going in circles, wrapping around the root ball. I would not suspect this to be the case, so just lightly pull apart the roots and spread them out in the planting hole. The hole should be dug just as deep and twice as wide as the 3-gallon container it was purchased in. Making it twice as wide allows room for the roots to be spread out. Treat it like any other new addition to the garden, watering 2-3 times per week depending on rainfall, and avoid fertilizing for the first year. A mulch layer of no more than 2 inches will help keep the moisture in and the weeds down. Make sure you are planting in a space where the filbert will get full sun. Hopefully this is a space you can see outside of your window. Structurally they are wonderful during the winter months.
|I saw the article in the January issue of Kentucky Living about the green giant arborvitae. My mother bought some from a nursery along with a white pine and all were planted about two years ago. The white pine has grown 3-4 feet, while the arborvitae have only grown 1-2 feet. I am starting to think they might not be the "green giant" variety. Is there a way to tell? Shelia, Stanford|
|Hello, Shelia in Kentucky: Just like all plants have different growing requirements, they also have different growth rates. Some plants are just faster growers than others and the rate may change depending on age and growing environment. Newly installed plants need to use their energy getting their roots established so they can be long-lived. It is not uncommon that for the first few years in a new home, plants may not put on a lot of growth. ‘Green Giant’ is a named cultivar of a western arborvitae (Thuja plicata). It has a complicated “family tree” and unfortunately it is difficult to identify specific cultivars and so we are rely on the growers to tag the plants correctly. I would suspect that the plants were tagged correctly and they will eventually reach their mature size. Unlike other members of this species ‘Green Giant’ is considered a rapid grower, after establishment of course. White pine (Pinus strobus) is also a fast grower. As long as the plants look healthy and are given sufficient light and nutrients you should not be too concerned. Give them another year or so and they will take off.
|I saw your comment about growing fall blooming camellias in Louisville. I want to purchase an Ackerman camellia such as Ashton's Ballet. I cannot find any in Louisville. I want a 5-gallon or larger. Can you help me? Philip, Louisville|
|Hello, Philip in Kentucky: Camellias may not be a staple plant for some garden centers/nurseries in our area, but there are camellias that will do well in our Kentucky gardens. The Ackerman hybrids that Dr. Ackerman developed at the U.S. National Arboretum are a great choice for Kentucky gardeners. ‘Ashton’s Ballet’ is a cross between C. sasquanqua ‘Shikishima’ and C. olifera ‘Plain Jane.’ It is a fall bloomer and produces light pink, double blooms. As for locating one, you will probably have better luck in the spring but spring or summer planting is ideal in terms of plant establishment. Have you tried calling around to local garden centers? The Plant Kingdom carries some of the Ackerman hybrids and if they do not currently have ‘Ashton’s Ballet’ they can put you in a wish list for the spring. You can reach them at (502) 893-7333. For now, if you have not already, choose and prepare a space in the garden that receives morning sun and afternoon shade. It would also be a good time to have your soil tested for acidity levels before planting this acid-loving plant. Soil testing can be done through the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service. They are located at 810 Barret Avenue and their phone number is (502) 569-2344.|
|I transplanted some very young mimosa trees this spring and I would like to prune them all to the same height. They seem healthy. When would be the best time to do this? Jim, Berea|
|Hello, Jim: Mimosa trees (Albizia julibrissin) are very tolerable of most growing conditions. They provide a topical look for those of us not gardening in the tropics but they are not without their negative aspects. They are non-native trees that are short-lived and are prolific at self seeding. Mimosa trees should not require any annual pruning except to remove any dead, diseased, or broken branches. If you want to prune them spring would be the best time, although they are fast growers and will eventually all reach the same height, approximately 25-30 feet. I would suggest that you just give them time to catch up and they will. Unfortunately, mimosa trees are very susceptible to insect and disease problems, specifically a vascular wilt disease. There are a few cultivars that are wilt-resistant, including ‘Flame’ and ‘Union.’ If yours were transplanted from a roadside or waste area they are likely not a resistant cultivar.|
|I want to make a solution of urea and water to use on new grass seed I just sowed. What is the ratio? Maurice, Cincinnati|
|Hello, Maurice in Ohio: Before seeding your lawn, it is always a good idea to have your soil tested to see if you need to add lime or fertilizer. Your county Extension Service is the place to have this done. Early spring (March) and fall (September) are the best times to seed your lawn in Ohio, when the day temperatures are warm and the night temperatures are still a bit cool. It has been so warm this spring that it has been a challenge to meet these conditions. Preparing the seedbed is important in terms of seed-to-soil contact. Removing all rocks and loosening the soil is essential. As for fertilizer, straight urea is not recommended for newly seeded grass. It is pure nitrogen and can burn the new grass. Nitrogen should not be used by itself in the spring for fertilizer. If you were not able to work lime/fertilizer into the soil before seeding, you can apply a well-balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 to your newly seeded bed to promote root growth. Follow application recommendations for the product you purchase. Sufficient moisture is essential for germination. If Mother Nature does not provide rainfall, you will need to make sure the area receives 1 inch of water weekly until the lawn is established. Early morning is the best time to water.|
|I want to use a weed killer in my big flower bed. What do you recommend, how much and when do I apply it, before I sow seeds? How long before I can sow my seeds? Betty, Bardstown|
|Hi, Betty: Since you want to sow seeds in your flower bed, using any type of pre-emergent is not an option. These products cannot differentiate between weed seeds and seeds that were intentionally planted. So, this leaves a couple other options for getting rid of existing weeds: you can either spot spray or hand pull. Roundup or any nonselective herbicide with the active ingredient glyphosate will kill the plants, but will also kill existing shrubs/perennials you have in the flower bed. Avoid using this on a windy day and use a piece of cardboard to help block any potential drift. If you want to go the more labor-intensive but earth-friendly route, you can hand pull and then apply corn gluten as a pre-emergent to prevent seeds from germinating. This of course means you cannot plant seeds, but if your goal is to eliminate the weeds in this bed you may have to skip a season of planting seeds to get the weeds under control. If you spot spray with a synthetic herbicide, you take the chance of damaging existing plants and you would still have to dig up the weeds, but you can plant flower seeds one day after you spray according the label on the bottle. If these are vegetable seeds some can be planted three days after, but others, like tomatoes, have a 30-day wait time. As with any chemical, it is important to follow recommended application rates. After you get these weeds under control, make sure to apply a layer of mulch. This will help prevent future weeds from popping up.|
|I wanted to plant some flowers. I want to know is there anything out there that you can buy that is already pre-arranged? Vickie, Rochester|
|Hello, Vickie in New York: The answer to your question really depends on what kind of plants you are looking for. If you are wishing for pre-arranged plantings of annuals I am certain you can find this at your local garden center. If they do not have any already made up you can ask them if they do custom plantings. This may not be feasible for the larger box stores but most of the smaller, locally owned garden centers offer this service. You will have to pay for the design fee but sometimes it is easier for someone else to design a custom container than it is to pick out the plants and pot them up. If you are referring to perennials, shrubs, grasses, and or trees this is not going to be an option. For these permanent plantings it is essential that they receive ample amount of space to mature. So when we plant them in the garden we need to space them out so the roots have room to spread as the plant matures. If you are looking for ideas on what to plant in the garden most garden centers offer landscape design as well. The benefit of having a professional design your garden is that you will get a plan that has the right plant material for the light and soil conditions that your space has to offer. |
|I was traveling through Kentucky and picked up a copy of your magazine. I was wondering if holly trees would survive in Palmyra, WI (southern part of the state). My soil is quite sandy. Sharon, Palmyra|
|Hello, Sharon: There are a great number of trees and shrubs belonging to the Ilex genus, commonly known as hollies. I am not sure which USDA hardiness zone you are gardening in, but it is either 4A or 5B. You can check with your County Cooperative Extension Service to be certain. One of the most cold-hardy of all hollies is the deciduous shrub form Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). They are hardy to zone 3 so you can definitely grow these. They are not evergreen but the females produce wonderful berries that provide winter color, at least until the birds find them! They require a male pollinator for best fruit set. The Inkberry holly (Ilex glabra), which is also more of a shrub, is cold-hardy to zone 4. The American holly (Ilex opaca) is cold-hardy to zone 5, although some have survived temperatures as low as -25 degrees F. There are many cultivars of the American holly, which is a larger, tree-form evergreen. The Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) is also hardy to zone 5. All hollies require full to part sun to thrive. This means they should ideally receive six hours of direct sun each day and no less than four. They are quite adaptable in terms of soil conditions, but they do prefer soil rich in organic matter. You can also call around to your local nurseries or garden centers to see what they recommend.|
|I was washing my clothes outside and I used bleach, ammonia, and laundry detergent, which unfortunately got into the soil in my garden where I grow herbs such as rosemary, tomatoes, ect. I washed the soil with water. But now I am afraid my plants will die from the bleach? Also, can I eat the tomatoes now that they have been exposed to bleach in their soil? Ann, Long angeles|
|Hello, Ann: I think your herbs and tomatoes will be just fine. Of course they would not appreciate this happening more than once. I am assuming that it was only a small amount that actually ended up in the soil, and if you watered soon after this happened the soil would have been diluted and likely not taken up by the roots of your plantings. You would be able to tell if your plants were having adverse effects. The foliage would physically look wilted, burned, or defoliated. If there is not any sign of stress by now, I think they are fine to use. On a side note that has nothing to do with gardening, I am concerned that you are combining bleach with ammonia. This combination is very toxic even in very low concentrations. It forms chlorine gas that is very harmful to your lungs and can lead to respiratory problems. Please be careful!|
|I was wondering if my laurel bush will kill my aborvitae by touching it? Pat, Eugene|
|Hello, Pat in Oregon: It is true that some plants are toxic to one another. These plants are referred to as allelopathic. They release chemicals that inhibit other plant species from thriving in the same environment. The most common allelopathic plant is the black walnut. It releases a specific chemical that directly affects plants in the nightshade family, including peppers, tomatoes, and eggplant. As for the laurel you are growing, there are a few different plants commonly referred to as laurels: bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia), and English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus). The bay laurel is a culinary herb and the other two are nonedible shrubs. The berries on a bay laurel are poisonous but the foliage is used for culinary purposes. The mountain laurel is poisonous if ingested, and English laurel is also poisonous if ingested. As far as I know none of these laurels are considered allelopathic. Is your arborvitae showing signs of stress? If so, you can take a sample to your Extension service for analysis, or I would be happy to give you possibilities if you can give me specifics in terms of the appearance of your evergreen.|
|I was wondering if someone could tell me what month exactly the weeping pussy willow tree and the lavender twist weeping redbud tree go dormant so Mother Nature can take over her job watering, and how to tell if the trees aren't diseased? Lee-Anne, Russellville|
|Hello, Lee-Anne in Kentucky: Dormancy begins as the day length begins to shorten. There are different stages of dormancy and environmental conditions that trigger each stage. Temperature and light are the most important contributing factors but water and nutrient levels are also factors. To give you an exact month is difficult since some years the temperatures are warm well into the fall and other years they are not. The two trees you mentioned are deciduous and should be dropping their foliage at this time. When this happens less moisture is required in both newly planted and established trees. If these trees were planted this season they will require 1-2 inches of water per week through the end of the month and longer if the temperatures stay above normal. Otherwise, Mother Nature should supply enough moisture throughout the rest of the fall and winter months. You will want to resume your regular watering schedule next spring as the temperatures rise. It is always best to mimic a slow steady rain when hand watering. A slow trickle of the hose for 30-40 minutes is ideal. Have you noticed insects or something unusual about your trees? If you are worried about disease you can always take a sample to your County Extension Office.|
|I would like to know how a mimosa is propagated. Valerie, Somerset|
|Hello, Valerie: Mimosa trees (Albizia julibrissin), also commonly known as silk trees, are medium growing deciduous trees. The fern-like foliage and fragrant flower of the mimosa give it a tropical feel. Unfortunately, these trees are associated with many disease and insect problems. Mimosa trees are not the best option for a home landscape but there are many other great resistant alternatives for a medium growing flowering tree. Dogwoods, serviceberries, fringe tree, and redbuds would all be excellent choices. As far a propagating a mimosa, they can be propagated by softwood cuttings as well as by seed. You can collect the seed pods after they have dried on the tree and then directly sow them in the fall. This is a fast-growing non-native tree that is not sold by any reputable garden center because of its invasive habit. Let me know if you would like other planting options.|
|I would like to know where I can purchase the Japanese dapple willow advertised in the Kentucky Living magazine July 2009? Marion, Elizabethtown|
|Hello, Marion: The Japanese dappled willow (Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’) has a whimsical growth habit and has foliage that will add interest and create a calm to the garden on a hot summer day. We are fortunate in Louisville to have a few great local garden centers. I have contacted Boone Gardiner in Crestwood and Wallitsch Nursery on Hikes Lane and they both currently have them in stock. Boone Gardiner has them in 7-gallon containers and Wallitsch has them in 3-gallon. They can be reached at (502) 243-3832 or (502) 454-3553 respectively. Plant your dappled willow in a space where it will receive part shade and adequate moisture. Prune each year to encourage new growth that will provide the most color variation.
|I would love to move some of my established Knock Out roses to a new location: can I move them now? Paula, Louisville|
|Hello, Paula: You will not kill your roses if you move them this time of the year. Ideally they should be moved in the spring before they put on any new growth, but moving them now is better than moving them during the summer or even in the fall; the sooner the better. That being said, it is always a good idea to take precautions to keep the plants from stressing out. Prepare the new planting area before digging up the existing roses and be ready to water them shortly after they are transplanted. Try to avoid moving them on a really windy or hot day. The less time they spend out of the ground the better. As you dig up your roses, it is really important to dig up as much soil as you can that surrounds the root system. Use a sharp spade and start digging farther away from the plant and work your way in, being careful not to damage any roots. Plant them in their new home just as deep as they were before, and make sure the roots have plenty of room to spread out. No need to fertilize when you transplant them since they need to become established in their new home with the nutrients that already exist. This makes for a healthier plant in the long run. Treat them like any new plantings in terms of water. If Mother Nature does not provide adequate moisture you will need to hand water, especially during the heat of the summer. Do not be surprised if they do not bloom as well this year. They need to use their energy to establish themselves in their new home.
|I'm in zone 6. Could you please recommend some foundation plants that look good yearround? Mel, Danville|
|Hi, Mel in Kentucky: Foundation plantings certainly help the aesthetics and value of any home. They are beneficial in terms of insulation and moisture absorption around the house. Choosing the right plant for the right space is key to a healthy long-lived landscape. I do not know the light conditions you are dealing with or your preferences in terms of mature size, but I can give you some sun and shade suggestions that will provide you with year-round interest. When we think of winter interest, we typically think of evergreens. Most are sun-loving and prefer nutrient-rich soil. Junipers, chamaecyparis, boxwoods, evergreen viburnums, cryptomeria, pines, spruce and hollies, both evergreen, and winterberry are all good options. Ornamental grasses also provide winter interest. Red and yellow twig dogwoods are grown for this purpose, and other plants such as witchazel actually bloom during the winter months. As for shade-loving options, mahonia, aucuba, evergreen azaleas, pieris japonica, and cherrylaurels are a few options. If you give me more details as to light conditions and plant size I can be more specific. You might also think about using some evergreen perennials to under-plant the landscape. A well-planned garden has interest during all four seasons. Keep this in mind when choosing plant material. If this is a new construction home you will need to amend the soil before planting. It never hurts to have your soil tested for nutrient and pH levels before planting in a new bed. This can be done through your county cooperative Extension office.|
|I'm reading about the pyramidal hollies grown in Kentucky. Where can I find these hybrids to purchase for my yard, such as the Cardinal and Little Red? Neva, Radcliff|
|Hello, Neva in Kentucky: Kentucky is lucky to have extensive plantings of American hollies (Ilex opaca). If you want to view them for yourself, you should visit Yew Dell Gardens in Crestwood, KY, Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, or Bernheim Arboretum in Clermont. They all have impressive plantings of these evergreens. The ‘Cardinal’ cultivar is a compact, slow-growing, pyramidal-shaped evergreen known for bearing fruit at a young age. The Little Red hybrid is a Monrovia patent plant and is not an American holly. It is a hybrid with the original parents being Ilex cornuta ‘Burfordii’ and Ilex pernyi ‘Red Delight.’ This selection was then crossed with Ilex latifolia. Maybe that's too much information, but the bottom line is that it has more of a rounded growth habit than a pyramidal one. As for purchasing a pyramidal shaped holly, you should start by visiting your local garden centers/nurseries to see what they carry. You can always ask if they would be willing to special order a specific one for you. You might have better luck with the smaller, locally owned businesses in terms of special orders since they do not typically have to order in such large quantities. If you cannot find them in Radcliff and want to make a trip to Louisville, The Plant Kingdom on Westport Road usually has a few of the American hollies in stock. Wallitsch Garden Center would also be a good source for these evergreens.|
|I've started working on my garden as the weather is starting to get warm enough to work outside. I've been trying to do research on flowers that are safe for animals. It seems like every flower I want to plant is toxic to dogs, such as dahlias and daffodils. Can you suggest some flowers that are dog friendly? Also, I love gerbera daisies, but I've heard those are also toxic to dogs--is this true? S., Emporia|
|Hello, It is that time of year when we start thinking about what we want to plant in the garden this upcoming spring. Having a dog, especially one that likes to eat plants, is a concern when it comes to choosing new plant material. There are many plants or particular parts of a specific plant that are toxic to dogs. In most cases a dog would have to consume large amounts of the harmful material. But some plants such as lilies are highly toxic and even small amounts can be very harmful to our four-legged friends. Thankfully dogs have very good senses and if the plant does not smell good to them they may leave it alone. As most dog owners will attest, they like to eat things we would not expect them to! For a list of safe plants you can visit the ASPCA Web site for a list of nontoxic plants available from the National Animal Poison Control Center. You may also want to contact your veterinarian. Don’t be too discouraged--there are many plants we can introduce into the garden that are not toxic to dogs. As far as I know gerbera daisies are not harmful; in fact I recently read they help remove toxins from the air. According to the APCC gerbera daisies (Gerbera jamesonii) are not toxic to dogs. Dahlias and daffodils are poisionous but with the daffodils the bulbs are the main concern. Training will go a long way to keeping our dogs out of the planting beds and away from potential danger. The plants will be happier too!
|If I wanted to plant ferns in my garden that woud come back year after year in middle Tennessee, what would be my best choice of fern?
|Hello, Pat in Tennessee: Ferns are a great option for the shaded spaces in the garden. They prefer consistently moist but well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. There are many hardy fern species for Tennessee gardeners to choose from. Northern maidenhair fern, lady fern, ostrich fern, hay-scented fern, royal fern, Christmas fern, and Japanese painted fern are all good options for you. For the most part these ferns are slower growers that reach 1-3 feet tall, but there are always exceptions like the ostrich fern that can reach 6 feet tall. It is sometimes nice to mix ferns for different colors and textures but a mass planting of one kind of fern is lovely as well. The garden centers and nurseries are beginning to fill up with perennials this time of year so you should visit your local stores to see what they carry. For more shade-loving perennial option for Tennessee gardeners you can visit https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/documents/pb1585.pdf
|If Roundup is sprayed around lavender could that stop it from blooming?
It was so beautiful and it looks like it is dying. I personally despise RoundUp but my husband frequently sprays it when I'm not watching. Vicki, Delta|
|Hello, Vicki: Not only will RoundUp stop your lavender from flowering it can actually kill your plant. RoundUp is a nonselective herbicide and will damage or potentially kill any plant it comes into contact with. I am sure your husband has good intentions and is killing the weeds in your garden, but even spot spraying with this product on a windy day can be dangerous. The active ingredient in RoundUp is glyphosate. When it comes into contact with the foliage of any plant material it is absorbed and eventually works through the plants tissues, which in turn stops the metabolic process essential for plant growth. It can take up to a week for damage to be seen. Typically the plant begins to wilt, turn yellow/brown, and eventually dies. The glyphosate is absorbed all the way through the root system of the plant, giving it no chance of survival. This product does not work its way through the soil, it has to come into contact with the foliage, which is why it is so important to be very careful when spraying around plant material that is not intended to be sprayed. Using a shield like a piece of cardboard when spraying will help protect your garden while getting rid of the weeds.
|In the spring my wisteria has lots of new green growth but then it dies back and gets very thin. I keep it watered but it still looks sick. I have one out in the front yard and never do anything to it and it is gorgeous. Can it be because it is planted close to the house? Cindy, Corsicana|
|Hello, Cindy in Texas: Wisteria require full sun, so if the vine closer to the house is not getting a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day this could be the problem. Otherwise, they prefer a slightly acidic soil pH of 6.0-7.0 and a moist but well-drained soil. Is the vine by the house receiving more moisture than the other? If so, you should cut back on your watering. Established vines should not need to be watered unless Mother Nature does not provide moisture for an extended period of time. Over-watering can cause rot issues and plant defoliation. There are not many insect or disease problems that affect these vines, but if the foliage does not look healthy you should take a sample to your County Extension Office for the horticulture agent to make a diagnosis. Wisteria are really tough plants and opposite of what we typically think of in terms of keeping these vines happy. If the problem was lack of blooms, they tend to bloom when they are stressed, so severe pruning can encourage to them to bloom. Too much fertilizer is a bad thing for these vines, especially fertilizer high in nitrogen, because it encourages leafy growth instead of blooms. If you are fertilizing, you may need to cut back and let the vine use up what already exists in the soil. If you are giving the wisteria by the house a lot more attention than the other, you have answered your own question: they like to be ignored!|
|Iowa has cold winters. We are keeping our daugher's husky for a few months. He like to urinate on a clematis I have that is beautiful in the spring and summer. Will urine damage the plant in the dormant season? Kathy, Centerville|
|Hello, Kathy: You are very kind to watch your daughter's husky! Yes, dog urine can damage plants when they are constantly exposed to it. It is more of a concern during the warmer months while the plants are actively growing and taking up moisture. This time of year when the ground has the potential to freeze it is less of an issue. I would assume that the ground stays frozen for a good amount of your Iowa winters. If this is the case your clematis is not in immediate danger. When the warmer temperatures arrive and the ground thaws you may want to add additional water to the base of your clematis to dilute the concentrated urine. You will want to avoid fertilizing as well. Plants are tough and a bit of urine is not going to kill them, but if this seems to be the only place the dog wants to use the bathroom it would be a good idea to encourage him/her to choose other options.|
|Is arugula a good companion plant for lilies? Are there any others? David, Louisville|
|Hi, David in Kentucky: Planting edibles in the ornamental garden is a great way to maximize your harvest and add diversity to your beds. Arugula is a spicy, cool-season green that is best planted in the early spring and again in the fall. It can certainly be planted with your lilies, but keep in mind that lilies are bulbs and when you go to plant your arugula it may be better purchase seed rather than starts since you will not have to dig as far into the soil, potentially damaging bulbs. Of course, this depends on the space you are dealing with and if the lilies have offsets. Also, keep in mind that it will be much easier to harvest your greens if you plant them in front of your lilies. This also makes sense in terms of aesthetics and light availability. Lilies are happy growing in full to part sun but edibles are happy growing in full sun, so depending on the light conditions you could plant other edible greens or even herbs such as thyme, parsley, sage, dill, cilantro, or even basil. There is nothing better than a freshly picked salad from right outside your door. This time of year it is nice to daydream about the potentials of next year’s garden. Let me know if you would like suggestions for nonedible companion plants.|
|Is it okay to put landscaping mulch around my tomato plants? Also, is it okay to leave a container with the bottom cut out around the plant? The plants are growing nicely and blooming, but the older leaves have a small tiny spot (about pinhead size). Elizabeth, CASEY|
|Hello, Elizabeth: It is fine to mulch your tomato plants; it's not absolutely necessary but it will help keep the moisture in and the weeds down. It actually can help prevent splash-up of fungus spores and other potential disease problems, but too much mulch can create an environment for insects and disease to thrive. The mulch layer should be no more than 2 inches thick and evenly spread around the base of the plant; it should not be piled up like a cone around the plant. As for your container with no bottom, it is absolutely fine, just think of it as having excellent drainage! You can bury the container a bit if it is noticeable that it has no bottom or plant something around the base of it. I have some beautiful containers in the garden with minor flaws that only I know about. The older growth on your plants that have spots can be removed. The functionality of any container has no effect on the plants themselves.|
|Is it possible that I can get drift from 2,4D, MSMA spraying done 300-500 feet away? Each July someone sprays nearby but abates spraying 300-500 feet from my house. My centipede lawn dies back overnight, my newly planted apple trees die, and this year I lost my entire watermelon patch. Additionally, the ends of my blueberry bushes turn brown and die back. Does this sound like herbicide might be the culprit?
Gary McDaniel, Wetumpka|
|Hello, Gary: There is always a possibility of damaging plant material when we spray chemicals in our garden. 300-500 feet away seems like a long distance for any home spraying application to drift, but without knowing droplet size and the equipment or the strength of the sprayer they are using, I cannot say for sure. If they are using a commercial sprayer at a higher/faster rate of application than recommended and the wind direction happens to be blowing your way, then yes, it could be possible that it has damaged your plant material. Spray drift of MSMA (sodium methanearsonate) would be the main concern. It will certainly kill your centipede grass, and the tip burn you described on your blueberries can be a result of chemical sprays. You would not want to eat the apples or blueberries that came into contact with this herbicide. You can always take samples to your county Cooperative Extension Service for them to analyze. This way you know exactly what you are dealing with and if this is the case you may be able to speak with your neighbor about adjusting his/her spraying routine.
|Is it possible to remove the fruit stains of a fruitless pear tree off my colored driveway? Daniel, Rocklin|
|Hello, Daniel in California: I assume you have a colored concrete driveway? I have to be honest and tell you that I have no expert knowledge on this subject, but here is information that I read; there seems to be a lot of remedies out there and the consistent ingredient in all the “recipes” that I read is finding a solvent that will actually remove the stain. Wisk laundry concentrate seems to be a favorite. Using a scrub brush, detergent, and water, repeat this process until the stain is lifted. I also read that lemon juice, baking soda, or hydrogen peroxide will remove stains on concrete as well. Other than using a power washer, you may just have to wait for time to dissolve the fruit stain. Sorry I cannot be more helpful.|
|Is it the right time to prune rose plants in Louisville, Kentucky? Basith, Louisville|
|Hello, Basith in Kentucky: Yes! Spring is right around the corner and now is a great time to cut your roses back. The best time to prune your rose is late winter/early spring before new growth begins. Pruning while they are dormant will make them less susceptible to winter injury. Pruning encourages new growth and new growth is tender enough to be burned by winter temperatures. Pruning after a growing season has ended and dormancy occurs ensures that all the new growth that happened the previous season is hardened off. We prune roses to maintain size and on older plants it helps to invigorate them, but we also should prune to remove dead/diseased or crossing canes; this can be done any time of year. As a general rule, it is best not to remove more than one-third of the size of the rose during a pruning session. Do this year after year to maintain the size you want. Use a clean, sharp, and rust-free pair of pruners. Make your cuts flush to the nearest intersecting branch so there are no stubs.|
|Is it too late to prune my rose bushes now? They are leggy and not bushy. This is the second summer for them. Marsha, Mauckport|
|Hello, Marsha in Indiana: The best time to prune roses is late winter/early spring before new growth begins. Pruning while they are dormant will make them less susceptible to winter injury and other potential problems. Since your rose has already broken dormancy, pruning now is not the best option, especially if you are pruning to control the size. If your reason for pruning is to remove dead/diseased or crossing canes, go ahead and get your pruners out. Otherwise, if you can wait until next winter it would be in the best interest of your roses. As a general rule, it is best not to remove more than one-third of the size of the rose. Do this year after year to maintain the size you want. Use a clean, sharp, and rust-free pair of pruners. Make your cuts flush to the nearest intersecting branch so there are no stubs. If your roses are completely out of control, it is certainly not going to kill them if you prune them a bit now. There is no risk of winter injury at this point, so if you absolutely have to prune go ahead but in the future it is better to do so while they are dormant.
|Is now a good time to prune Knockout roses? How much height should I leave after pruning? Melissa, Sonora|
|Hello, Melissa: Yes, you are correct. The best time to prune your roses is now, late winter/early spring, before new growth begins. Pruning while they are dormant makes them less susceptible to winter injury and other potential problems. As a general rule, it is best not to remove more than one-third of the size of the rose each year. If your roses are older and you need to remove more than this, you can do so during consecutive years. Prune year after year to maintain the size you want. It is fine to prune any broken, diseased, or dead branches off as soon as you notice them, not taking into account the time of year. Pruning can be done to thin, shape, and rejuvenate our flowering shrubs. Thinning is beneficial in terms of removing older wood and allowing for better air circulation as well as light filtration. Remember to put on a thick pair of gloves and use a clean, sharp, and rust-free pair of pruners. Make your cuts flush to the nearest intersecting cane so there are no stubs. Knockout roses are considered low-maintenance and disease-resistant; when they are planted in favorable conditions these shrubs can grow to be 3 to 5 feet tall and wide. They will provide you with many years of prolific blooms.|
|Is Preen safe to use for weed control near 1-year-old hydrangeas? What else would you recommend to control weeds in this planting area? Clare, Westmont|
|Hi, Clare in Illinois: Weeds can be a serious nuisance for all gardeners. Keeping them under control is a task and anything that helps is well worth investing in. Preen is considered a pre-emergent herbicide that is used to prevent unwanted seedlings from sprouting. It is nonselective so it will also prevent any seeds that you intentionally planted from growing. It is perfectly safe to use around your hydrangeas or any other established plantings. The product has a three-month lifespan so it will prevent any seeds from germinating for a maximum of three months. It is not like spraying Round-up or any other nonselective herbicide with the active ingredient glyphosate. This will kill basically anything it comes into contact with. If you are using Preen around any edibles you might consider using their organic products. Corn gluten is another pre-emergent, organic option for weed control. As with any product be sure to read and follow all application recommendations.|
|Is southern Kentucky an appropriate climate for a crape myrtle tree? When we visit more southern states, I love the look of these trees. We have a spot in our back yard near our house that I would like to place one. I was thinking about a Pink Velour. Tim, Monticello|
|Hello, Tim: When we think of crape myrtle, we automatically think of a southern planting. These woody plants are hardy in USDA gardening zones 6-9. We can successfully grow them here in the Louisville area, so yes you can plant them in southern Kentucky. It is possible that if we have an unusually cold winter they could die back to the ground, but will come back from the roots the following spring. We have a beautiful white bloomer (‘Acoma’) that is close to 10 years old and has never had any problems. There are a few factors to take into consideration before planting. We want to give these plants enough time to become established before the winter arrives, so it is best to plant them in early spring or early fall in our zone. Choose your planting site where the crape myrtle will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Otherwise, it will not bloom well and will be more susceptible to insects or disease problems. There are many cultivars to choose from, including different blooming colors, growth habits, and mature sizes, which range from 3-25 feet. They can be grown as either single-trunked or multi-stemmed that produce colorful exfoliating bark as they mature. Lagerstroemia indica ‘Pink Velour’ will reach 10-15 feet tall and 8-10 feet wide. This cultivar is known for being cold-hardy and resistant to powdery mildew.|
|Is there a fern that can stand intense heat? Gwendolyn, Clinton|
|Hello, Gwendolyn: There are a lot of ferns native to tropical regions that thrive in our hot summers. I assume this is what you mean by “intense heat.” If you are looking for a shade-loving fern for a container or annual bed, a few choices include Boston, macho, Australian tree, footed, maiden, staghorn, and birdsnest ferns. If you need a sun-loving tropical fern, Kimberly Queen would be a great option. If you are looking for something more permanent, there are a lot of perennial ferns that can handle the heat as well. This list is much longer in comparison to the tropical ferns, but a few suggestions would be Japanese Painted, Christmas, Ghost, Autumn, Cinnamon, Ostrich, and Royal ferns. All of these perennial ferns are shade-lovers. As with any annual or new addition to the perennial garden, consistent moisture levels will be extremely important in the success of your fern. Some require more than others; the Australian tree fern is one that will absolutely require watering on a daily basis. You can always check with the horticulture agent at your County Cooperative Extension Service for a list of perennial ferns in your gardening zone.|
|Is there a way to get rid of dandelions without killing the other flowers in the flower bed? They've taken over my whole yard and all the flower beds. Scotty, Richmond|
|Hi, Scotty: Dandelions are a true sign that spring has arrived. These weeds can become prolific in no time and be a challenge to get under control. Dandelions have deep tap roots so hand pulling is not a good option. This method only removes the foliage but will not pull up the root, so the weed will grow again in no time. Using a tool known as a dandelion weeder is much more effective in removing the tap root as well as the foliage. This is time-consuming but safe and nontoxic. Applying a pre-emergent herbicide in the late winter/early spring will help prevent the seeds from germinating. Corn gluten is a good organic pre-emergent herbicide. At this time of the season, a post-emergent herbicide is necessary. Spraying is another option: choose a broad leaf herbicide with the active ingredient 2,4-D such as Weed-B-Gone. This will not damage your grass or the plants in your garden. Spraying with a nonselective herbicide such as Round-Up will be harmful to both your grass and anything else it comes into contact with. Not allowing the dandelions to flower will keep the numbers down in the future. Removing the blooms before they have time to produce seed is essential since this is the only way they can spread. Dandelion greens are actually edible and a great source of vitamin A and C! Patience is necessary and you will not have a dandelion-free lawn or garden in one season, but keep after them and you will see the numbers drastically reduce from year to year.
|Is there anything special I need to know about trimming/shaping my quince bushes? Can I root cutoffs and when should I do this?
|Hello, Jim: Flowering quince (Chaenomeles) are spring-flowering shrubs, and as so they are best pruned after they have finished blooming in the late spring or early summer. This is true for most spring-flowering shrubs. The general rule is that you do not want to remove more than one-third of the size of the plant. Always use clean, sharp pruners and remove dead or diseased branches as well as any crossing branches. The goal is to create improved air movement and light filtration. Removing a few of the older branches will promote young, strong branches that are full of blooms and this makes everyone happy. As for propagation, the most successful method for propagating flowering quince is taking a softwood cutting during the months of June and July. This means you can take a 3-4 inch cutting off the new growth and remove all foliage, from the bottom up, except for the top leaves. Then dip the cut end into a rooting hormone, pot it up in a well-drained soil mixture, and water well. Keep the soil evenly moist so it is neither sopping wet nor bone-dry. The following link is a publication on proper pruning techniques for shrubs:
. Another publication that has step-by-step instructions on how to take and care for a softwood cutting: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho67/ho67.pdf
. Both of these publications are available through your County Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with the University of Kentucky and other land grant universities; always a reliable source.
|It's March 2, is it too early to put my roses in the ground? When is a good time? Angie, Keavy|
|Hi, Angie: There are certain times of the year that are more opportunistic to plant than others. That being said, we also have to take into consideration what we are planting. Roses are considered a woody shrub and can be planted from early spring to early fall. Late winter can be hit-or-miss here in Kentucky in terms of killing frosts. If you must plant them now, go ahead and just be sure to add a layer of mulch to help insulate the roots. Otherwise wait a couple weeks to get them in the ground. As long as the ground is not frozen and can be worked, you are fine to plant your roses. The garden centers will be in full supply here in the next few weeks. Planting in the early spring allows plenty of time for the roses to establish their roots in time for next winter. Remember to choose a space in the garden that receives six or more hours of direct sunlight each day.
|Last year I moved back to the family home and now I'm thinking about tackling some gardening. I thought I'd start with the flower beds. The soil is sandy and the lawn is pretty much weedy. Not sure what kinds but we definitely have an abundance of sand burrs (not sure if that is the correct name but that is what we've always called them) and an assortment of others.The lawn will have to wait till fall. The beds are full of wiry weeds with a few lirope and a couple shrubs as well. I know I'm going to need to do a lot of weeding. I'd like to know if you could suggest any special and thorough methods. I also need to know if there is something I can use in the bed to thwart the weeds from returning since the weedy, sandy lawn butts right up to the decorative edging of the beds. The house and beds are south-facing with no trees in the front yard. I'd like to plant a mixture of sun-loving flowers for an "English cottage" look. I'd be happy to keep the shrubs and lirope in place. I guess I need to know what to feed the soil as well. Nancy, Salisbury|
|Hi, Nancy: Thank you for your question. It sounds like you are taking on a couple of exciting projects. You are a smart woman for only doing one at a time! So, let’s start with the flower beds. As far as weeding the existing beds, the old-fashioned hand-digging/pulling method is the most effective. This will ensure you get the root system as well as the new growth. There are other options, such as covering the beds with a couple layers of newspaper, holding them in place with rocks or bricks, and in a few months the weeds should be dead. This method is neither the most aesthetically pleasing nor the fastest, but it does not involve chemicals. Since you would like to keep the liriope and the existing shrubs, it would be tricky to work around them. I would not recommend spraying the beds with a weed killer since even spot spraying could potentially damage the plants you would like to keep. When warm weather arrives and the weeds emerge, start pulling them as soon as possible. It will be easier on you to get them out while they are small; it is always easier to pull weeds after a good rainfall or a good soaking from the hose. It is important to get rid of them before they flower and set seed. As for feeding the soil, you may consider having your soil tested first. This can be done through your County Cooperative Extension Service. The results will tell you the soil pH as well as some nutrient levels. Amending the soil with compost is beneficial, or applying a complete fertilizer with a 10-10-10 ratio will also work. As for the lawn, we can tackle this in the fall but for now you might want to weed the lawn around the beds just to be on the safe side. You can also apply corn gluten, which is a natural pre-emergent weed control. It is not effective against existing weeds but will prevent new ones from growing. If the lawn is truly full of weeds, you should consider doing a total kill and starting over with no weed competition. Keep this in the back of your mind for later in the year. Once you get your beds weeded and your soil tested, it will be time to plant your "English cottage" garden! Let me know if you want planting suggestions.|
|Last year I planted some of the new lilac bushes that bloom all summer. They had small blooms toward the end of the summer. Do I need to trim the old blooms to keep the plants blooming this year? Or do I just leave them alone? Evelyn, Liberty|
|Hi, Evelyn: Lilacs are wonderfully fragrant, sun-loving shrubs. They are considered low-maintenance in terms of care. They require little pruning although they will benefit from having a few of their older branches pruned out every two to three years. This helps increase air circulation and light filtration. As far as removing the old blooms, this is not necessary and will not prevent the shrub from blooming this year. That being said, if you wanted to remove the remnants of last season’s flowers for aesthetic reasons it is perfectly fine and will not hurt the plant. Some of the newer varieties are prolific bloomers, but pruning the blooms of the shrub as they fade will encourage new ones to form. So, to answer your question, it is up to you whether or not you want to remove the old flowers. For future reference you can cut back the flowers as they fade in the spring/summer. Since your lilacs have been in the ground for a year now, they will benefit from a well-balanced fertilizer or compost to add some nutrients back to the soil. Enjoy your blooms!|
|Mums don't start blooming until fall so how can anyone cut from new growth in early spring and summer when they are dormat? Katrina, Louisville|
|Hello, Katrina in Kentucky: Chrysanthemums, like other plant material, go through a period of dormancy when they slow down or stop growth due to changes in weather. When the temperatures cool down in the fall, plants slow down their growth as well. They remain this way until the warmer temperatures return in the spring and plants slowly break dormancy. They eventually use the energy stored up from last season to put on new growth (if hardy). So, even though chrysanthemums bloom later in the season this does not mean they do not have any foliage during the spring and summer months. The most common chrysanthemums, or mums, are all hybrids, and depending on the cultivar they may or may not be hardy. The mums that are found in the garden centers this time of year are probably not a hardy variety. They can potentially come back for a few years but are not a long-lived, reliable perennial. Some gardeners pinch or cut back mums during the spring and early summer before bud formation to encourage a bushier plant with more blooms.|
|My arborist just planted a river birch that looks pretty dead to me. The leaves are shriveled and the rootball is pretty compacted and dry from about 2 inches down from the top. He said just to water it and it'll come along fine. How can you tell for sure that a tree is dead? Netha, Rio Linda|
|Hello, Netha in California: Hopefully this arborist of yours is a certified one. There are a lot of self-proclaimed arborists out there but certified arborists are the real deal and take their profession seriously. They have to continuously take classes to stay up to date on their certification. As far as knowing if your river birch (Betula Nigra) is still alive is to scratch the bark to get to the cambium layer, which will be green if the tree is still alive. If you purchased this tree at a nursery you may want to check and see what their guarantee policy is or if your arborist has a guarantee or offers a replacement in case of loss. River birches are quite adaptable trees but are happiest growing in full sun to part shade. They are pretty disease-resistant and tolerate a range of soil conditions. At this time of year your tree is going to be losing its foliage and going dormant so you will not need to water as much as you would in the heat of the summer, but newly planted trees will still require a good soaking after they are installed. A thin layer of mulch will help retain moisture and heat, protecting the roots. At this point, if the cambium is still green, it will be a waiting game to see how it does this winter and hopefully it puts on new growth next spring. Do not fertilize this time of the year since this encourages growth that would be susceptible to winter injury. Hopefully the tree is healthy, planted properly, and you can enjoy it for years to come.|
|My azalea bushes are healthy but fall over as they grow. How do I prop them up correctly so they will grow upright? Joyce, Mcgregor|
|Hello, Joyce in Texas: How old is your azalea? All azaleas belong to the Rhododendron genus; some are larger plants than others but azaleas do not typically “fall over” unless they are older plants that have become leggy and may benefit from pruning. If it is planted in too much shade, it may be reaching for more light; if your plant is just a few years old or younger and does not get at least three hours of sun, it may be happier if transplanted somewhere in the garden where it will get morning sun. Staking or tying up your shrub may not the best solution. It would require many stakes and this would jeopardize the aesthetics of the shrub. If you have not pruned your azalea in the past few years, I would recommend this before trying to stake it or tie it up. The best time to do this would be after it flowers in the spring. Pruning now can be done to remove crossing, rubbing, or dead branches. When you cut your azalea back make sure your pruners are clean and sharp. The general rule is to remove no more than one-third of the size of the plant. It is always a good idea to step back and look at the plant before making any cuts. Do this several times while you prune so that you get a nice even result. Pruning will encourage your plant to become more vigorous and full. It will create stronger, more dense wood as opposed to spindly thin wood that ends up falling over with the weight of the blooms.|
|My azalea is blooming again. I've not known this to happen in the fall. Will my plant be okay and bloom again in the spring? Juni, Shelbyville|
|Hello, Juni: Yes, your azalea will be fine and it will bloom next spring but not as prolific as it would have. Spring-blooming azaleas have already formed their flower buds for next spring, which means the blooms you are enjoying now were meant to open in the spring. Unfortunately, they will not produce more buds to compensate for those that have already flowered. It is not unheard of for them to bloom prematurely depending on the weather conditions. Every plant is different in terms of chilling requirements, and with azaleas it differs within species but essentially it is the amount of time a plant needs to go through a cold period before the buds break dormancy and open. Mother Nature can trick flowering plants into thinking, ”it is time for me to bloom” when in reality it is not the normal bloom time. There is nothing we can do to prevent this but fortunately it does not hurt the plant or compromise the health of the plant in any way, it just means you may not have as many blooms in the spring as you would have otherwise. It will do no long-term damage to your azalea.|
|My buddleia bushes have two kinds of leaves: is this normal? Yvonne, Dora|
|Hi Yvonne: Buddleia, commonly known as butterfly bush, is a lovely deciduous shrub that produces fragrant, panicle flowers throughout the warmer months. Flower colors range from the traditional lilac to orange, white, yellow, and pink. The foliage on these large, arching shrubs emerges in the late spring and is a bluish-green in color. The foliage is opposite as opposed to alternate, meaning that each leaf has another directly across from it, on the other side of the stem. Buddleia have simple leaves that are long and slender. The newer growth is obviously going to be smaller but it should not have any other differing characteristics. Depending on the age of the growth and the cultivar you are growing, the foliage can grow 4-10” long and 1-3” wide. The underside of the foliage is white and a bit fuzzy. Some plants do have foliage that looks very different at different stages of growth but this is not one of them. You might want to take a closer look at the base of the plant to see if it's possible that another plant, maybe a weed, is growing up through your buddleia. Dora/Alabama|
|My father-in-law found 2,4-D at Tractor Supply and started spot spraying it on his lawn this year. He fell in love with it and recommended I buy some. I am thinking of buying a pull-behind sprayer next year and spraying this product on my two acres. My question is, how safe is this herbicide around trees and shrubs? I have oak, maple, evergreen trees, holly, lavender, and other shrubs. This product sounds very successful; however, I don't want to kill my mature trees. I would like to know your thoughts of this product (using in raw form, not Roundup, Ortho, etc). I have two acres with lots of clover and other crummy weeds and grasses. James, Mt Washington|
|Hello, James in Kentucky: 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) is a post-emergent herbicide used to kill broadleaf weeds. It is effective on annual, biennial, and perennial broadleaf weeds but will not be effective on the grasses you mentioned, which is why it is so commonly used for weeds found in lawns. It does not have the same active ingredient as Roundup (glyphosate), which is a non-selective herbicide that will kill basically anything it comes into contact with. 2,4-D can still potentially damage your trees if the herbicide reaches any shallow roots and is absorbed through the root system. Spot spraying as your father-in-law does is the best method for a controlled treatment. Using it as you have described may put your trees at risk. This herbicide is available in both amine and ester formulations. If you do choose to spray be sure to purchase a product that is labeled amine as it is has lower vapor pressures, but the downside is that this formulation is typically less effective in terms of weed control.|
|My favorite flower is hibiscus and I was wondering if I could grow them in Kentucky: would they survive? Amanda, Elizabethtown|
|Hi, Amanda in Kentucky: Hibiscus flowers are certainly a favorite among many gardeners. Here in Kentucky we can grow the tropical varieties outdoors during the warmer months but we have to over-winter them indoors since they will not tolerate our winter temperatures. These hibiscus are found in abundance at garden centers during the early summer months. They are usually shrub form but are also available as standards (tree form) and sometimes braided. We can also grow hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos), which are large shrubs reaching 4-6 feet every season. They produce dinner plate-size blooms, much larger than the tropical varieties. Hardy hibiscus can add a tropical feel to any sun-loving perennial garden here in Kentucky. They are deciduous shrubs that require pruning every year and as long as you have a space that will receive full sun (a minimum of six hours daily) during the growing season you should add one or more to your garden. They can be a bit harder to find than the tropical hibiscus but they are certainly available. You can ask at your local garden centers to see if they carry them or if they can order one for you. The most common colors available are white, pink, and red.|
|My flowers aren't doing well, my neighbors say that this soil isn't good. What is the best fertilizer to use? I also have day lilies. Doreen, Hammonton|
|Hello, Doreen: Choosing the right plants for the right space is the key to having a successful garden. Making sure that we plant sun-loving plants where they will receive enough sunlight and shade-loving plants where they will not receive direct sunlight is important. Purchasing healthy plants from a reputable source is always a good idea. Of course the soil is an important factor as well. Have you ever had your soil tested? If not, you can contact your County Cooperative Extension Service. For a small fee you can have your soil analyzed and the results will give you recommendations in terms of amendments that you could add to improve the condition of your soil and make available nutrients accessible to your plants. It is difficult to give fertilizer recommendations not knowing what you are growing, but in general a well-balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 will be sufficient. Always follow application recommendations when you apply fertilizer because too much fertilizer can burn your plants and be worse than no fertilizer at all. If these are newly planted additions to the garden, you do not need to feed them for the first year. It is better to let them become established in the environment that exists naturally. If you are growing annuals go ahead and fertilize them. The Atlantic County Extension office is located at 6260 Old Harding Highway in Mays Landing. The phone number is (609) 625-0056.|
|My forsythia bush has not bloomed for the last two years. The bush itself is several years old. Last fall I trimmed the bush in the hope that it would bloom this spring. To my disappointment it's not blooming, just has green leaves. Do you have a solution? Sharon, Lawrenceburg|
|Hi, Sharon: We generally think of forsythia as one of the first signs that spring has arrived, but when they do not bloom it can be very disappointing. There are few different reasons why your forsythia may not be blooming. It is possible it is receiving more shade than it has in the past? These shrubs require full sun for best blooms, meaning they should get six hours of direct sunlight each day. Another possibility is that when you pruned your shrub you removed the canes that would have been producing this year's blooms. Forsythia blooms on one-year-old canes, so when we prune we want to remove the older canes but leave less woody growth. It is best to prune forsythia after it has finished blooming in the spring. The general rule is to remove one-third of the older canes down to the base of the plant. This will get rid of old woody canes that are not producing flowers and encourage new growth that will bloom the following year. One more thought: two springs ago we had a hard freeze and many tender buds were damaged before they could open. This could be the reason for the first year of no blooms and then pruning last fall could be reason for no blooms this spring. This is all speculation because I do not know your exact conditions, but I would guess from what you have mentioned that the lack of blooms is due to a combination of a couple of different circumstances.|
|My husband ran over my Contorted Filbert with the mower. There is about a 5" stub still there: will it sprout out? He did put the piece he cut in a bucket of water, it's ~12" tall, can I root it? Joyce, Murfreesboro|
|Hi Joyce: Oh no! Contorted Filberts, also known as Harry Lauders Walking Stick, are interesting specimen plantings. If the remainder of your plant that is in the ground puts on new growth it will likely produce suckers from the roots. This could be good or bad depending on whether your Filbert was grown on its own root stock or if it was grafted onto another species that does not produce the twisted branches. Most specimens are grafted and need more maintenance because these straight suckers have to be pruned back. If it is going to do this you should see evidence fairly soon. As for the top part of the Filbert, it will not produce roots as is, but you can try to root a cutting with a 50 percent or less chance that it will root. Some optimistic news is that this is the time of year to take cuttings. Each cutting should be 4-6 inches long and potted up in peat /perlite mix. The cut end should be dipped into a rooting hormone to encourage roots before planting. Make sure your containers are just a few inches in diameter and allow for good drainage. Keep the soil evenly moist but never sopping wet. It can take several weeks for roots to develop, and as the roots fill up the container they can be bumped up into a large one or directly into the garden. Keep the cuttings out of direct sunlight and avoid fertilizing until it is time to transplant them. For a higher success rate you can take several cuttings. I am sure your husband feels terrible and I wish you luck with your propagation efforts. Murfreesboro, TN|
|My husband wondered if he could plant a cherry tree in the same spot that he is going to cut down a 6-inch diameter maple tree that died down? Kathy, Eldon|
|Hello, Kathy in Iowa: It is always unfortunate to lose a tree in the landscape. As gardeners our initial thought is to of course replace it right away. There needs to be some consideration taken as to how you will remove the dead tree and where you will plant a replacement. If you want to plant in the exact spot where the maple was then you will need to hire an arborist, preferably a certified one to completely grind out the stump, remove the chips, and refill with new soil. Be sure to let the arborist know what your plans are in terms of replanting so they can be certain to remove all the chips. If all these steps are not taken it is not going to be a healthy environment for any new tree to thrive. If you are not going to have the stump ground out and want to plant in the same area that is fine, but you want to make sure you are far enough away from where the maple was growing that the roots of the cherry have sufficient space to grow. You can contact your county Extension service for recommendations for certified arborists in your area.|
|My Knock Out rose bushes have been beaten down by recent wind and rain storms and are on the ground. Will they stand up again, or should I cut them back? I would lose hundreds of blooms. Virginia, Elizabethton|
|Hi Virginia: Like most plants, Knock Out roses are pretty tough and can take a bit of Mother Nature's wrath, but if any of the stems were broken during the storms then they will not perk back up and will need to be pruned back. Otherwise, the shrub should eventually find its normal form. This may take a week or so depending on the weather, and if any of the stems are thin and leggy they may need to be staked or removed. These shrub roses are typically pruned during the late winter/early spring months but if you need to prune now to eliminate spindly growth and broken or crossing canes go ahead and get your pruners out. Knock Out roses are prolific bloomers and they need a strong framework to hold the weight of the flowers. Elizabethton, TN|
|My Knock Out roses are looking very bad. The leaves are falling off and turning yellow. They bloomed really early this year. They looked very pretty, then everything went wrong. Alberta, Clarkton|
|Hello, Alberta in Missouri: Knock Out roses are for the most part low-maintenance and disease-resistant shrubs that provide wonderful color all season long if they are happy. Are these new plantings or older, more established ones? Typically when we see plant foliage begin to yellow it has to do with too much moisture or lack of nutrients. This is a symptom of chlorosis, which is a lack of iron in the soil, but yellow foliage can also be associated not enough nitrogen. Are your roses growing in a soil that does not drain well or have you had an extremely rainy season? If so then you may need to amend the soil with something like Permatil, an expanded slate material that helps to improve drainage. When soil becomes water logged it decrease air movement, which is essential for plant health. If your roses are growing in well-drained soil and full sun then the issue may be a nutrient deficiency. To find out you can contact your County Cooperative Extension Service and ask about having your soil tested. They typically charge a nominal fee and the results may take a couple of weeks to get back, but it's worth the time and effort to keep your plants happy. For now be sure to clean up all fallen plant debris. This is a great environment to insects and disease to live.|
|My mother wants to know if you can trim back a white dogwood tree and lilac bush? If so, when would be the time of year to do it? Glenda, Pineville|
|Hello, Glenda: Dogwood trees should not need any extensive pruning if planted in a space where they can grow to their mature size. As with all plants, you can remove any dead or diseased branches as soon as you notice them any time throughout the year. If you are pruning to thin, shape, or remove crossing branches, this should be done right about now (late winter/early spring) before any new growth starts. You can enjoy the blooms from the removed branches one last time by forcing them indoors. Place them in water and they should bloom within a few weeks. Be sure to change out the water frequently to avoid any bacterial growth. As for your lilac, pruning at this time of year would remove spring flowers. The general rule of thumb when it comes to pruning our flowering shrubs is we prune after they have finished blooming, and summer-flowering shrubs we typically prune the late winter or early spring before new growth begins. As always, make sure your pruning tools are clean and sharp. If you want more information on pruning, visit http://ces.ca.uky.edu/floyd-files/HO59.pdf
|My mother, who lives in Alabama, has been wanting a fishtail fern, where the leaves look like a fishtail. I didn't know what it looked like so I did an Internet search. A little confusing but I believe it's a Nephrolepis biserrata furcans or Nephrolepis falcata. Anyhow, before my search I had looked in several places, some nurseries, and nobody has heard of it. I didn't want to risk an online purchase unless I knew exactly what I was getting. So I am hopeful there is somewhere in Kentucky close to my proximity where I could find one. Please help if you can. Mary, Harrodsburg|
|Hello, Mary in Kentucky: Plant names can certainly be confusing, especially when their names get changed! This fern used to be known as Nephrolepis biserrata ‘Furcans’ and now it goes by Nephrolepis falcata. With forked tips this fern is commonly known as the fishtail fern. It may be considered a hardy fern for your mom depending on what hardiness zone she is gardening in. They are certainly tropicals for us here in Kentucky. They can be grown outdoors year-round in hardiness zones 9 and above. They prefer to grow in part shade and will reach 12-18 inches tall at maturity. As for purchasing one you can always contact the Mercer County Extension Office and ask the horticulture/agriculture agent(s) if they have any local suggestions for you. Their phone number is (859) 734-4378. Unfortunately I am not familiar with the garden centers in your area to give you suggestions. If I were you I would try visiting or calling around to your local garden centers to see if this is a fern they carry or may be willing to special order for you. If they carry tropical plants I am sure they would be happy to try to get one in for you as long as the growers they purchase from have them available. In some cases it is easier for the smaller local owned garden centers to deal with special requests only because they do not have to order in such large quantities. If you do not have any luck locally you might want to check out this online company: www.glasshouseworks.com/fernpage.html
. I do not have any personal experience with this company so I cannot give you an opinion in terms of reliability, but if you cannot find them in your area you might want to go this route.|
|My pachysandra is being invaded with weeds. Is there a weed killer I can use that will not kill the pachysandra? Bob, Harmony Township|
|Hi, Bob in New Jersey: There are both native and non-native pachysandra species. The terminalis species is native to Japan and the procumbens species is native to the United States. Both are evergreen, shade-loving groundcovers. Pachysandra terminalis can be aggressive in some areas. Both prefer to grow in moist, well-drained, acidic soil. As for weeding, the safest method is hand-pulling. Spraying any type of weed killer is not safe for your groundcover but applying a pre-emergent herbicide such as Preen or corn gluten (organic option) will be effective in terms of future weed control. These products prevent seeds from germinating but will not kill existing weeds, so your best bet is to hand pull and then apply a granular pre-emergent. Weeds are typically only a problem with new plantings of pachysandra. As the groundcover becomes established it will spread by underground rhizomes and form a dense mat. At this stage any potential weeds will not be able to compete for sunlight and/or nutrients.
|My peony is healthy and has lots of blooms but no wonderful smell. It's pink and a plant I got from an old home place. Why is there on smell? Jean, Monticello|
|Hello, Jean: There are certain varieties of Peonies that are more fragrant than others. As flowers open they are the most fragrant, and as they fade so does the aroma. Moving a peony from one location to another would not cause it to lose its scent. Flowers smell the way they do because of the genetic makeup of the particular plant and changing the environment should not subdue the fragrance. Is it possible that there were several different peonies planted in the same space, and when you transplanted yours it was not the same one you smelled? They are wonderful long-lived plants and even though yours does not have the scent you remembered, it is still a great addition to the garden.|
|My questions involve spring bulbs. I planted 260 flowering spring bulbs in an area that we cleared vines and weeds from near a creek. What is the best method of controlling the weeds next spring/summer? I considered putting down Preen mulch over the new beds this fall and applying more early in the spring. Also, would pine needles be a good mulch to use over spring bulbs where weeds are not an issue? Debbie, Crestwood|
|Hello, Debbie: Wow, you have been busy planting bulbs! So hopefully you really prepared the bed well in terms of eliminating the weeds before planting. This does not mean they will not show back up next spring/summer. Using pre-emergence and mulch will certainly help keep the weeds down but hand pulling is still an option as well. So, yes, applying the Preen mulch you mentioned will be effective. It looks like this product is available in several different colors so just be aware that all options except for the premium are dyed. This means they will bleed when it rains and eventually fade out. Another more environmentally friendly and organic option would be to use corn gluten meal as your pre-emergent. It is a great alternative to the synthetic pre-emergence herbicides on the market. Applying this in combination with the pine straw will work just as well. Choosing which mulch to use on your garden is really a decision you should make in terms of aesthetics. Most are natural products like the pine straw but some are dyed with chemicals so the decision is up to you. Whichever you choose be careful that it is only applied 2 inches thick. Any thicker and it can create a nice environment for insects and disease to thrive. I would love to see pictures of your garden in the spring!|
|My son is moving and would like to take his climbing rose with him. If he planted his rose in a deep flower pot for the winter, will it be okay? He doesn't want it to freeze or die. Also, he would like to start new bushes with cuttings from this plant. What would be the best way to do this? Laura, Clinton|
|Hello, Laura: Ideally you would want to keep the rose where it is through the early winter months and then come back and dig it next spring. If that is not an option, you can dig it now and transplant it into the ground at the new garden. Keeping it in a container during the winter should be your last option. The best time of year to move your rose is late winter/early spring while it is dormant. It is less stressful on the plant and this is key to a successful move. Transplanting a climbing rose is tricky now because you will need to prune it in order to free it from its trellis, and pruning at this time of the year will make it more susceptible to winter damage. Preparing the new hole is important to do before digging up the existing plant. The faster you can get it back into the soil the better. As with any transplant, it is important to keep as many of the roots attached as possible. As for creating new plants, the spring or early summer is the best time to take your cuttings. Use a clean, sharp pair of pruners and take your cuttings from the newest growth. The cuttings should be 6-8 inches long. Remove all foliage except for the top leaves and dip the end of the cutting in water and then a rooting hormone, which you should be able to find at your local garden center. Plant your cuttings in small containers filled with a vermiculite, perlite mixture, or any well-drained container mix. Place in a bright place but out of the full sun. Keep the soil evenly moist. Your cutting should root in six to eight weeks. You can tug gently on the cutting to see if it has rooted yet. Gradually work it into full sun so the new growth will not burn.|
|My weeping willow's branches froze this past winter and have died. The tree is sprouting leaves at the trunk. What should I do so I won't lose my tree? I do love my weeping willow. She was so graceful billowing in the wind. Karen, Cynthiana|
|Hello, Karen: The ice storm we experienced this past winter damaged many trees along with other plant material. The weight of the ice, especially on a weeping tree, was too much for many to handle. I am sorry about your weeping willow. Unfortunately, the shoots that are coming up from the base of the tree are those of another closely related species and not those of your weeping willow. All weeping trees are grafted onto hardier rootstock of another tree. This means that if you continue to let those shoots grow you could have another tree, but there is no telling which one it might be. If you want a weeping willow in that space, you should remove the existing tree and plant another healthy tree. It is always sad to lose a specimen in the landscape but the garden is an ever-changing space and Mother Nature, as we know, can force us to make changes in the garden.|
|My white butterfly bush is about 12' high; I think it needs pruning bad. Can I do it now, and how much pruning can I do, drastically?
|Hello, Christiane: Butterfly bushes (buddleia) are easy, low-maintenance plants that are certain to attract butterflies and even hummingbirds. The best time to prune these shrubs is now (late winter/early spring) before they put on any new growth. Cutting them back in the late summer or fall will make any new tender growth very susceptible to frost damage. Pruning our plants encourages them to put on new growth. Butterfly bushes bloom on new wood (current season's growth) so they can be pruned back hard, but avoid removing any woody growth. Ideally you want to cut it back to around 12 inches. This will encourage larger flowers as opposed to not pruning at all. Butterfly bushes are woody near the base of the plant, but produce new herbaceous growth year after year, which is why they are technically classified as a sub-shrub. Before you prune, be sure that your tools are clean and sharp. Later on in the summer as your plant blooms and the flowers fade, it is a good idea to remove the spent flowers. This will promote the plant to continue blooming throughout the season and into the fall.
|My wife and I have recently moved to Alvaton/Bowling Green. We have a 5.5 acre lot and now that we are almost settled in and finishing interior redecorating, I am anxious to tackle my landscape. My goals are to plant a small orchard (apple, peach, cherry, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries), a vegetable garden, and to renovate the old pasture land into areas of lawn, native wildflowers and grasses, perennial borders, and beds with annuals along with lots of other ideas including some native shade-loving plants like trillium, jack-in-the-pulpit, etc. Aside from visitng the Warren County Extension office, where else would you suggest I go for help in deciding on what to plant and where to locate beds? I want to attract lots of fauna (song birds, butterflies, quail and pheasant, but I may not have enough space). Any suggestions on how to start? I hope to get soil samples taken to be tested this week. Tom, Alvaton|
|Hello, Tom: I apologize for the delayed response. It sounds like you are on the right track; getting your soil tested is the first thing you should do before planting and getting information from the Extension office is a great source of reliable information. As far as where to locate the beds and deciding on where to plant the orchard, vegetable garden, perennial and annual borders, as well as grass land, you will benefit from hiring a landscape designer. You are dealing with a large space and it can be overwhelming to think of it as one big project so getting someone in the area to help you create “rooms” will be worth the money. Unfortunately I do not have experience with any designers in your area. The best thing to do would be to visit the local garden centers to see if they have a designer on staff and if so, ask to see projects they have worked on. This is actually a great time of year to be searching for a sought-after designer since everyone else will want them during the warmer months. Obviously you cannot plant the perennials/annuals this time of year, but getting the plan drawn up this winter so you will be ready to plant in the spring will give you a head start. You may even consider doing one area at a time so it is not so daunting, especially if you will be doing all the prep and planting. As far as deciding on plant material, the landscape designer you hire will be very knowledgeable in terms of what plants are best suited for your space. If you do not want to go this route you can take pictures to a respected garden center/nursery and ask a knowledgeable staff member to help you. Let me know if you cannot find someone to help you and maybe we can do something long distance. Just by creating a garden you will be providing a habitat that will attract wildlife. Shooting Star Nursery in Georgetown is a great source for native perennials. You can visit their Web site at http://shootingstarnursery.com/catalog/contact_us.php. Congratulations on your new home.|
|One and a half years ago I bought a house in Virginia. I had to put tick killer on the lawn, which is more dirt and scrub. My question is, can I plant a vegetable garden in this area? Do the chemicals stay in the ground a long time, and will the food be safe to eat? Steve, Powhatan|
|Hello, Steve in Virginia: The answer to your question really depends on what you applied to the grass to kill the ticks. The most common products on the market for homeowners to use for getting rid of these insects contain the active ingredient permethrin. This insecticide has an average half-life of 39.5 days in an aerobic soil and one to three weeks on plant foliage, so if this is what you used you would be fine to plant a vegetable garden with no worries. Different chemicals have different absorption rates and some can remain in the soil for years after initial application. Thankfully, most of these products are not available to the home gardener. If you remember the product that you applied I can be more specific in terms of soil absorption rates and residual effects.|
|One of our maple trees that is about 30 years old was damaged by the winds of Ike and now the recent ice storm. Both central leaders were broken off three-quarters of the way up. Also, multiple side limbs were broken. The whole top of the tree is a mess of broken limbs. Should we try to save this tree or cut it down? We would hate to lose the shade. Carol, Shepherdsville|
|Hi, Carol: As I pondered your question, I found myself looking out the window to the back garden where there are two very old maples that sound similar to yours. I also would hate to lose the shade but it will give me an opportunity to plant something that is more suitable for the space, and I will certainly feel safer for when the next storm blows through. The reality is we have had some intense weather conditions the past several months. It is evident that the mature trees were harder hit than some of the newer plantings and maples certainly had their share of damage. I hate to tell you this but it does not sound good for your tree. Of course I cannot say for sure without seeing it, but if both central leaders are damaged, regardless of the other limbs that splintered, broke, or are still hanging in the tree, it will not be healthy for long. Nutrients will not be available to the rest of the tree and it will become even more stressed, which will make it more susceptible to insect and disease problems. It is sad to think of losing the shade but if the tree is near your home or another structure, that makes safety an issue and it is better to have it removed. It is an important decision and one that should involve a certified arborist. You can contact your County Cooperative Extension Service for local arborists. I am sure they are extremely busy right now but have them come out and look at your tree. Only hire a certified and insured arborist to remove your tree. Visit the following link to find your County offices: www.ca.uky.edu/county/
|Our corkscrew hazel (Filbert?) has a blight and has to be cut down. Could you suggest a substitute please? Zone 3-4, I believe. The tree stands in our small home garden plot. Frances, Orangeville|
|Hello, Frances in Ontario: Contorted Filberts (Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’) provide interesting structure to the garden. These Filberts are susceptible to eastern Filbert blight, ansiogramma anomala, which can cause severe cankering and die-back of branches. Unfortunately, it can take more than a year for symptoms to appear once the plant is infected. Replacing your Filbert with another contorted specimen limits your options, but the contorted Canadian hemlock (Tsuga Canadensis) and the contorted willow (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’) would both be options. If you are open to options that do not have a contorted growth habit, a witchhazel might be a good replacement. As a Kentucky gardener there might be other choices for your zone that I am not familiar with. You might check with a local university that has a horticulture program for more options, or just visit your local garden center to see what they suggest.
|Please send me the names of some good nonedible companion plants for lillies. David, Louisville|
|Hi, David in Kentucky: I will assume that you are referring to Asiatic or Oriental lilies (Lilium), which are true lilies, and not daylilies (Hemerocallis) that are often referred to as lilies. Although both are tolerable of the same growing conditions the true lilies thrive when the plant is in the full sun but the bulb benefits from growing in cooler soil during the heat of the summer. So, under-planting will help in terms of soil temperature and plant diversity. Some ground cover options for plants growing in full to part sun include: hardy geraniums, dianthus, lamb's ear (Lamium), campanula, and creeping thyme. It would also be nice to include some taller growing perennials or shrubs in the same bed. This will help hide the not-so-pretty foliage after the blooms have faded and add other textures and colors to your garden. Maybe something that has summer, fall, or even winter interest would be good. Some options to think about would be: amsonia, Russian sage (Pervoskia), asters, red twig dogwood, perennial hibiscus, false sunflower (Heliopsis), or any of the sun-loving hydrangeas would be good companion plants. These are just a few thoughts but when the warmer weather returns take a trip to your local garden center to see what catches your eye. Remember that a well-planted garden has interest in all four seasons.|
|Preen garden herbicide was put on our lawn accidentally: is there something we can put down to either neutralize or reverse its effects? Ellen, Huntersville|
|Hello, Ellen in North Carolina: Preen is a pre-emergent herbicide that is used to prevent unwanted seedlings from sprouting. It is nonselective so it will also prevent any seeds that you intentionally planted from growing. The only reason that Preen would have a negative effect on your lawn is if you just seeded it and then applied this herbicide. If this is the case then unfortunately the seed will not take root or germinate. There is nothing that can be done to reverse the outcome and you will have to wait until the fall to reseed. The product has a three-month lifespan so it will prevent any seeds from germinating for a maximum of three months. This puts us right in the middle of the summer and this is not the best time to seed your lawn. Spring and fall are ideal times of the year to do this when the daytime temperatures are warm but the nights are cooler. If you already have a healthy lush lawn then Preen is not going to harm it but it will prevent any weeds from popping up through it for the next few months|
|Should I dead-head (pull off old blooms) my Knockout rose bushes? Rodney, Bowling Green|
|Hello, Rodney: Besides being disease-resistant compared to other roses, the Knockout roses are also prolific bloomers. This makes them very sought after and an easy choice for the sun-loving garden. Low maintenance is another advantage to planting these roses. You certainly can remove the spent blooms but it is not necessary for them to continue blooming. It really depends on what kind of gardener you are. If you keep your garden tidy, then you may decide to dead-head the spent blooms. This is the more aesthetically pleasing choice and doing so will prevent you from having to clean the plant debris later. Dead-heading after a heavy rainfall or just randomly throughout the growing season is more than sufficient.|
|Should I prune my climbing roses in the fall, cut them all the way back, or just let the long runners stay on the fence? Shirley, Danville|
|Hello, Shirley: Climbing roses are a great addition to any sun-loving garden. Proper pruning will ensure that they bloom to their fullest potential. If this is a new addition to the garden, you will not need to prune for the first two to three years. This allows enough time for the rose to establish itself, and during this period you can help to encourage the canes to grow more horizontal to create the framework. Horizontal canes will bloom better than vertical ones, so keep this in mind when training the climber. After the rose has been in the ground for a few years and the framework is established, then it will benefit from annual pruning. Pruning depends on what kind of climbing rose you are growing. Does your rose bloom just once a year or does it continuously bloom throughout the season? Repeat bloomers should be pruned while they are dormant during the winter and early spring. The climbing roses that only bloom once per season should be pruned after they have finished flowering. The lateral shoots that grow from the horizontal framework is where the flowering takes place. With an established rose you want to prune back the laterals to the second or third bud. Pruning with a clean, sharp pair of pruners will help prevent disease spread. Keep the space around the rose free of fallen plant debris, which will also decrease potential disease and insect problems. It is important to remove any dead, diseased, weak, or crossing canes. Increased air circulation will help keep the climber happy and disease-free.
|Should I remove the pachysandra from my back yard and replace it with assorted plants? I am having someone in to remove it, but not sure if it will be a good idea. Marcy, Fairfax|
|Hi, Marcy: I am not sure what the reason is for removing your pachysandra. It is a lovely shade-loving groundcover but if it is not healthy or not serving the purpose you intended for it, then you can certainly replace it with other shade-loving plant material. There are plenty of perennials and/or shrubs that will grow in the shade. If you are looking for the space to be more aesthetically pleasing with different textures as well as height, then it may be a good idea to remove some or all of the pachysandra. You can always use this in the front of the bed and then plant behind it. Another option would be to remove the groundcover only where you want to introduce new plantings and then use the pachysandra like a mulch. A well-designed shade garden can be very beautiful. Of course, it may not have as many blooms as a sun-loving garden, but combining plants with different foliage color and texture can be just as beautiful. If you do decide to remove the groundcover, you might check with your gardening friends to see if they could use some in their garden. If you would like more suggestions in terms of other shade-loving plant options, let me know. It would also be helpful to know the dimensions of the space as well as any height limitations.|
|Since moving to Kentucky I have really missed camellias and azaleas in my yard. What variety can I grow in Kentucky and where in Louisville can I buy them? Fran, Crestwood|
|Hello, Fran in Kentucky: As gardeners, it can be difficult to leave our gardens when we move but it also gives us the opportunity to create a new one. I hope you are enjoying your new home and planning your new garden. In the Louisville area we have many choices for both camellias and azaleas. Although there are exceptions, camellia sasanqua are generally more cold-hardy than camellia japonica. The flowers are not typically as large as the japonicas, but the sasanqua have been hybridized so that they are available in an array of flower color as well as size. Camellias are best planted in the spring or summer if you are going to be around to water them. Even though some are more cold-hardy than others, it is a good idea to get them in the ground earlier in the year so that the roots can establish themselves before the cold winter arrives. These acid-loving plants are happiest growing in a space where they will receive morning sun and afternoon shade. There are many different cultivars, including the April series, that are good options. These are japonicas but a bit more tolerable of the cold temperatures. The Ackerman hybrids developed by Dr. Ackerman of the U.S. National Arboretum are also good choices. Any of the winter series will all do well in your new garden. ‘Pink Icicle,’ ‘Two Marthas,’ 'Taylors Perfection,' and ‘Freedom Bell’ are other cultivars to consider. As for azaleas, there are more that can grow here than we can’t so depending on the mature size, color, and evergreen preferences you will have a wide range to choose from. If you have not discovered Yew Dell Gardens in Crestwood it is absolutely worth the visit. They have wonderful plantings of both azaleas and camellias. Boone Gardiner on Old LaGrange Road is probably the closest to you but The Plant Kingdom on Westport Road and Wallitsch Nursery on Hikes Lane are all reputable sources for quality plants.|
|Thank you for the information. I had not thought about having my river birch transplanted. I think I will do that. It's probably 8 feet already. I guess there is some luck involved in keeping the tree alive after transplant. I don't wish to transplant the spirea. The space they will be removed from is a circle about 10 feet in diameter at the cornor of the front of my house, which gets the afternoon sun. Sun-loving perennials probably would be best. I have liriope on the decline in front of my house with a weeping Japanese maple in front of the entrance to my house.
|Hi, Marie: Transplanting a large tree can be successful, but here are some tips to make sure that the stress is reduced during the process. Digging the new home for your tree before digging up the existing tree is a good idea. That way the tree roots are not likely to dry out before they get back into the soil. When you dig up the tree, use a very sharp spade and start digging farther out and work your way in to keep as many of the roots attached as possible. This is key to a successful transplant. Ideally, the new hole should be twice as wide and just as deep as the existing one; after you have the tree out you may need to adjust the size of the hole. Replant and treat just as you would any other new addition to the garden. Do not fertilize for the first year and keep the soil consistently moist. As for the sun-loving perennials you would like to plant, there are many to choose from, but I would recommend taking a trip to your local garden center/nursery and see what catches your eye. I previously mentioned baptisia, Russian sage, and amsonia, but caryopteris, coreopsis, phlox, Veronica, and salvia are all good choices as well. As for your liriope, are you cutting it back once a year? This groundcover does not usually have too many problems but it will benefit from being divided every three to four years.
|Thank you for your response to my question about the trees. Here are a few more facts. Our driveway is about 200 feet long, in full sun, and no power lines. Ours are belowground. The driveway slopes down from the house toward the road. I am more interested in trees rather than evergreens. I have seen several trees that are a beautiful deep blazing red with a round shape. The color seems to last forever. I will call to get my soil tested. Sharon, Georgetown|
|Hello again, Sharon: It does not sound like you have many restrictions for your planting site, so the hard part will be choosing a specific tree. If you can’t settle on just one kind of tree, you can always plant a combination of different trees. It all depends on the look you are going for. Either way there are many trees to choose from. As far as the trees that have red foliage, the Norway maple ‘Crimson King’ (Acer platanoides) has nice red foliage throughout the growing season. Some of the plums and cherries have nice red new foliage as well. Some other choices would be zelkova, lacebark elm ‘Allee,’ Persian parrotia, dogwood, and crape myrtles. Pears and crabapples would provide nice spring blooms. The ‘Aristocrat’ pear is a good selection, and ‘Donald Wyman’ or ‘Sugar Tyme’ crabapples are nice choices too. Choosing the right tree for the right spot will make for a successful planting. This will be quite an investment, so it is always a good idea to buy from a reputable source. Ask around and check out some of your local nurseries and garden centers that carry disease-resistant varieties. Any garden center or nursery you want to purchase from will have a knowledgeable staff happy to help you choose the right tree(s). There are a great number of trees to choose from and I have only listed a few, but as I mentioned before, the following publication is a list of trees suitable for Kentucky plantings: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho61/ho61.pdf
. You can request a copy of this from your Extension agent when you have your soil tested. You might also want to visit the library and see if they have copies of Hardy Trees and Shrubs or Trees and Shrubs for Warm Climates written by Michael Dirr. Both have great pictures and endless information. It is hard to choose a tree without seeing it in color!|
|The bottom half of my spruce tree is brown. I discovered my neighbor was dumping cat litter under my tree for a period of time. How can I save my tree? Ken, Sayre|
|Hello, Ken in Pennsylvania: First things first: if there is still cat litter under your evergreen, you will want to rake it away and dispose of it in the garbage. Over time, cat urine can actually alter the pH of the soil and damage plant material, so depending on how long your neighbor has been dumping the cat litter there, the pH may have already been altered. It sounds like your spruce is stressed and only time will tell if it is going to recover. Unfortunately, once these evergreens lose their foliage they may not put on any new growth. You will want to remove any dead parts of the spruce and make sure to clean up around the base of the plant. Plant debris is an ideal place for insects and other potential disease issues to thrive. You can take a sample of the damaged foliage to your County Cooperative Extension Service for the horticulture agent to have a look at. This will rule out any other possible issues. You can also have your soil tested through them to know if you need to adjust your pH. For now, make sure your evergreen has sufficient moisture. A thin layer of mulch will be beneficial in terms of retaining moisture. It should be no thicker than 2 inches and avoid piling it up around the base of the trunk.
|The frost has killed the lily I've had in a pot for six months in the garden. The leaves are black and are lying over the pot. Can you help? Andrew , Cheshire |
|Hello, Andrew: I’m afraid that I am not certain what plant you are asking about so I can not give you specific advice but here are some general thoughts. Every plant has its own specific growing requirements including the temperatures they can withstand. If your lily or ivy plant is not hardy to your gardening zone it will not survive the cold winter months. The foliage that has already turned black will not turn green next spring so it will need to be cut back. The roots are the main concern at this point. If your plant is an annual or a tropical the roots will have already been damaged but if it is a perennial the roots will be fine and the plant will put on new growth next spring. If you have more information or another name, possibly a scientific one, I can be of more help.|
|The leaves on my rose bushes are turning yellow and falling off. I recently moved and had to transplant them. Please help, I love my roses. Loretta, West Liberty|
|Hi, Loretta: There are several reasons why the foliage on roses can turn yellow. In your case, it certainly will have something to do with transplanting them and the new environment they are living in. Did you have your soil tested when you moved? If not, I would recommend doing this so you know your soil pH and nutrient levels. There is always a certain amount of stress involved when moving plants. They should be treated like a new addition for the first year after we transplant them. Planting them in new soil may have caused the yellowing to occur. If the pH is unbalanced or if the nutrients are not available, this can certainly be a reason for a decline in health. If it is just a few leaves here and there I would suspect this is more a result of being transplanted, but if the entire plant has the same symptoms then there is something else going on. Yellow foliage can also be a result of too much water and/or lack of drainage. If their new home does not drain well this can make your roses very unhappy. Another possibility is root damage. If the roots were damaged when they were initially dug up, this can be the cause for yellow foliage as well as leaf drop. One last thought: have you sprayed your roses with any chemicals? If so and the yellowing occurred within days of being sprayed, this is also a possibility. Make sure to clean up all foliage that has dropped and keep the space clean of other fallen plant debris. If you have not had your soil tested, contact your County Cooperative Extension service and they will give you detailed information on how to have this done. There is a small fee but the results are well worth knowing, especially since this is a new garden for you. You can also take a sample of your roses to them and see if they can narrow down the problem before your results come back. Make sure your roses are receiving plenty of direct sunlight and good air circulation.|
|The recent ice storm has devastated our willow trees. Most of the limbs are broken. We would like to save them if we can. Will they grow back if the limbs are cut back to the trunk. Also, how do we keep borers out of them? Mary, Ekron|
|Hi, Mary: What do they say? “If you don’t like the weather in Kentucky wait a day.” We are all thankful the ice storm has passed but it left many damaged trees in its path. It sounds like your willows were hit pretty hard. If the trees are severely damaged or if more than half the limbs are gone, it may not be worth spending the money to have them pruned. Pruning an already damaged tree can lead to weak and brittle growth that may break off in the next storm. It really is best to have a certified arborist come take a look at your trees so a local professional can give you advice. It is hard to say without seeing your trees, but if they are not aesthetically pleasing anymore or not adding value to your property I would have them removed, especially since they have insect damage to begin with. Having open wounds will only make this worse. It is not cheap to have trees removed but it is a lot cheaper than paying to have them pruned and treating them for borers, only to have them die later and then paying to have them removed. Willows belong to the genus Salix. There are hundreds of species and even more hybrids. Some are considered more valuable in the landscape than others. They are susceptible to many insect and disease problems, including the mottled willow borer, which can be controlled by spraying while they are in the flying stage, usually July-August. Borers as well as other insect or disease problems are much more likely to occur on trees that are already in decline. This should be taken into consideration when making your decision. We can get sentimental about our trees, but if they are not healthy it is best to replace them with a better option for that space. You can contact your county Extension agent for a list of certified arborists in your town.
|There are many more wooly worms this year. Is there a reason for this, perhaps weather-related? Donnie, Manchester|
|Hello Donnie: There are several species of what we commonly call the wooly worm. Pyrrharctia Isabella is the one we typically see in Kentucky. There are actually two generations of these caterpillars each year. The first generation hatches in the late spring or early summer, and the second hatches later in August. The second generation is the one we typically see more of because they are out and about trying to find warmth. It is this time of the year that these caterpillars are searching for somewhere protected from the elements to survive the winter months. They do not spend the winter months as pupa or chrysalis as other moths/butterflies do, so it is important for them to find a winter hideout as soon as possible. There are many folklores out there and the wooly worms are the most common one this time of the year. Each fall the wooly worms appear, and as the legend goes the more black on the banded wooly worm the longer and more extreme the winter will be. The thickness of their hair and the color of their 13 segments are also analyzed. Wooly worms have predicted the weather in many small-town festivals, but there is no scientific proof that they can forecast winter weather. It is, however, a nice excuse to have a festival!
|There is an area in my back yard that used to be part of a farmer's pond. It does not drain very well at all but gets lots of sunlight. I was wondering if I could plant apple trees in a raised bed in this area, and if so what would be the recommended height of the bed? Bruce, Louisville|
|Hi, Bruce in Kentucky: I am sorry to tell you that unless you address the drainage issue, planting apple trees in this space is not ideal. Apple trees will not thrive in poorly draining soils; they really do not like wet feet. So you have a couple of options: you can fill in the space with top soil and amendments without dealing with the lack of drainage, and then choose plants that are tolerable of these conditions, or you can improve the drainage and then fill in the space with good top soil along with plenty of amendments. Unfortunately, just adding soil will not make the space suitable for any plant requiring well-drained soil. No matter how far down the drainage issue occurs it will always affect the surface layer as well. So it actually is a more complicated situation than just adding soil to fill in the space. If you are not interested in resolving the drainage problem then you can add soil to the level where it is flush with the surrounding landscape and then landscape with plants that are recommended for moist soil. If you are specifically looking for an edible fruit, a serviceberry (Amelanchier) would be a good option. Other sun-loving tree options that will tolerate these conditions include: red maple (Acer rubrum), bald cypress (Taxodium distilchum), ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius), Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostoboides), river birch (Betula nigra), and sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua). There are also many ornamental grasses, shrubs, and perennials that are suitable for this type of situation. Please let me know if you would like more recommendations.|
|This is the first year I grew garden sage (one has long and thin leaves, the other one has fat big leaves), rosemary, lavender, Russian sage, anise hyssop, false indigo, and wormwoood. They all are on the ground. Will they survive Kentucky winter? Which one do I need to dig up and move into the house and when? Mel, Danville|
|Hi, Mel: I hope you have enjoyed gardening this season. As I am sure you have found it can be quite addicting. So, let's start with the plants that are without a doubt considered perennials in your Kentucky garden. Russian sage (Pervoskia atriplicifolia), false indigo (Baptisia australis), anise hyssop (Agastache foeniculum), and wormwood (Artemisia) are all sun-loving perennials that should be left in the ground. You can prune back your hyssop and baptisia this time of year and your Russian sage as well, but you can also wait until late February or early March to cut the Russian sage back since it has a nice silvery foliage throughout the winter months. As for your herbs, it is going to depend on which variety you are growing. Most culinary sage is hardy but the ornamental sage, also known as salvia, may or may not be hardy. There are three hardy varieties of lavender we can grow in Kentucky: ‘Munstead,’ ‘Hidcote,’ and ‘Provence’ can all be left in the garden. They demand full sun and extremely well-drained soil. There is only one variety of rosemary that is reliably hardy for us and it is called ‘Arp.’ All other rosemary should be brought indoors to over-winter. Hopefully you still have your grower's tags but if not you can take the chance of leaving them outdoors to see how they do or bring them all in to make sure you do not lose them. Indoors you will want to place them in a south-facingwindow or any space that has adequate light. You will want to cut back on your watering and be careful not to over water. It is not necessary to fertilize during the winter months. Next spring after the frost-free date passes (around May 10) you can take them back outdoors and enjoy them for another season.|
|Three questions if you don't mind. 1) Can I grow herbs around a small dogwood tree and a big maple tree? I'm not sure if the tree will take away all the water and nutrients. 2) Can I put the soil around those tree in order to make a raised bed (for the herbs) around it? I read that some trees need to breathe and will die if the roots and the lower stem are buried. 3) My dogwood tree is very skinny and looks sick most of the time unless it is blooming. How can I make it look healthier?
Thanks! Mel, Danville|
|Hello, Mel in Kentucky: Herbs are happiest grown in full sun, so to plant them around the base of the tree will not give them ideal growing conditions in which to thrive. They should receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day. You might consider planting them in containers. Planting anything around the base of a tree can be tricky, especially trees such as maples that tend to have large shallow roots. These roots will take any moisture and nutrients away from any smaller planting surrounding a tree. It is never a good idea to add soil to the top of the tree after it is planted at the proper level. This can be detrimental to the tree in terms of oxygen exchange as well as potential insect and disease problems. It is basically the same thing as planting a tree too deep, which is never a good outcome. So if you want to plant a groundcover under the trees, choose ones that you can plant farther out and let them fill in on their own closer to the base of the tree. They will consistently need additional moisture to compete with the larger roots. As for your dogwood, they typically do not have many insect or disease problems, and without seeing your tree it is hard to say what is going on. Does the foliage look healthy? How old is the tree and how much sunlight does it receive? Is it planted in an area that does not drain well? All of these are factors that need to be taken into consideration when trying to determine why it is not happy. If it is a new addition to the garden, it may just need time to get established. If it is an older tree you might consider having a certified arborist come out and take a look. If it has been in the garden for more than a year and it has not been given nutrients, you can go ahead and fertilize. As with any fertilizer make sure to follow recommended application rates.|
|Two questions: How can I get rid of wild African violets that have taken over my yard? And how can I keep the deer out of my hostas? Larry, Blue River|
|Hello, Larry: Violets can be a challenge to eliminate in our lawns. You may never be totally free of them but there are means of keeping the numbers down. Wild violets are perennial broadleaf weeds that spread by underground rhizomes. It is best to dig them up as soon as you notice them so they cannot flower and set seed. Unfortunately, they have already flowered and set seed this year. When we mow the seeds spread, so keep an eye out for new plants popping up next spring. Removing the root system is essential for controlling these weeds, and hand digging is the most effective means of elimination because if done properly it will remove the root system as well as any potential flowers. Hand digging is quite a task and depending on the space involved, it may not be feasible. Wild violets have a waxy coating on the foliage that protects them against many common organic and chemical sprays. Using an herbicide containing 2,4-D
(2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) in combination with Triclopyr (Turflon or Weed-B-Gone) once this fall and again as the foliage emerges next spring will help get them under control. As with any product, be sure to read and follow all recommendations when spraying in the lawn/garden. As for your hostas, deer love them and once they find a source of good food it is difficult to deter them. There are many repellents on the market. They are available in both liquid and granular form. These repellents are effective in that, depending on the product, they have an offensive odor and the deer think there is a predator in the area. These products will need to be re-applied after a heavy rain but applying them early in the season is a good idea so that they will be trained to find food elsewhere.
|Up until recently, I was never in charge of our lawn but have been an avid gardener for a few years. I finally decided I needed to go over to the "dark side" and start using fertilizer. It is now fall and I have resown my lawn with some Annual Rye and K31 mix several weeks ago, and wanted to find out what fertilizer to use now. I know root structure is important now so I took the advice of the "store pro" and spread a little 6-24-24 on the lawn; it was in pellet form. I wasn't sure of any immediate effects of the pellets and I am always looking to kill two birds with one stone, so I decided to supplement that with a concoction utilizing my 20-gallon hose sprayer. This way I can water the lawn and feed it at the same time. I usually use the standard homemade solution that can contain Epsom salt, ammonia, detergent, corn syrup, etc. Are any of these additives at any strength to do any good? What about adding beer for microbes and Listerine for antiseptic? Will the sugar help the grass in shaded areas if I apply throughout the year? Jon, Red Bud|
|Hello, Jon: Any pellet form fertilizer is considered granular and will not provide immediate results since it has to be broken down and then absorbed. Using a liquid, foliar application of fertilizer will have more of an immediate result. The benefit to using granular is that it typically lasts longer and in some cases is easier to apply. As far as the concoction that you applied to your lawn it should not be harmful, but with no additional nutrients it is not beneficial either. Epsom salt would be beneficial if you are dealing with a magnesium deficiency and detergent can be used as an insecticide or a surfactant, neither of which you should need. Ammonia in this case would really just evaporate, and I assume you are adding corn syrup as a sugar to get the microbes moving, but with what you have mixed there are no microbes present. If you added an expensive microbrew there may be microbes but you are better off drinking the good beer and not wasting it on your lawn! There is no reason to add any type of antiseptic to your grass. There is so much information and advice out there for home gardeners and we have to be careful of the source. Anybody can put advice on the Internet but for reliable gardening information it is always best to turn to university publications or your county cooperative extension service. They work together with research universities to provide gardening information to the home gardener. www.agry.purdue.edu/turf/pubs/ay-3.pdf and www.agry.purdue.edu/turf/pubs/ay-22.pdf
are two very informative publications on home turf fertilization from Purdue University. The recommendations from your lawn care service and those in any agronomy department are likely going to differ. The best thing to do would be to have your soil tested through your county Extension office. Let them know it is for turf establishment and the results will provide you with the exact amounts of fertilizer you need for your lawn.|
|We are moving to Benton, Kentucky, the end of September. I have been in Florida for 30 years and am used to growing orchids and everything tropical. I have a huge staghorn fern that I would love to bring; will it live through winter outside? Also, do they grow orchids there, inside, outside? What kinds of plants that flower are similar that grow in Kentucky? What would be a good resource book for me?
|Hi, Lori: I hope that your move to Kentucky will be a joyful one. Gardening in Kentucky will be an adjustment and quite different from what you are used to in Florida. Most plants that you consider hardy will be grown here as annuals/tropicals or house plants. I was just talking with my sister about my staghorn fern that she admired hanging from a very large maple tree. I told her that it will not survive our winter temperatures, but they are very easy to over-winter indoors. The most common species can handle temperatures as low as 30 degrees F but only for short periods. Mine survived indoors this past winter with no electricity for nine days and temperatures dipping into the low 30s. Its survival made me love it even more. You should not think twice about bringing yours with you. It will have to come indoors for the winter, but will be a nice reminder of Florida. As for the orchids, I assume that you are referring to Phalaenopsis or other tropical orchids, which are house plants here. There are hardy orchids that belong to the Bletilla genus that we can grow in our shade gardens. The Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service is a wonderful source of information. Each state/county has horticulture/agriculture agents that are available for home gardeners. You can visit the Marshall County Web site at: http://ces.ca.uky.edu/marshall/. Kentucky Gardener’s Guide written by Denny Mckeown would be a great read for you, as well as anything written by Dr. Tom Barnes such as Wildflowers and Ferns of Kentucky.|
|We are planting a raised garden in the bottom of our yard, which is the watershed for our neighborhood. Because of this, the area will tend to flood completely over the garden if a large rainfall occurs. How damaging to our garden will this be? I am going to attach weed control paper across the top, which I hope will minimize any loss of topsoil and/or plants. I will drill some weep holes on the sides to allow for more drainage. This area normally dries out very well once the water drains and the sun hits it. Bill, Lexington|
|Hello, Bill: From what you have described, it sounds like you may have the perfect situation for creating a rain garden. As all the water from your neighborhood travels to this space, it is bringing with it all the harmful lawn chemicals, pesticides, and oil-based products it has collected along the way. A rain garden will help absorb these toxic substances and filter them before reaching our streams. I am not sure what you were thinking in terms of plant material, but for the reason mentioned earlier it is not a good idea to use this area as a vegetable garden. Whether you decide to install a rain garden or a raised bed, the plant selection is crucial to the success of this garden. You will need to take into consideration the amount of sunlight this area receives. Full sun or part sun is ideal, but a shade garden is also possible with the right plants. As far as a raised bed goes, it is a good idea to add weep holes for additional drainage and landscape fabric to help prevent soil loss. But again, choosing native/non-invasive plants that are tolerant of wet conditions, as well as drought conditions once established, is the only way to plant this location. As long as the area drains within a day, there are many plants to choose from and as these plants establish their root systems, it will help keep the soil intact. For a list of possible planting material visit www.msdlouky.org/aboutmsd/rainbarrels.htm
and download the rain garden manual or you can call (502) 587-0603 to request a copy.
|We are replacing a 30-year-old windbreak of various evergreens. At the intial planting, a product was available to spray on new trees to help retain moisture in needles and increase the odds of survival. Is there something like this available now? Mark, Plano|
|Hello, Mark in Iowa: There are products out there that are made specifically to help plants retain moisture through their foliage. Wilt Pruf is probably the most common and available to the home gardener. Wilt Pruf is an organic foliar spray that forms a film and works as an anti-transpirant. It is a polymer made of carbon and hydrogen that helps prevent water loss during stressful times of the year. That being said, sufficient moisture is really the best way to ensure that the new additions to the garden remain healthy. Proper planting and watering are the most important factors in the establishment of any new addition to the garden. Newly planted trees should receive 1.5-2 inches of water per week from April until late fall. If Mother Nature provides an inch of rain each week, no additional watering will be needed. Otherwise, soaking the evergreen two to three times per week during the hottest, driest months will be necessary. You can let the hose trickle at the base of the evergreen for approximately 20-30 minutes. It is best to mimic a steady rain so deep, infrequent soakings are preferred to frequent, shallow watering. A thin layer of mulch will help retain the moisture. Avoid piling the mulch around the base of the trunk and make sure it is no more than 2 inches thick. Otherwise it can encourage insect and disease issues.|
|We had a new roof put on our house and they covered my foxtail ferns with a large plastic cover; after they removed it, almost all of my ferns, which were beautiful, had turned brown on the first 2 or 3 inches of the plant. They were just fine up until then. I assume they got hot under the canopy. june, Jacksonville|
|Hi June: It sounds like the new growth on your ferns was burned by the plastic. Not to get too technical but when clear plastic comes into direct contact with plant foliage, it can burn as a result of increased temperatures. Even on a cloudy day sun rays reach the ground, and more than 90 percent of these rays pass through clear plastic. As the heat is absorbed, it increases air temperatures; that is why a properly made greenhouse is so effective. Clear plastic acts as a transparent medium allowing short wavelengths of light to be absorbed, and the longer wavelengths that are absorbed by the plants do not allow the heat to be released, thus increasing temperature/humidity. In your case the plastic was touching the plants and this is why they were burned. Fortunately, it will not be detrimental to your ferns but it will affect the aesthetics of the plants. You should prune out the burned foliage and discard. It is still early enough in the season that they will put on new growth. Ideally the painters should use a black plastic that will reflect sunlight and not allow the temperatures to rise so drastically, protecting the plants from potential burn. Jacksonville, Florida|
|We had a water oak that we removed. We tried killing the trunk, which didn't work, and we have millions of sucklings growing in the yard. How can we kill them without killing the lawn? Marsha, Davenport|
|Hello, Marsha in Florida: Quercus nigra goes by many common names, including water oak. In some zones, this tree is considered weedy and I assume this may be true in your area. Since you removed the top of the tree but the roots are still alive, it is not the acorns but the suckers that have sprouted in your lawn. The abundant suckers are a result of stress and the tree is using all of its stored-up energy in hopes of surviving. It is pushing out growth in order to photosynthesize, but if you do not allow this to happen the roots will not survive. Slowly but surely this process will work, but you have to stay on top of it and not let the suckers get out of control. If the tree can’t photosynthesize then it will eventually die. Since you have so many suckers and they are in your lawn you can just mow them down. This method may not be the best choice with a healthy tree but in your case it seems to make sense. Given the numbers you are dealing with, hand pulling or painting each sucker with glyphosate is not feasible. Tree roots can be very aggressive and this is true even after the trees have been removed if the stumps are not ground out. So, this would be one option for dealing with the suckers. Having the stump ground out will help prevent any suckers from forming. This would be the most expensive but most effective method. If you decide to go this route, it is always best to hire a certified arborist.|
|We have a 15- to 18-foot Weeping Cherry tree. In the spring four years ago when we moved here it was beautiful with heavy foliage and spring blooms. It seems like it has gone downhill every year. With this spring there was hardly any folliage and no blooms. In talking with several people, they all seem to think it needs to be pruned back, but nobody knows when or how far back to prune it. We've searched online with no answers. Nancy, Summer Shade|
|Hello, Nancy in Kentucky: Ornamental Cherry trees are a lovely, medium-sized addition to the landscape. They provide spring blooms that are always a welcome sight after the winter months have passed. As for pruning, like all other spring flowering trees and shrubs, they should be pruned after they have finished flowering. It is important to prune younger trees to develop a branch structure and it is true that pruning can rejuvenate older trees and promote flowering. Other reasons to prune are to remove dead, diseased, or crossing branches and to maintain size. It sounds like there is something else going on with your tree since it did not have much foliage this year. Unfortunately trees that belong to the Prunus genus are generally short-lived. The Weeping Cherry (Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’) is no exception. They are prone to many insect and disease issues and typically live for 30 to 50 years. Do you have any idea how old your tree is? The best thing to do at this point is have a certified arborist come out and take a look at your tree. They will be able to give you specifics in terms of the health of your tree and recommendations for either pruning or removing it. If you need recommendations for a certified arborist you can contact your county Extension office and the horticulture agent should be able to give you suggestions. Hiring a certified arborist will ensure that you are getting a knowledgeable and qualified tree specialist.|
|We have a 3-year-old dappled willow tree that we had to unfortunately move to another area so we could allow more room for natural growth, and since transplanting all the leaves have dried up. We have been stimulating root growth as advised and watering as advised, and the trunk and main branches still appear green. My question is: should I cut back the small branches that have died (they are black), and I'm sure I should remove all the dead leaves to promote energy for new growth, right? Kerry, North Olmsted|
|Hello, Kerry in Ohio: The dappled willow (Salix integra ‘Hakuro Nishiki’) provides interesting variegated foliage in the garden. Whenever we move our plants we have to treat them like a new addition, and from what you mentioned it sounds like your willow did not receive sufficient moisture after being transplanted. There is always a certain amount of stress associated with moving plants, and making sure they get enough water is essential for the long-term health of our plants. It is hard to say if your willow will recover or not. If the roots were allowed to dry out then this is not a good scenario, but as long as the cambium layer is still green it should attempt to put on new growth. If you take your fingernail or pruners and lightly scratch the bark away to reveal the cambium layer, you will be able to see what color it is. If it is green this is good, and if it is brown go ahead and get your spade out. For now you should prune out all dead branches and inspect them for any signs of insect or disease. If you do notice anything abnormal you should take the sample to your County Cooperative Extension Office for the horticulture agent to look at. Willows are susceptible to a few different insect/disease issues but I would suspect the problem in your case has more to do with transplant shock and lack of water than anything else. It has been such a hot and dry growing season so far, and this makes it even more stressful on water-loving plants like your willow, so make sure to keep the soil consistently moist for the rest of the season.|
|We have a big scoop of topsoil in our yard. My husband used it to build five raised beds. My plan is to put up a fence to keep the deer out and plant a vegetable/flower garden next year.
What should I do with the beds in the meantime? Should I cover them with a tarp to keep weeds out? Should I plant a cover crop to keep weeds out and add organic matter?
We also have a lot of used bedding (shredded Aspen). Could I spread a layer of that over the soil to keep weeds down? Hopefully, it would break down in time for me to turn it into the soil in the spring. Kathy, Kearneysville|
|Hello, Kathy: This is very exciting! Think about all you can produce in five raised beds. You should not have a major problem with weeds unless the topsoil that was used was not weeded beforehand. I would, however, suggest that you add some amendments to the soil such as hen manure or worm castings or, even better, compost to add to the existing soil. You can use this time to construct the fence to keep out the deer since planting in them now will only encourage them. If you would rather wait to build the fence you can always plant the beds and use a repellent product such as Liquid Fence or Deer Off to deter them until the fence is constructed. These are liquid products that you spray the around the perimeter of the beds. They do not smell good but the scent dissipates to us after a few hours; the deer continue to smell it for many weeks. It will need to be reapplied after a hard rain. As far as tarping the beds I would not recommend this because it would just be easier to hand weed the beds. I would also avoid the used Aspen. It is certainly not too late to plant perennials or even some vegetables. For a list of deer-resistant plants visit www.millcreekgardensohio.com
and search the plant reference list for deer-resistant perennials. Millcreek Gardens is a reliable source of information. As far as vegetables, this is tricky in terms of being deer-resistant. You will certainly have to use a spray or construct a fence to keep them out. This time of year there are still many options for planting, such as carrots, radishes, beets, cucumber, beans, and squash, just to name a few. Keep in mind that later in the fall you can plant cool-season crops like lettuce, kale, spinach, and broccoli. For more detailed information on vegetable gardening in your area you can contact your County Cooperative Extension Service. The Jefferson County Web site is jefferson.ext.wvu.edu
or you can contact the agriculture/horticulture agent at (304) 728-7413.|
|We have a cottage on Lake Barkley (Cadiz). What grass is a slow-growing, sun-tolerant choice?
|Hello, Mac in Tennessee: I assume you are wondering about turf grass as opposed to ornamental grass. Let me know if I am wrong. Here in Kentucky, we are divided into three different regions: eastern, central, and western, which is where Trigg-Cadiz County is located. Different regions have different growing conditions and some grasses will do better than others depending location. Kentucky bluegrass does not do well in the western part of the state. Bermuda grass and zoysia grass have their place and are adapted to western Kentucky but both of these options are known for their creeping habit. Tall fescue can be grown in western Kentucky and is adaptable to most light conditions. All grasses have their pluses and minuses but thankfully there are many cultivars of fescue to choose from and a blend is not a bad idea. For a detailed list of all turf grass options for Kentucky gardeners you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/agr/agr52/agr52.htm. This is a publication available from the Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with land grant schools within our state. You can also contact the Trigg County horticulture/agriculture agent(s) for more information regarding the best options for you and where to purchase seed, sod, or plugs. You can visit their Web site at http://trigg.ca.uky.edu. Or call them at (270) 522-3269.|
|We have a farm in Logan County, KY, and have owned it for about five years. We have found a flower on it next to a house that is about 150 years old. Could I send you photos of the flowers and see if you could tell us what they are? Jason, Westmisnter|
|Hi, Jason: I would be happy to look at your pictures and identify the flower for you. Send the pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.|
|We have a fruitless pear tree that produces tons of cherry-sized fruit that really creates a mess. Is there a product we can use on the tree to discourage the producing of fruit?
Barbara , Gustine|
|Hello, Barbara in California: Ornamental pear trees produce lovely flowers in the spring. Fruit production is part of the tree’s natural development. As far as using a product to prevent fruit production, there are products on the market with the active ingredient Ethephon found in some growth regulators, but they are not recommended by certified arborists since this chemical is highly toxic. It may not even be sold in your state. You can hand pick spent flowers to prevent fruit from forming but this is not feasible in most cases. If the fruit is really that much of a nuisance, you might consider removing the tree and planting another ornamental tree that is less messy. Or you could even replace it with a fruit-bearing pear tree. This way you can enjoy the flowers as well as the fruit.|
|We have a mimosa tree we planted two years ago; it is doing well, but there are no blooms. What is wrong? Pam, Louisville|
|Hello, Pam: Mimosa trees (Albizia julibrissin), also commonly known as silk trees, are medium growing deciduous trees. The fern-like foliage and fragrant flower of the mimosa give it a tropical feel. It can take a few years for this tree to flower. If your mimosa otherwise looks healthy it may not be old enough to bloom yet. How large was it when you transplanted it? Unfortunately, here in Kentucky these trees are associated with many disease and insect problems, the most common being a vascular wilt disease. There are a few cultivars that are wilt-resistant, including ‘Flame’ and ‘Union.’ Hopefully you have one of these and not one that has been transplanted from the roadside. These non-native trees are tolerable of most growing conditions but prefer full sun to bloom well. Mimosa trees should not require any annual pruning except to remove any dead, diseased, or broken branches.|
|We have a sloping hillside that is too steep to safely cut. What would you recommend to plant that would not require much care and be relatively inexpensive? The area is 30 x 70.
|Hello, Irene: Planting on a slope will help bind the soil, which will prevent erosion and reduce the maintenance on your part since you will not need to mow. Choosing a plant for this site will depend on a couple of different factors. First, how many hours of sunlight does this area receive? Six or more hours is considered full sun, anything less than three is considered shade, and anything in between is part-sun. How tall do you want this planting to be? Do you want more of a groundcover or something with a little height to it? Would you prefer this planting to be evergreen or does it matter? If you give me details I can give you more specific recommendations. Considering the space that you are planting, the more economical way to go would be to seed the area. Otherwise, purchase smaller plants as opposed to larger ones. They will grow and it will be more cost-efficient for you. Here are a few suggestions for a shady location: hosta, epimedium, ajuga, and of course ivy. Options for a sunnier location include assorted sedums, juniper, vinca, lysmachia, ivy, and thyme. As with all plantings, they will need a little more attention on your part for the first growing season. Additional moisture is needed to help them establish a healthy root system, which will help keep the soil intact and then maintaining the space will be much easier than mowing!|
|We have had our Knock Out roses for four years. I believe I over-fertilized them last year and want to know what I should do? Linda, Vonore|
|Hi, Linda in Tennessee: It is easy to over-fertilize our plants. We want them to be beautiful and bloom as much as possible so we feed them, and as a result they produce abundant blooms and everyone is happy. This is all fine and dandy until we get carried away with the fertilizer and it has the opposite results of what we were hoping for. Over-fertilizing can be very detrimental to plant material, causing them to be stressed. Initial signs are wilting and leaf curl of the foliage, tip burn, and discoloration. A once-healthy green plant may turn bluish/green or yellow at the edges and may have a different texture than it once had. Nutrient toxicity is harmful to our plants, which is why it is so important to follow recommended application rates for the product you are using, either granular or liquid. For now you might want to have your soil tested to see what the N-P-K levels are so you know where to start for this growing season. If your roses are too far gone, you may need to pull them out and replace them. It is always best to not fertilize new plantings for the first year. They should become established in the soil that exists naturally. It will give you a healthier plant in the long run. You may want to take a sample of your roses to your favorite garden center to have a horticulturist take a look, or you can always take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension office. This is also who you can contact to have your soil tested.|
|We have in our back yard a huge tree that flowers in a burgundy red shade. There is also an almost phallic type of very tall plant growing in a wild area at the entry to our street. It seems to look like a cactus with leaves instead of thorns. Valerie, Somerset|
|Hi, Valerie: Is it possible to send me a digital picture of the plants you want identified? You can send them to email@example.com. It is difficult to say what these plants are without having more information, such as the time of year they bloom, what color they bloom, a description of the foliage, and any other information you can provide.|
|We have maple tree stumps that every spring grow shoots like crazy. How can I get the stumps to die? We live in the country (well water) so we're concerned about contaminating the water supply. Sandy, Cottage Grove|
|Hi, Sandy: The roots of some maples can be very aggressive. This is true even after the trees have been removed if the stumps are not ground out. So, this would be one option for dealing with the suckers. Having the stumps ground out will help prevent any suckers from forming. This would be the most expensive but most effective method. Cutting back the suckers with a pair of pruners as soon as you notice them will eventually slow them down. They are pushing out growth in order to photosynthesize, but if you do not allow this to happen the roots will not survive. Slowly but surely this process will work, but you have to stay on top of it and not let the suckers get out of control. You can either just cut them back or cut them back and then apply a small amount of Roundup to the tip of the sucker. You can purchase either a ready-to-use spray or a concentrated form and apply with a paint brush. Using such a small amount of this product will not contaminate your well water since it will be taken up and absorbed by the plant and will not ever come into contact with your water source.
|We have two arborvitae bushes in our yard and our dog urinates on them causing them to turn brown toward the bottom. Is there any way to bring them back? Dawn, Tiltonsville|
|Hello, Dawn: Being a gardener and a dog owner can sometimes be a challenge, but we have to remember that it is their living space too. Training our four-legged friends is our job so that we can all live together and keep our plants happy as well. Dog urine is alkaline and over time it can alter the pH of the soil and damage plant material. This is especially true if they use the same space every time they relieve themselves, in combination with little or no water. Encouraging them to use the bathroom elsewhere is essential in terms of saving your evergreens. If you can water the soil around your arborvitae shortly after they are urinated on it will help dilute the urine but this may run into an issue of too much moisture. As far as encouraging your dog to use the bathroom besides under your arborvitae there are nontoxic products available that are made specifically for repelling dogs. Liquid Fence makes one that is ready to spray, made of natural plant oils such as citronella and cinnamon oils. It is environmentally safe and not harmful to the dogs. The scent is a natural deterrent. These kinds of products will have to be re-applied every few months or more after a heavy rainfall. Otherwise, adding layers of pine cones around your evergreens or using a border will also help to deter them. Unfortunately, once evergreens turn brown there is nothing we can do to turn that foliage green again. It should be removed from the plant and discarded. For now it is a waiting game: only time will tell if your arborvitae are going to put on new growth or if the rest of the foliage is going to turn brown as well.
|We just planted a 10-foot moskogee crape myrtle in an area of our yard that gets sun from 12 p.m.-7 p.m. We planted it the day before yesterday, watered it well, and then it rained all day the next day. The third day, it was about 70 degrees, windy, and I just noticed that it has wilted leaves and powdery mildew (even after we had just treated it with a Bayer brand fungus spray for trees). Is it wilting because of shock or disease? It seems like it had enough water because of the rainy day, but I didn't water it today. Please help. I don't want my tree to die! Kristi, Concord|
|Hi, Kristi: It sounds like you chose a good space for planting your crape myrtle. It will be happy with the amount of sunlight it will receive in that space. There is always a certain amount of transplant stress involved with planting a new tree. Minimizing the stress is important for a healthy long-lived tree. Proper planting is just as important as watering or any other aspect of tree care. The hole should have been dug just as deep as the container it was purchased in and twice as wide. This allows space for the roots to expand. How much did you water and was the rain a soaking rain or just a drizzle? Remember only to water the roots and not the foliage of your tree. Watering the leaves can cause problems such as powdery mildew. Did this tree have powdery mildew when you purchased it? When did you spray the fungicide? It is hard to say what is causing your tree to wilt but I would guess it is probably a watering issue. Does the soil drain well in the space where you planted it? The new plantings should be watered two to three times per week for the first couple of months. A thin layer of mulch will help keep the soil moist. Make sure not to pile the mulch up on the trunk of the tree and keep it 2 inches or less in thickness. You might call the garden center/nursery and see if they have someone who can come take a look at your new planting. For now keep the soil evenly moist, do not spray, and avoid fertilizing for the first year.|
|We live in Brooklyn, NY, and have a container garden. We didn't trim back a couple of our grasses in the fall. Is it too late to trim them back now?
|Hello, Dahlia & Michelle: One of the great things about ornamental grasses is that they are very low-maintenance. They need to be cut back once a year but are not too picky about when this happens. Some varieties hold up better during the winter than others that tend to flop. For this reason, some gardeners purposely leave them up all winter long while others cut them back. Just make sure they are cut back before they start to put on new growth in the spring. When you remove the dead foliage, it helps to tie a string around the grass and then take a pair of loppers or pruners and cut the grass back to just a couple of inches. This allows for an easy cleanup. Remember to wear gloves when dealing with grasses, as some of them are razor-sharp and will give you a mean paper-like cut. So, no rush to get this project done unless they are not aesthetically pleasing and you want tidy up your container garden. Grasses will benefit from being divided every few years, especially when grown in a container.|
|We lost a large Bradford pear during the ice storm and now we want to plant some fast-growing shrubs in the same area. They can be blooming or not blooming, but we do want to be able to plant them in the next few days. None of the local nurseries have forsythia (our first thought) and we don't know what else would be good. Can you suggest several shrubs we might be able to find in Lexington? S.J., Lexington|
|Hi, S.J.: This past winter’s ice storm damaged hundreds of trees, but it does not surprise me that your Bradford pear was one of them. They are beautiful while they are in bloom, but they structurally are not considered strong trees. So think of this as an opportunity to plant something more desirable and durable. Not knowing your specific requirements, I am guessing that anything that has the same growing requirements and characteristics of forsythia would be an option. The following are suggestions for a sun-loving shrubs that do not have restrictions in terms of height and width and can be deciduous. Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous shrub that produces red berries during the winter months. Witch hazel (Hamamelis) are also deciduous blooming shrubs. Many of the viburnums would work for your space, as well as abelia, caryopteris, and various hydrangeas that will take more sun than others, such as ‘Limelight' or ‘Annabelle.’ You might even consider using ornamental grass. Since you want to plant in the next day or so, you are limited to what your local garden centers/nurseries have in their stores, but I hope this gives you some options to consider. If you can find and purchase larger plants it will give you instant gratification.|
|We recently purchased a new property and it has an oak tree about 20 feet tall that we would like to relocate. Is this too big to attempt it and what chances of survival does it have? Janine, Eminence|
|Hello, Janine in Kentucky: Congratulations on your new purchase. If you want to move the tree to allow more light you may just want to have it pruned. In general, members of the Quercus genus do not transplant very well, especially if grown from an acorn since they will have a tap root as a young tree. Given the size of your tree and depending on the species, your oak is probably around 10 years old. The odds are against you in terms of a successful transplant, not to mention the cost of having it moved. Some oaks are more worthy of growing than others and having it removed may be another, less expensive option. It would be a good idea to have an ISA certified arborist come out and identify the species as well as give you their opinion on pruning and/or removing. For a ISA certified arborist in your area you can contact the Henry County Cooperative Extension Service. The horticulture/agriculture agent(s) will be able to help you. Their Web site is http://henry.ca.uky.edu.|
|We want to dig up our azaleas and plant roses. Do we need to do anything to the soil before we plant the roses?
|Hello, Kathy: The first thing to consider would be the amount of sunlight that this area receives. Azaleas can handle morning sun but prefer to be shaded from the hot afternoon sun. Roses, on the other hand, will take as much sun as they can get. They require a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight; eight or more would be ideal. So as long as this space is a good environment for roses to thrive, it would be a good time of the year to get them in the ground. As for the soil, you can always have your soil tested through your County Cooperative Extension Service for a minimal fee. The results will indicate if you need to amend the soil. If you have not added anything to the soil in a couple years, it certainly would not hurt to do so. After you remove the azaleas, you can work compost into the soil before planting your roses. Mr. Natural has a line of amendments made for the home gardener that are bagged and easy to handle. You can call around to your local garden centers to see what they carry in terms of amending your soil. Really the best thing to do would be to have your soil tested to know exactly what you need to add, if anything.|
|We want to put Leland pine trees around our property line where the soil stays pretty wet; what kind of trees would you use? Oakley, Limestone|
|Hello, Oakley in Tennessee: I am glad you asked about planting suggestions before you invested the time and money to install Leyland cypress (I assume this is what you were referring to). These evergreens have a reputation for breaking during any inclement weather due to their growth habit. The also have very brittle wood that makes them more susceptible to injury from wind/ice and whatever else Mother Nature shakes up. Not to mention, they do not tolerate poorly drained soils. I assume you are gardening in clay soil and the more compact it is the longer it takes for excess moisture to be absorbed. This may not be the best choice for your perimeter planting. You did not mention any shade concerns so I am going to assume that this area receives full sun to part shade. If you are looking specifically for an evergreen that will provide year-round interest you might consider either Thuja occidentalis (Eastern arborvitae) or Chamaecyparis thyoides (Southern white cedar); both of these are native trees and will tolerate wet soils. The arborvitae will reach 40-60 feet tall and 15-20 wide at maturity. The Chamaecyparis will reach 50 feet tall and 10-20 feet wide. If you want deciduous tree options, both Taxodium distichum ‘Shawnee Brave’ (bald cypress) and Betula nigra (river birch) would be good choices.|
|What are the flowers planted along the interstates in Kentucky? They are so pretty, I would like to have a bed in my yard. Anna, Leitchfield|
|Hi, Anna: I am sorry I do not have a specific answer for you. There are so many interstates here in Kentucky and they all have different plantings. Can you give me any details in terms of color, height/width, the time of year they bloom, or even possibly a picture? If you can snap a picture, that would be great. You can send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
. Let me know and hopefully I can give you a more informative answer.|
|What do you call the disease when a plant won't bear fruit or grow? Nannette, Rome|
|Hello, Nannette in Rome: When any plant is not growing or producing fruit as it should be, this means it is under some sort of stress. Not knowing exactly what kind of plant you are referring to, I cannot give you specifics in terms of light, soil, and optimal growing conditions. As with all plant material, it is best to give it optimal growing conditions in order for it to thrive. Nutrient-rich, well-drained soil is also important for fruit-bearing plants. Good air circulation is essential for reducing the possibility of insect and disease problems. If this is a fruit-bearing plant, it will most likely need to be grown in a space where it will receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. If you can give me more details about the plant you are growing, I would be happy to elaborate. Any information about the physical characteristics of the plant, where it is growing, how long you have had it, and if you know what it is would be helpful.|
|What is causing leaves to turn brown and crisp on many of the plants in my garden? Joanne, San Diego|
|Hello, Joanne in California: Brown tips on plant foliage can be an indication of a few different things, but since it seems to be happening to a lot of different plants in your garden, we can rule out potential leaf diseases. These tend to be specific to each plant, so I suspect the reason is inadequate moisture levels. If you have not had sufficient rainfall, the plants will start to brown at the tips. This is especially true for new additions to the garden or established plants coming out of the winter season with not enough moisture. If the plants are suffering from drought stress and then exposed to higher temperatures/humidity, they will begin to brown at the tips and then farther down the leaf if not given additional moisture. This kind of stress can lead to other issues so if you need to hand water, then do so to prevent further browning of the foliage. It is always best to water during the morning hours and to avoid overhead watering. When water is left on the foliage and not allowed to dry before nightfall then fungal issues can occur. Water the base of the plant so it reaches the roots and the plant can take up the needed moisture. A thin layer of mulch will help keep the soil from drying out so fast. Mulching will also help reduce the number of weeds that will compete for the moisture. One inch of water per week during the growing season will keep your plants happy. Typically Mother Nature provides enough rainfall during the spring but this is not always true. For aesthetic purposes you can trim off the brown tips with a clean pair of gardening scissors.|
|What is the best fern to plant in shade as a perennial in Kentucky and when do I plant it? Shirley, Richmond|
|Hello, Shirley: There a great number of ferns that we can grow in our woodland, shade-loving, perennial gardens here in Kentucky. The ideal planting time is during the fall months when the temperatures are cooler and the plants can become settled before the winter arrives. They can be planted in the spring as well as the summer months, as long as you or someone else will be in town to keep them watered. Planting in the fall is less stressful on the ferns and less maintenance on your part in terms of watering. The following is a list of Kentucky native ferns: leatherwood fern (Dryopteris marginalis), maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), royal fern (Osmunda regalis), Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), and sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis). Other ferns that worth planting include: tassel fern (polystichum), autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora), ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), wood fern (Dryopteris australis), holly fern (Cyrtomium falcatum), ghost fern (polystichum x 'Ghost'), rock fern (polystichum tsus-simense) and Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum). There are so many to choose from. Visit your local garden center and see what they have available.
|What is the best way to get rid of cockleburs from the garden? Sally, Beattyville|
|Hi, Sally: Cocklebur (Xanthium) belong to the Asteraceae family. These annual weeds are commonly found in pastures and ditches. They can be a real nuisance and pose a threat to any livestock. Cockleburs flower during the late summer into the fall and eventually the hard spiny burrs develop, usually containing two seeds each. One of these seeds will germinate this spring and the second will not germinate until the following spring. Not allowing them to flower is key to eliminating seed dispersal, which is its only means of reproduction. Unfortunately these burrs will attach themselves to anything they touch so distribution is not limited. Effective control methods will depend on individual situations but spot spraying with a pre-emergent as well as a post-emergent herbicide such as Round-up containing 2,4-D and or glyphosate, specifically made for broadleaf weeds, is an option. Corn gluten is an organic option as a pre-emergent. As with all pre-emergents they do not allow seeds to germinate so it should not be used where you have intentionally planted seeds. These plants have taproots so hand digging is not the best option. Mowing the area, if possible, will prevent the weeds from flowering, which will prevent future plants but not for immediate control. It will take a few years to eliminate these weeds but keep in mind that weeds are easier to control as they first emerge.|
|What kind of trees or shrubs should I get for the clay soil I have around my house? It doesn't drain well. Ina, Mayfield|
|Hello, Ina: There are many plants that thrive in moist conditions. I am not sure what you are dealing with in terms of light conditions but I would assume you have more sun than shade since you mentioned there are no existing trees. So, as far as sun-loving perennials that will grow in moist conditions the following are a few possibilities: swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnate), turtlehead (Chelone), sneezeweed (Helenium), swamp sunflower (Helinthus), daylily (Hemerocallis), hibiscus (Swamp Rose Mallow), bee balm (Monarda), blue flag iris (Iris versiclor), cardinal flower (Lobelia) and black-eyed-Susan (Rudbeckia nitida). Ornamental grasses are also a good option: carex, acornus, juncus, miscanthus, and switchgrass would all be happy in these conditions. Some shrub options include: bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora), sweetshrub (Clethra alnifolia), sweetspire (Itea virginica), and viburnum nudum. Tree options include: bald cypress, swamp white oak, dawn redwood, silky and gray dogwood, sweetgum, and river birch. Check with your local garden centers to see what they carry and if they have any sales coming up. Most nurseries and garden centers have summer sales. You can usually find some good deals but just make sure you are going to be in town to water your new plantings! You may even check with your landlord to see if they will share the expense with you. Landscaping will certainly attract more wildlife.
|What pecan and English nut trees do well here, where can I get them, and how do I plant and care for them? How and when do I propogate crape myrtle? Does pompas grass do well here? What are some edible greens for this area, and when do I plant?
Ethel, Bowling Green|
|Hello, Ethel: Here in Kentucky we can grow many nut trees such as hazelnuts, hickory, black walnuts, and Chinese chestnuts, just to name a few. As for pecans, we are limited to the Northern varieties because of the length of our growing season. Kentucky, Pawnee, and Yates are all good cultivars. For other cultivar suggestions and more information on other nut trees we can grow, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id77/id77.pdf
. This publication also has planting and care information on growing nut trees. Check with your local garden centers to see what they carry. Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery is a reputable source to purchase from here in Kentucky. Visit their Web site at www.nolinnursery.com
Crape myrtles can be propagated by seed but they are typically propagated by cuttings, both hardwood and softwood. Hardwood cuttings are taken from older woodier growth, usually during the late fall through winter when the plant is not actively growing. Softwood cuttings are taken from new growth, during the spring and summer months while the plant is putting on new growth. At this point you could take a softwood cutting if you did it soon or wait until the crape myrtle has dropped its foliage and then take a hardwood cutting. Either way, make your cuttings between 4-6 inches long. Make sure your pruners are clean and sharp. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone that you should be able to find at your local garden center, and then plant about 1 inch deep into a small container no bigger than 4 inches. Make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes. It is best to use a mixture of half-sand and half-peat or perlite. Ideally you want to have your containers prepped before taking your cuttings because you do not want them to dry out. After they are potted up, water them well and cover them with a clear plastic bag to create a mini greenhouse. Use a bamboo stake or a stick to make sure the bag does not touch the cutting. Place in an area with filtered light, avoiding direct sun. Do not let the soil completely dry out but you never want it sopping wet either. If there is condensation on the bag you will not need to water. The cutting should root within three to four weeks. For more detailed information on propagation, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho67/ho67.pdf
Cortaderia selloana, commonly known as pampas grass, is native to South America. It is hardy to zone 7. I believe you are gardening in zone 6 so, it would be considered marginal and likely not survive the winter temperatures where you live. There are, however, many ornamental grasses that you can grow and will give you the same look as the pampas grass. Miscanthus grass, commonly known as maiden grass, and Calamagrostis, commonly referred to as feather reed grass, are both great options.
Edible greens are cool-season crops for us in Kentucky. This means that we can enjoy them in our garden during the spring and the fall when the temperatures are cooler. Lettuce, spinach, kale, arugula, and chard, just to name a few, can all be planted by seed or starter plants. Always follow the planting guidelines on the seed packet. Now is a great time to add greens to the fall garden.
|What plants can survive the winter?
|Hi, Mike in North Carolina: There are many plants that will survive the winter, it just depends on what you are looking for. According to the USDA hardiness zone map, Winston-Salem is zone 7, which means plants that are labeled zone 7 can handle winter temperatures to 0 degrees F. There are always exceptions but most trees and shrubs, both evergreen and deciduous, sold at the garden centers in your area will survive the winter. All perennials, ornamental grasses, and groundcovers for your zone will survive the winter; they may die back to the ground but will emerge again in the spring. As a general rule all plants that are not considered annuals or tropical for your gardening zone will survive the winter temperatures. Most tropicals can be over-wintered indoors but annuals are better off planted once a year. It is hard to give you specific plant choices not knowing what you are after, but if you want to send more detailed information in terms of what you are looking for I will be happy to suggest some options.|
|What should I do about Veronia, gallardia, and other perennials that have fallen over after a hard rain? Cathy, Warsaw|
|Hi, Cathy: I apologize, I just realized that I sent you an answer to a question that was not yours. Sorry about that. So, as far as your perennials that have fallen over from the hard rain you have a couple of options. You can do nothing and let the plants do what they will. It certainly is not going to hurt your plants to leave them splayed out but if it bothers you in terms of aesthetics you can always stake them. As I mentioned in the other answer there are many stakes available but you can create your own with some bamboo and fishing line. The last option would be to cut them back, not to the ground but far enough so that they stand upright again (if they are not already). The foliage needs to remain on the plant to help it store nutrients for next season. Cutting them back a bit can also encourage them to push out a few more blooms. Thanks for your patience!|
|What type hedge or something would you suggest for an area that would be running above and close to a septic tank? I want to cover the area where I ran my downspouts for my guttering. The soil is sandy and the area gets sun most of the day. Ronald, Somerset|
|Hello, Ronald: There are many factors to consider when deciding what to plant above a buried septic tank. I am assuming that the space in question does not include your drainfield. The main consideration is going to be the root system of the plants and how deep they are expected to grow in comparison with the depth of the tank/lines. Any plant material that has an extensive root system should be avoided. Shallow-rooted herbaceous plants that will not invade the lines of the septic tank are essential in preventing damage. This means you do not want to plant any large trees, especially maples, willows, or poplars. Native grasses and wildflowers would be a good choice since you are dealing with a space that gets a good amount of sunlight. Shooting Star Nursery has a wet grassland seed mix or a wet prairie mix that has grasses as well as native wildflowers that would be a good choice. For more information, visit www.shootingstarnursery.com/grasseed.html. Groundcovers such as ivy or vinca would also work, but it sounds like you want something a bit taller. Boxwoods and smaller hollies are evergreens that do not have an extensive root system. Do not use a tiller when planting in this space. Hand digging would be best, or if you want to plant seed and wait for it to grow this would be ideal. Otherwise, be very careful when digging. Do not plant any edible crops in this space.|
|What type of almond tree will grow in Bowling Green and who sells it? Ethel, Bowling Green|
|Hello, Ethel: The only kind of almond tree that will grow in Kentucky is the ornamental flowering almond; both the dwarf flowering almond (Prunus glandulosa) and the flowering almond or plum (Prunus tribola) have their issues. The dwarf almond tends to be very short-lived. This plant in particular can start to decline after only three to 10 years. Prunus triloba is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 3-6(7) so it may struggle during the hot summer months. These plants are nice while they are in bloom but there is nothing spectacular about them during the rest of the year. In terms of where to purchase this plant you may be able to find them in your box stores such as The Home Depot or Lowe's. I would be surprised if you found them in any reputable nursery because of their hardiness and longevity issues. There are many species and hybrids belonging to the Prunus genus that would be more suitable for us in Kentucky. Prunus ‘Hally Jolivette’ is a hybrid cherry that is a good option if you are looking for a spring flowering tree. Yoshino cherry would also be a good option. I am not familiar with the garden centers/nurseries in Bowling Green but you can contact Carol Schreiber, the Warren County horticulture agent, at (270) 842-1681. She should be able to give you local recommendations.
|What type of monkey grass or grass is used in between stepping stone sidewalks instead of concrete or gravel? Jeannine, New Braunfels|
|Hi, Jeannine: Planting in between your stepping stones allows for drainage as opposed to hardscaping or sealing the entire space, which does not allow for drainage and can produce excess runoff. So it is better for the environment and gives the landscape a softer look. Planting grass in between your stepping stones is an option, but one that will require maintenance since it would still need to be trimmed. There are many other alternatives for planting in between your stepping stones. First, it is important to determine how much sunlight the area receives on a daily basis and how much foot traffic is expected. Some plants can handle heavier traffic than others. Many garden centers offer stepables that are low-growing hardy perennials used for this purpose. Some sun to part-sun choices are Veronica ‘Heavenly Blue’ and various sedums such as ‘John Creech’ and ‘Angelina.’ Some shadier options are ajuga ‘Chocolate Chip,’ golden creeping Jenny (Lysmachia), various thyme, Irish moss (Sagina subulata), Mondo grass, and several epimediums. You might want to check with your local garden centers/County Cooperative Extension Service since you are gardening in a different zone than we are in Kentucky. There may be other options for your garden.
|What types of native and/or cultivated plants will thrive in clay, mostly shaded soil? Ginger, Bowling Green|
|Hello, Ginger in Kentucky: Clay soil does have its challenges when it comes to gardening, and here in Kentucky this is the soil type that we are dealing with. Clay soil does hold moisture and nutrients better than silt or sandy soils do, but if compacted, clay soil can make it difficult for roots to spread, air to circulate, and excess moisture to drain. If you are gardening in new construction or if your soil has never been amended, it would be beneficial to add some organic matter to the existing soil. Working compost as well as an expanded slate product such as Permatill into the soil will help to break up the clay and improve drainage. Once your soil has been amended and you are ready to plant, there are many options for a shade-loving garden. Visit your local garden centers to see what they carry. Any reputable garden center/nursery will only carry plant material that will do well in your area. Some native perennial options include: Tiarella (foam flower), Dicentra (bleeding heart), Mertensia (bluebells), Aquilegia (columbine), Asarum (wild ginger), Spigelia, and Podophyllum (May apple). Some other shade-loving perennials that you might consider are of course ferns and hostas, lily-of-the-valley, plumbago, Euphorbia, and Helleborus (Lenten rose). Some of these will do better than others depending on the available sunlight as well as nutrients. Some shade-loving shrubs include: azaleas, pieris, hydrangea, aucuba, boxwood, taxus and mahonia.|
|What would be some good full-sun groundcover or perennials for a sloping hillside? The first 25 feet of the hillside is rather flat but becomes rather steep and that part is not mowable. The steep part I need ideas to help with erosion control. Kathy, Alexandria|
|Hi, Kathy: Planting on a slope can be tricky but if you choose the right plant material it will help with erosion and keep the maintenance down on your part in terms of mowing. There are a variety of sedums (also known as stonecrop) that would work well in your situation. They are all sun lovers that are available as groundcovers as well as taller perennials and once established are very low maintenance. They are succulents and will not require as much moisture as other plants. Other options for the steeper space include lower growing juniper such as ‘Grey Owl,’ vinca, lysmachia, ivy, plumbago, and perennial thyme. Ornamental grasses would be a good option for the first 25 feet as well as Russian sage or an assortment of sun-loving perennials. Visit your local garden center to see what is available. Erosion control does not seem to be much of an issue for the first 25 feet so choosing plants for this space will not be as limited as they will for the sloping area. As with all plantings, they will need a little more attention on your part for the first growing season. Additional moisture is needed to help them establish a healthy root system, which will help keep the soil intact and then maintaining the space will be much easier than mowing.|
|What would be the best lawn grass to plant for my area? I intend to kill off the current lawn and the weeds using Roundup. Le Roy, Munfordville|
|Hello, Le Roy in Kentucky: Here in Kentucky we have two different time frames to take advantage of the cooler temperatures as well as moisture levels for seeding our lawns. The first time frame is early spring when the daytime temperatures are warm but the nights are still cool, and the next opportunity is during the fall before the nighttime temperatures get too cold. Mother Nature usually provides us with more moisture during the spring so this would be less maintenance on your part, but if you do not want to wait this long, later in the fall will be your next opportunity. This will also give you time to do a total kill on your existing grass and have time to prep the soil before seeding. It is important to choose a grass that will do well in your area. Tall fescue is one that will do well throughout our state, but Kentucky Bluegrass does well in eastern and central Kentucky, and Bermuda or zoysiagrass does well in western Kentucky. Hart County is just on the central/western line so you might want to check with your county Extension office for specifics. You can visit the Hart County Web site at http://ces.ca.uky.edu/Hart. Different grass seed requires different rates of application, so keep this in mind when purchasing the seed. We also have to take the light conditions into consideration when choosing the best seed. You might also ask your agent about having your soil tested to determine lime and fertilizer levels before you seed. Preparing the soil is important in terms of removing rocks and other debris that may be in the way. It is necessary to loosen the soil before seeding. Unfortunately, we cannot just throw seed on the surface and expect it to germinate, so there is some preparation involved. After you have seeded, remember to water and you might also want to mulch to help retain the moisture.
|What would be the best shade tree to plant in Logan County and what about the coffee tree? Louis, Adairville|
|Hello, Louis: Choosing a shade tree that will work in your space is certainly something to ponder. It should not be a rash decision but one that is carefully thought out. There are many factors to take into account, including soil type, drainage, available sunlight, deciduous or evergreen, and space restrictions. And of course, personal preferences in terms of bloom and fall color, bark characteristics, and structure. Once a list has been made of trees that will be happy living in the environment you can provide, the decision can be made on a more personal level. Gymnocladus dioicus, commonly known as Kentucky coffee tree, is our state tree and a great choice. It has interesting bark and colorful foliage beginning as a mauve, turning to a blue-green, and then yellow in the fall. It can reach 75 feet tall and 50 feet wide. This native tree has no serious disease or insect problems. The female produces fruit pods. Other options to consider include Gingko ‘Autumn Gold,’ Zelkova ‘Green Vase,’ red maple ‘October Glory,’ and bald cypress ‘Shawnee Brave,’ just to name a few. These are all deciduous trees that reach upward of 50 feet. For a more detailed list of larger and smaller trees, visit the following publication available from our Cooperative Extension Service: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho61/ho61.pdf. This reliable source of information has an extensive list of trees suitable for Kentucky landscapes.
|What would happen if i used a different light on my sunflower? Alycia, Stockton|
|Hello, Alycia: I am not clear on the current growing conditions of your sunflowers (Helianthus). There are many varieties of sunflowers and hence their name; they are all sun lovers and require a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day. They will not thrive if not given enough light so make sure they are given optimal sun exposure. The soil conditions are just as important in growing a healthy and happy sunflower. The soil should be nutrient-rich and well-drained. Adding compost to the soil before planting will be beneficial or side dressing throughout the growing season will also work. Growing sunflowers in the garden is a great way to attract birds, bees, and butterflies.
|When can I cut back my butterfly bush and very tall thick trucked rose bush? Henry, Louisville|
|Hello, Henry in Kentucky: The best time to prune both your rose and your butterfly bush is late winter/early spring before new growth begins. Pruning while they are dormant will make them less susceptible to winter injury and other potential problems. If your reason for pruning is to remove dead/diseased or crossing canes, this can and should be done as soon as you notice them regardless of the time of year. As a general rule, it is best not to remove more than one-third of the rose each season. Do this year after year to maintain the size you want. Butterfly bushes (Buddleia) are very forgiving, tolerant of being mistreated, and hard pruning is encouraged. They bloom on new wood, meaning that the buds are formed on the current season's growth, so pruning will invigorate your shrub and provide you with many blooms. Pruning is also used to maintain the shape you are after. Prune your butterfly bush as far back as a foot or two from the base of the plant. When pruning anything in the garden, make sure to use a clean, sharp, and rust-free pair of pruners. Make your cuts flush to the nearest intersecting branch so there are no stubs. If you have not already mulched, go ahead and put down a 2-inch layer, surrounding the plant to give the roots some winter protection.|
|When do I cut back my butterfly bush? Wilma, Somerset|
|Hello, Wilma: Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is a wonderful addition to any sun-loving garden, especially if your goal is to attract wildlife. Hence the name, these plants are certain to attract butterflies and even hummingbirds. The best time to prune these sub-shrubs is late winter or early spring while they are resting and before they put on new growth. Pruning our plants encourages them to put on new growth, so doing this in the late summer or fall will make any new tender growth very susceptible to frost damage. Butterfly bushes bloom on new wood (current season's growth) so they can be pruned back hard, but avoid removing any woody growth. Ideally you want to cut it back to around 12 inches. This will encourage larger flowers as opposed to not pruning at all. Butterfly bushes are woody near the base of the plant but produce new herbaceous growth year after year, which is why they are classified as a sub-shrub. When it is time to prune, make certain that your tools are clean and sharp. For now make sure that your butterfly bush has no more than a couple inches of mulch around the base of the plant to protect the roots from the upcoming winter weather. Next summer as your plant blooms and the flowers fade, it is a good idea to remove the spent flowers. This will promote the plant to continue blooming throughout the season and into the fall.|
|When do second-year Knock Out roses bloom in Kentucky? Don, Louisville|
|Hello, Don in Kentucky: The answer to your question depends on Mother Nature, but Knock Out roses typically bloom from mid spring through the fall if planted in ideal growing conditions. They should be grown in nutrient–rich, well-drained soil and receive plenty of sunlight; six or more hours is necessary for optimal blooms. Last year was their first growing season in their new home and they may not have not bloomed like you anticipated, but hopefully it is just that they were concentrating their energy establishing their roots at the expense of flowering. This is perfectly normal and essential for a long-lived, healthy plant. Established Knock Out roses will go through cycles of blooms each season but for the most part will always provide color to the garden. At this point they should have started putting on new growth and forming buds but not flowering quite yet. If you did not feed your roses last fall you may want to go ahead and do so now. Any granular or liquid rose food will do but granular will have to be applied less often. There are a lot of fertilizers made specifically for roses but any all-purpose fertilizer will do. Over-feeding our plants can stop them from blooming so it is always important to use recommended application rates. It won’t be long and your roses will be full of colorful flowers.|
|When is a good time to cut rose bushes back? Mary, Louisville|
|Hi, Mary: We as gardeners prune to thin, shape, and rejuvenate our flowering shrubs. The correct time to prune them depends on what the shrub is and what time of year it blooms. As a general rule we prune spring-flowering shrubs after they have finished blooming. This includes all plants that flower before June 1. For the summer-flowering shrubs, those that bloom after June 1, they should be pruned during the winter months or in the early spring before new growth begins. Roses are considered summer-flowering shrubs even though they may bloom before June 1. So, the best time to prune roses is late winter/early spring before new growth begins. Pruning now may encourage new growth that can be damaged by any early frosts. Pruning while they are dormant will make them less susceptible to winter injury and other potential problems. If your reason for pruning is to remove dead/diseased or crossing canes, go ahead and get your pruners out. Otherwise, waiting until later in the winter would be in the best interest of your roses. As a general rule, it is best not to remove more than one-third of the size of the rose at one time. Do this year after year to maintain the size you want. Use a clean, sharp, and rust-free pair of pruners. Make your cuts flush to the nearest intersecting branch so there are no stubs. If you need proper pruning instructions visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho59/ho59.htm
|When is the best time of year to plant crapemyrtle bushes? Robbie, Fenton|
|Hi, Robbie: This time of the year crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia) is a delight to have in any sun-loving, southern garden. These plants are available in an array of colors and sizes. With all the new cultivars our options in terms of size and color are certainly not limited. As for planting these shrubs/trees the ideal time is after the frost-free date for your area has passed and before the first hard freeze in the fall/winter. Summer planting is fine as long as you are going to be around to water. As with any new addition to the garden it is essential that the crapemyrtle get sufficient moisture while it is becoming established. For most Kentucky gardeners we are on the low end of the hardiness for these plants so we have to be careful not to plant them too early or too late in the season. If we have a really cold winter they can die back to the ground but they will come back up next spring. That being said, we have had a beautiful ‘Acoma’ crapemyrtle planted for 11 years with no sign of winter damage, even through an ice storm. You may want to check your hardiness zone because I think you may be gardening in zone 5, which might be too cold for a crapemyrtle unless you have a microclimate in your garden. There are certain cultivars that seem to be hardier than others so check with your local garden centers to see what they suggest planting. Your County Cooperative Extension Service is always a reliable source of information as well.|
|When is the best time of year to prune or trim my lilac bushes?
|Hello, Paula: Lilacs (Syringa) are a wonderful treat for our senses. Each spring, healthy plants provide us with a bounty of fragrant flowers. Annual maintenance will help lilac shrubs in terms of vigor as well as overall appearance. Spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs should be pruned immediately after they have finished blooming. Pruning too early will remove potential flowers, and pruning too late can make them more susceptible to winter injury. So, after you have enjoyed this season's blooms, you can get out your pruning tools. Lilacs will benefit from being thinned, which means removing some of the older, woodier branches. This is especially true for the center of the plant where if it has not been thinned recently can become dense and does not allow for good air circulation or filtered sunlight. Both can lead to disease problems. If your lilacs are old and need to be rejuvenated, you can remove one-third of the old wood at this time of the year (late winter/early spring). Take the branches back all the way to the ground. Continue this over the next three years and your plants will be much happier. As always, make sure your pruning tools are clean and sharp. If you want more detailed information on pruning your lilacs, visit http://ces.ca.uky.edu/floyd-files/HO59.pdf
|When is the best time to replant to different locations for a peony, lily, and iris? The lily was a bulb I planted 10 years ago. They all are blooming very well. Hiroko, Bowling Green|
|Hi, Hiroko: When it comes to transplanting, there is always going to be a certain amount of stress involved. The idea is to create the least amount of stress on the plant as possible. Moving most perennials in the early spring is fine, and again in the fall is a good time as well. The only time you do not want to move them is during the heat of the summer and of course when the ground is frozen. Peonies can be a bit finicky when they are moved, and they actually transplant better in the fall. Since they will be flowering shortly in the garden, it may be best to wait until the fall to move your peony. As for your lily and iris, you can move them either now or in the fall. If you transplant later in the fall, you can cut back the perennials, making it easier to deal with. As you dig up the plants, try to keep as much of the root system/soil intact as possible. It is always a good idea to prepare the new holes before digging up any plant. The more time out of the soil the more likely the roots are to dry out. So get them back in the soil and watered as soon as possible. Make sure to move all these plants to a space where they will receive full to part sun with well-drained soil. Treat them like a new planting in terms of moisture and avoid fertilizing for the first year. Apply a thin layer of mulch to help keep the weeds down and the moisture in. Keep in mind that these plants may not flower as well as they normally do since their energy will be concentrated on the roots during the first year of growing in their new home.|
|When is the best time to separate hostas for more plantings? Also, where can we find the Knock Out Rose radsunny? Local garden centers don't seem to have them. Barb, Latonia|
|Hello, Barb: Hostas can be divided anytime from the spring through the early fall. The ideal time to divide them is now through September. Just be sure that you are going to be in town to water them while they are getting adjusted to their new home. When you decide to divide them, use a garden fork or spade and dig up the entire plant, being careful not to damage any of the roots in the process. After the plant is lifted out of the ground, lay it on its side and use your hands to pull apart the divisions. If the plant is very large and established, you may need to use your spade to divide the hosta. Make sure to keep as much of the root system intact as possible and transplant them immediately. Having your holes pre-dug is a great way to reduce stress during the process, and getting them back in the soil so the roots are not exposed to the heat and wind is essential for a successful transplant. Water well for the next month and avoid fertilizing at least until next spring. As for the newest Knock Out Rose, check around at your local garden centers to see if they carry the Sunny Knock Out Rose, or if this not a plant they usually have ask them if they could special order for you. In most cases any locally owned garden center or nursery is happy to oblige as long as they have access to these plants. In some cases the growers that they purchase from do not grow these plants so you would have to go another route. We do carry them at The Plant Kingdom in Louisville if you wanted to make the trip. We would be happy to hold one or more for you. Our Phone number is (502) 893-7333. There are several sources online if you wanted to mail order these roses.|
|When is the best time to set out new Knock Out roses? Sue, Gracey|
|Hello, Sue: For those of us gardening in Kentucky, Knock Out roses can be planted anytime except in the dead of winter. The ideal time for planting is during the fall when temperatures have dropped and they still have enough time to get their roots settled before the cold winter arrives. These prolific bloomers can certainly be planted in the spring as well as the summer months as long as they will be getting sufficient moisture. Planting in the middle of the summer is really just more maintenance on your part in terms of watering. We typically get enough moisture from Mother Nature during the spring for new additions, but our hot humid summer months are another story. If you will be in town to water or have someone who can water for you, I would say go ahead and plant them, otherwise it is better and less stressful on the roses to plant them in the fall. When you do add them to the garden, make sure they are being planted in a space where they will receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. If they are planted in too much shade, they will not bloom well and become more susceptible to insect and disease problems. After you have found a good space in the garden for them, dig your holes twice as wide and just as deep as the containers they were purchased in. It is best not to fertilize for the first year so they can become established in the environment that exists naturally. This is especially true in the fall since we do not want to encourage new growth that can be susceptible to frost damage. Water them well and make sure they receive an inch of water per week for the first month. If we get sufficient rainfall then there's no need to add additional water. It is always best to feel the soil for moisture before watering. The top layer of soil may be dry but a couple inches down may still have adequate moisture. Over-watering can be as detrimental as under-watering. A thin layer of mulch, no more than 2 inches, will help retain moisture levels, protect the roots during the winter months, and help prevent weeds.|
|When is the best time to shell pecans, when they first fall or let them season some? Louis, Adairville|
|Hello, Louis in Kentucky: Growing pecans in the home garden is a great way to provide your family and friends with a delicious snack. Pecans are loaded with vitamins and minerals; they are also a great source of fiber and heart-healthy fat. A happy, older tree will produce a nice crop of pecans that can be harvested in the fall after the hull or shuck has cracked open. This is a sign that the pecan has matured and is ready for harvest. Harvest only when mature and allow to dry for a couple weeks if you intend on storing them. A covered porch or any space that is not in direct light but allows for good air circulation is ideal for the drying process. Decreasing the moisture content will reduce potential mold issues. Both the shell and the nut will contain moisture when harvested so removing the shell will speed up the drying process. The younger the nut, the more moisture content it is going to have and this is important in terms of harvesting and storing. If your goal is to store them this can be done in or out of shell but just make sure they are allowed to dry before storing. Pecans should be stored in airtight containers so the nuts will not absorb surrounding odors. Pecans can be stored at room temperature as well as in the refrigerator or freezer. So, it is up to you if you want to shell them immediately to reduce the drying time or to leave them in the shell for storing purposes.|
|When is the best time to sow yard grass so it goes in and you don't have to disk it? Wilma, Somerset|
|Hello, Wilma:Here in Kentucky we have two different time frames to take advantage of the cooler temperatures as well as moisture levels for seeding our lawns. The first time frame, and usually the most successful, is from the middle of August until the middle of September. The next opportunity is mid-February to mid-March. It is just as important to choose a grass that will do well in your area. Tall fescue is one that will do well throughout our state, but Kentucky Bluegrass does well in eastern and central Kentucky, and Bermuda or zoysiagrass does well in western Kentucky. Different grass seed requires different rates of application, so keep this in mind when purchasing the seed. We also have to take the light conditions into consideration when choosing the best seed. You may want to contact your county Cooperative Extension agent to ask about local recommendations. You may also ask your agent about having your soil tested to determine lime and fertilizer levels before you seed. Preparing the soil is important in terms of removing rocks and other debris that may be in the way. It is important to loosen the soil before seeding but it is not necessary to use a disk. It depends on the size of the space you want to seed. It is best to loosen the soil and a rake might work just fine depending on how hard the surface of the soil is. We cannot just throw seed on the surface and expect it to germinate, so there is some preparation involved. It depends on the current condition of the existing soil. After you have seeded, remember to water and you may also want to mulch to help retain the moisture. Sodding is another option although a more expensive one; it can be done all year long except during the winter and hot, dry summers.|
|When is the best time to transplant a hibiscus? Melinda, Wayland|
|Hi, Melinda in Kentucky: Perennial hibiscus are show-stoppers with their large blooms. They can add a tropical feel to any sun-loving perennial garden. They can be a bit tricky to transplant but if done properly you can be successful. The best time to transplant your hibiscus is during the spring just as new growth starts or later in the winter. These plants are one of the last to break dormancy in the garden so you will have plenty of time to move them in this spring. When it is time to move them, have the new holes prepared before digging up the hibiscus. Be aware that these perennials have an extensive root system, and keeping as much of the root ball intact is essential for a successful transplant. The idea is to reduce the amount of transplant stress. Once you have gotten them out of the ground, place them on a tarp or a large piece of burlap to gently move them. Make sure the new holes as just as deep and twice as wide as the root ball. Plant them and treat them like you would any new addition to the garden. Additional moisture will be needed if it is a dry spring/summer. A thin layer of mulch will help retain moisture. Make sure to choose a space where the hibiscus will receive full to part sun. It may spend a lot of its energy getting its roots established so don’t be too concerned if it does not bloom like it has in previous years.|
|When is the best time to trim back a rose bush? If it's already started sprouting new growth, and you cut back farther, will it kill it or encourage more growth? Also, is now a good time to plant daylily bulbs? Ellie, Greenville|
|Hi, Ellie: The best time to prune roses is late winter/early spring before new growth begins. Pruning while they are dormant will make them less susceptible to winter injury and other potential problems. Since your rose has already broken dormancy, pruning now is not the best option, especially if you are pruning to control the size. If your reason for pruning is to remove dead/diseased or crossing canes, go ahead and get your pruners out. Otherwise, if you can wait until next winter it would be in the best interest of your roses. As a general rule, it is best not to remove more than one-third of the size of the rose. Do this year after year to maintain the size you want. Use a clean, sharp, and rust-free pair of pruners. Make your cuts flush to the nearest intersecting branch so there are no stubs. As for your daylilies, you can go ahead and plant them now. These tuberous rooted perennials are wonderful bloomers and add vibrant color to the summer garden. They are very tolerable of most soil conditions, but prefer to be planted in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. You can add a scoopful of compost to your soil when you plant your daylilies. They will bloom best when planted in full sun to part shade. Since we have had quite a bit of rain in the past few days, make sure the soil is not sopping wet when you plant. If so, give it time to dry out and then plant, otherwise rotting could become an issue.
|When is the best time to trim crape myrtle bush? And how do I winterize perennial plants that are grown in containers? Teresa, Manchester|
|Hello, Teresa: There are many varieties of crape myrtles (lagerstroemia). With all the new cultivars, these sun-loving plants are available in an array of colors as well as sizes. They are grouped into three categories: shrubs, multi-trunked trees, and single-trunked trees. The best time to prune your crape myrtle is during the winter or early spring months while the plant is dormant and before it puts on new growth. It is not necessary to prune your crape myrtle unless your intentions are to shape or turn a shrub into a tree form. If you have suckers growing up from the base of the plant, you should remove these as soon as you notice them. It is not necessary to prune your crape myrtle in order for it to bloom next summer. For more information on pruning trees here in Kentucky, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho45/ho45.htm.
Over-wintering perennials in containers is sometimes a risk, but it all depends on the hardiness of the plant in combination with the winter weather. For best results you want to make sure that the roots are insulated with plenty of soil surrounding them. The idea is to create an environment that is similar to being planted in the ground. One option is to actually plant the container in the ground. This may or may not be feasible depending on the size of your container. Good air circulation under the container is important. If the ground freezes and the container is in direct contact with the ground, it will freeze as well. If you can lift the container off the ground by placing a brick or something strong and sturdy under the container, it will allow for air to flow, reducing the chances of the container freezing and cracking, and exposing the soil/roots to the elements. Adding a thin layer of mulch, no more than 2 inches around the plants, will help to insulate them. You will want to stop feeding your plants at this point since encouraging them to put on new growth will make them more susceptible to winter damage. Plants still need moisture during the winter months but the amount they receive from rain and snow should be sufficient.
|When is the best to trim flowering trees? Brenda, Lafollette|
|Hello, Brenda: Pruning can be done to thin, shape, and rejuvenate our flowering shrubs. The correct time to prune them depends on what the shrub is and what time the year it blooms. As a general rule we prune spring-flowering shrubs after they have finished blooming. This includes all plants that flower before June 1. For the summer-flowering shrubs, those that bloom after June 1, they should be pruned during the winter months or in the early spring before new growth begins. It is best not to prune more than one-third of any shrub at one time. If you need to take more than one-third off your plant, do it during consecutive years. It is fine to prune any broken, diseased, or dead branches off as soon as you notice them. If you need proper pruning instructions visit: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho59/ho59.htm
|When should I cut back my butterfly bush, chrysanthemum, and crape myrtles? Wilma, Somerset|
|Hello, Wilma: The best time to prune your butterfly bush is during the late winter or early spring before it puts on any new growth. These plants bloom on new wood (current season's growth) so they can be pruned back hard, but avoid removing any woody growth. Ideally you want to cut it back to around 12 inches. This will encourage larger flowers as opposed to not pruning at all. When it is time to prune, make certain your tools are clean and sharp. Next summer as your plant blooms and the flowers fade, it is a good idea to remove the spent flowers. This will promote flowers throughout the season and into the fall. The best time to prune your crape myrtle is also during the winter or early spring months while the plant is dormant and before it puts on new growth. It is not necessary to prune your crape myrtle unless your intentions are to shape it or turn a shrub into a tree form. If you have suckers growing up from the base of the plant, you should remove these as soon as you notice them. It is not necessary to prune your crape myrtle in order for it to bloom next summer. As for your chrysanthemums it is hard to say if they will even survive the winter. There are some hardy cultivars but the majority of plants sold during the fall in garden centers are not considered winter-hardy. If these are plants you have had for a few years and are perennials in your garden they will die back to the ground in the winter and come back next spring. You can go ahead and remove all dead foliage at this point. For now make sure your plants are mulched with no more than a couple of inches to protect the roots from the winter weather.|
|When the yellow flowers of my mums died off I cut them back and fertilized them. Now the new flowers are red, not yellow: how can that be? Kathy, Spring Hill|
|Hello, Kathy in Florida: There are hundreds of species of chrysanthemums and even more cultivars. These plants have been intensely hybridized by professional growers and now there are thousands of hybrids to choose from. Chrysanthemums, commonly known as mums, are available as annuals as well as perennials. Because of the hybridization that has been done, these plants flower in almost any color; some are even two-toned. So, not to get into the specifics of developing a new flower color, but essentially the grower takes two parent plants that bloom different colors to create a new hybrid that blooms a blend of the two parents. Sometimes plants revert back to one of their parents, which is what happened to your mum. It was a hybrid and one of the parents had red blooms. It has nothing to do with removing the spent blooms or fertilizing. Flower color can change in some plants with environmental conditions but this is not the case with your chrysanthemum.|
|When watering outside flowers, either in the ground or in pots, should the water be poured on the plant or on the ground around the plant? I water the soil around the plant, but my husband just pours it period. We obviously disagree, so can you solve the problem? Bonnie, Bowling Green|
|Hello, Bonnie: It is nice you and your husband share in the watering of your plants. I do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but ideally we want to avoid the foliage and water only the soil when possible. This is not always easy to do. Containers are simpler when it comes to watering only the soil. We can hold the watering can or hose at the base of the plant, but in some cases overhead watering cannot be avoided. When we rely on the sprinkler or if we are watering a bed that a hose should not be dragged through, the foliage on our plants gets watered as well as the soil. Of course, Mother Nature is the best overhead waterer of all. The main reason we do not want to water the foliage is because it makes the plants more susceptible to mildew and other disease problems. This is especially true when we water in the late afternoon since the plants may not have time to absorb the moisture before nightfall. It is always best to water during the morning hours. Your plants are lucky to have two caring gardeners in the house!|
|Where can I buy Drift roses that you talked about in the March issue? Wanda, Louisville|
|Hello, Wanda in Kentucky: Spring is just around the corner and gardeners are getting anxious to start planting. Drift roses are a nice addition to a sun-loving garden. They are small and manageable, only reaching 1.5 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide at maturity. They are disease-resistant and best of all, they are repeat bloomers. There are less than 10 varieties currently on the market but in terms of color, there are red, pink, coral, white, and peach. As far as locating these roses, I know that The Plant Kingdom in Louisville currently has red, pink, swee, and apricot varieties. You can reach them at (502) 893-7333 for size and price options. As we get closer to spring, you should be able to find these at many of our local garden centers. Like any other rose, they are going to thrive in full sun and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. As you plan for your new additions, make sure they will have a sunny home and adequate nutrients.|
|Where can I find river soil near LaGrange for my garden? I heard it was the best soil from a Louisiana native. Dede, LaGrange|
|Hello, Dede in Kentucky: Soil composition varies greatly depending on what part of the country you live in, which in part explains why some plants thrive in certain regions and others don’t. Here in Kentucky our soil is predominantly a silt/loam mixture and it contains more clay than most soils do. For the most part our soils drain well if not compacted. If you are gardening on a new construction site, drainage will be an issue and you will want to amend with a bit of sand or an expanded slate product sold as Permatil. As for river soil, this is soil that has been excavated from the bottom of a river and is going to have more of a sandy makeup. If you need to add soil to your garden beds or you are creating a raised bed, it is important to purchase quality soil. If you are dealing with a large space you can buy soil in bulk or if it is a smaller garden you can purchase bagged. Bulk soil has been excavated and hopefully screened. Some companies offer soil that is already blended with sand and/or compost or you can add compost yourself. It is important not to work the soil if it is wet. This only compacts the soil further and inhibits air movement that is essential for plant health. You can always have your soil tested through your county cooperative Extension service. For a small fee they will send your samples off to the lab and your results will tell you current pH and nutrient/ mineral levels. This is helpful in understanding your soil and if it needs to be amended. Crane Landscaping on Old Lagrange Road offers bulk river soil. You can contact them at (502) 241-6489.|
|Where can I get Hamamelis x intermedia Jelena seeds or a plant? Carmen, Crestwood|
|Hello, Carmen in Kentucky: Witch hazels are a great plant to add to the landscape. They provide blooms in the winter when most things are dormant and not even thinking about blooming yet. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ has stunning coppery-orange blooms and, like all witch hazels, the foliage will provide a great fall show in the garden. These large, vase-shaped, deciduous shrubs get to a mature height of 10-15 feet tall and 10-12 feet wide. Be sure to choose a sunny location for planting and ample space so it can grow to its mature size without impeding on other plantings. As far as purchasing this cultivar I know that The Plant Kingdom on Westport Road has carried it in the past. If it is not currently in stock ask to be put on the wish list so they can call you when they get more in. Their phone number is (502) 893-7333. Another garden center in Louisville that may carry this cultivar is Wallitsch on Hikes Lane. They can be reached at (502) 454-3553. This is not a plant that will come true from seed so purchasing an actual specimen is the way to go. They are medium growers, so depending on how long you are willing to wait for it to mature you might consider purchasing a larger plant to start off with.|
|Where can I get a start of Bermuda grass? Kelly, Beattyville|
|Hello, Kelly: Bermudagrass (Cynodon dactylon) is a warm-season perennial grass that is considered an invasive weed in most of Kentucky. I was surprised to get your question because most people are trying to eliminate it from their yards! Bermuda grass is commonly found farther south but here in Kentucky it is typically used as forage or on athletic fields but not for home lawns, especially in urban areas. If your purpose for using bermudagrass is for hay or an athletic field visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/agr/agr48/agr48.pdf
. Although some areas in western Kentucky use Bermuda grass as lawn grass, for the rest of us there are many better options in terms of turf grass. If this is your goal visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/agr/agr52/agr52.htm
. As far as trying to locate a start of Bermuda grass you may be more successful locating seed but keep in mind there are different varieties and some are only available as sprigs, plugs, or sod. Unfortunately I do not have a reliable source for you but contacting the Lee County Extension agent at (606) 464-2759 may be helpful for local suggestions; otherwise contact your neighborhood lawn and seed suppliers. Purchasing from a reputable source is important for high-quality product.|
|Where is the cheapest and most trustworthy place to purchase Zoysia grass seed by the pound? Beverly, Owingsville|
|Hello, Beverly: Zoysia is a warm-season grass that is most commonly used for fairways and athletic fields because of its running/creeping growth habit. For this reason it is not typically used in the urban residential setting. Choosing the right grass for the right site is important in terms of creating a healthy, long-lived turf. Just as important is purchasing certified seed so that it does not contain any weed seed. As far as purchasing this seed, Meyer (Z52) is the recommended cultivar for Kentucky and it is not available as seed. It is only grown vegetatively so it is sold as sod or plugs. To find a local, reliable source for this you can contact your Bath County Cooperative Extension Service. The horticulture/agriculture agent(s) should be able to help you with this. The phone number to these offices is (606) 674-6121. Their Web site is ces.ca.uky.edu/bath. You may also want to read the following publication provided by land-grant universities in collaboration with the Cooperative Extension Service on selecting the right grass for Kentucky lawns: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/agr/agr52/agr52.htm
|While digging the foundation hole for our addition, the exhaust from the excavator burned our neighbor's 40+ year-old evergreen hedges that run alongside our driveway. About 30% of the hedge on our side is visibly burnt; about 10% on their side. We are just distraught about the damage, as well as the possibility the hedges will die. At this point, we are hoping they can generate new growth and fill back out. Is there anything I can do to provide some TLC to these poor bushes? Bobbi, La Grange Park|
|Hello, Bobbi: Congratulations on your new addition. Do you know what kind of evergreen shrubs were damaged? Some are more likely to recover than others but I am sorry that in most cases, when evergreens are damaged, they do not recover and put on new growth. It should not spread since the damage is not that of an insect or disease that will work its way throughout the plant, but the parts that are already showing signs of stress will defoliate and make the evergreens look less than aesthetically pleasing. Depending on the size of the shrubs it may be easier just to replace them. If it is just the lower part of the plant you could potentially use a low-growing evergreen as an under planting so your eye is not immediately drawn to the damaged part of the existing shrubs. Sorry I do not have more encouraging words for you, but if you can give me more detailed information on what the actual plants are I could give you more specific details. At this time you can remove the damaged foliage if it has not already fallen. You will want to keep the area under the plants free of plant debris because this is a wonderful environment for insects and disease to live. Plants that are already stressed are more susceptible to insect and disease problems. There is nothing to treat them with to help them recover but eliminating additional stress is important. These are established plants but at this point you want to avoid fertilizing and if Mother Nature does not provide moisture you will want to make sure they get watered in this summer heat. If your neighbor would like the plants replaced you should consider waiting until the addition is complete so you are not replacing them more than once.|
|Why are the balls on my holly trees and nandina falling off soon after forming? Joyce, Brodnax|
|Hello, Joyce in Virginia: What does the overall health of your holly and nandina look like? Is the foliage green and lush or is it yellowing? Are these established plantings or new additions to the garden? Since this is happening to two different plant species in your garden, the only logical explanation is that they are reacting to environmental conditions. Extreme moisture can cause premature berry drop but so can the other extreme. Does the space drain well or did you have an extremely hot and/or dry growing season? Poor pollination during the spring months is another possibility. Each growing season is different in terms of temperature and moisture. If your plants look healthy otherwise there is not much reason for concern. You may not be able to enjoy the berries this winter but this should not be an annual occurrence. If the holly and nandina are not thriving, then you might need to consider relocating them to a space where they will receive six or more hours of direct light. The nandina is more tolerant of part sun but both require well-drained soil.
|Why are the leaves on my austrees turning yellow and falling off? JoAnn, Cassville|
|Hello, JoAnn: Austrees are a hybrid willow. They are a cross between a hankow willow (Salix matsudana) and a white willow (Salix alba). At maturity these trees can reach up to 70 feet tall, growing 15 feet in one year. These fast-growing trees develop an extensive root system that requires a lot of moisture. If there is a time when the tree is not receiving the moisture it requires, it can cause the foliage to turn yellow. Like all members of this genus, these trees are susceptible to a wide range of insect and disease problems. They are affected by several different blights and cankers as well as aphids, mites, lace bugs, scale, and sawfly, just to name a few. A severe infestation of any of these insects can damage foliage and cause it to turn yellow. Chlorosis is always in question when foliage begins to yellow. This is a lack of chlorophyll, which can be caused by a few different possibilities including high pH(alkaline soil), poor drainage, and unavailable nutrients. Unfortunately I can only give you possibilities for why your willow is turning yellow. I cannot say for certain what is going on with your particular tree without looking at a sample. For a positive identification you can take a sample to your horticulture agent at your County Cooperative Extension Service. The Barry County Web site is: http://extension.missouri.edu/barry/. The phone number is (417) 847-3161.|
|Why do my roses resist my treatments? I spray and fertilize them and they still turn brown and yellow!
|Hello, Regina: Depending on the rose you are growing you may always be battling insect and disease problems. Some roses are more disease-resistant than others. For example, the Knock Out rose is typically less troublesome than the older hybrid tea roses. No matter what kind of rose you have they all demand a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight; eight or more would be ideal. All plants will perform their best when given the conditions they need to thrive. Proper fertility is essential when it comes to the health of the plant and in promoting blooms. It is important to have your soil tested occasionally so you know if you are in abundance of or lacking in any nutrients. For a small fee you can have this done by your County Cooperative Extension Service. As far the discolored foliage this can be caused by a number of different factors, moisture being the most common; too much water can cause foliage to turn yellow and not enough will allow the foliage to dry out and turn crisp. Established plants will not require as much water as newly planted ones. As far as spraying, what are you spraying for? The problem must be properly diagnosed for any spray to be effective. You can take a sample of your rose to a local horticulturist either at a garden center or your Extension agent. Otherwise, spraying just to spray is not necessarily beneficial. For now, remove all dead and diseased foliage and keep the area around the plant free of any debris.|
|Will a calla lily survive in northern Illinois winters? I did not plant this flower: several came up as volunteers when we overturned some soil. B., Bourbonnais|
|Hello, B: Calla lilies (Zantedeschia) are native to South Africa. They can be reliably grown in hardiness zones 8 and above. That being said, there are gardeners in zone 6b/7 who have their callas come back year after year. They may have a microclimate in their garden. In your case I would think you just got lucky. If I am not mistaken, I think you are gardening in USDA hardiness zone 5, which would not even be marginal in terms of hardiness for these plants. There are many reasons why this could happen; first, if you had a mild winter and the space where they are growing is close to the house where it would receive some winter protection as well as radiant heat, this would certainly help. They likely came back from the actual rhizome and not by seed. To ensure that you will have your calla lilies every growing season, you can dig up the rhizomes, let them dry, store them in a cool dark space until spring, and then replant them. You can also press your luck and see if you can get them to come back next year as well. A layer of mulch will help insulate and protect the rhizomes. Usually it is the cold, wet weather that rots the bulbs. They are a lovely addition to the garden and make for a great cut flower.|
|Will Pink Pampas grass always have pink blooms? I live in zone 7.
|Hello, Gigi in South Carolina: Pink Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) is a lovely ornamental grass that will reach 6-8 feet tall each growing season. This grass produces showy pink plumes during the mid to late summer months. The plumes can add an additional 2 feet to the height of the grass during this time. The plumes will remain throughout the fall and it is up to you whether or not you cut the grass down in the fall or wait until the spring. Some gardeners like to leave it up throughout the cold months for winter interest, but others prefer the clean look or just like to get a head start on spring clean-up and cut the grass back when the cold weather arrives. Whenever you decide to cut your grass back, it is much easier to clean up if you tie a rope around the base of the grass and then use your sharp shears to cut. This way the grass is already bundled for you and much easier to handle. Be sure to wear long sleeves since the blades of grass can be sharp.|
|Will sword ferns survive a freeze in my area? Will they come back in the spring? Frank, Sunset Beach|
|Hi, Frank: The answer to your question depends on which sword fern you are growing. There are a couple different ferns that are commonly referred to as sword ferns. They both belong to the same family but different genus. The Western sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) are native to the western part of the country. These low-maintenance ferns are suitable for gardens in USDA hardiness zones 3-8. I believe you are gardening in hardiness zone 8. So, yes, the Western sword fern is considered a perennial fern in your garden. The evergreen foliage provides winter interest. The Southern sword fern (Nephrolepis cordifloia), commonly known as a Boston fern, is not considered a perennial in your zone but just south of you they hardy. They are typically sold in hanging baskets at garden centers during the spring and summer months. It would be helpful if you had the growers tag but otherwise you can take a sample to your local garden center or cooperative Extension service just to be certain which one you have. Ferns are such a large group of plants and common names can make things confusing, so I am sorry I do not have a yes or no answer for you.|
|With last night's frost and temp of 29 degrees, my crepe myrtle and my hydrangea are very wilted and leaves are dark; will they come back out? It also partially blacked the leaves on my Russian sage; same question?
Mary, Summer Shade|
|Hello, Mary in Kentucky: The weather has been uncharacteristically warm and the plants do not know any better than to put on new growth. Unfortunately, this new growth has not had time to harden off to protect itself from damaging frosts. As we have experienced we are not out of the woods yet in terms of freezing temperatures. The average frost-free date for our area is not until May 10, so we still have a few weeks to go before we are in the clear. As for the damaged foliage, it is not going to be detrimental to the plants. It will eventually defoliate and put on new healthy growth. It will not kill your plants but it does make them look unhappy. Even if we have warmer daytime temperatures with cooler nighttime temperatures, the plants may not have been as affected by the freezing temperatures but that has not been the case and so we are seeing a lot of plant material looking like it has been burned. There is not much you can do at this point except to let the plants recover on their own. As we get closer to May 10 and the plants have not dropped the damaged foliage, you can go ahead and remove it, encouraging them to put on new growth. If more than the foliage was damaged you may have to get your pruners out and take out the damaged stems as well, but do not do this until after the frost-free date has passed.|
|Would you please give me a list of camellias that would grow well in Louisville and where/when to plant. I'm from SC.
|Hello, Celeste: Welcome to Louisville! As I am sure you have discovered, gardening here is certainly different than gardening in South Carolina. Camellias are a staple in any southern garden. I love visiting my in-laws when the camellias are in bloom. Fortunately for us there are camellias that we can successfully grow here in Kentucky. Although there are exceptions, Camellia sasanqua are generally more cold-hardy than Camellia japonica. The flowers are not typically as large as the japonicas, but the sasanqua have been hybridized so that they are available in an array of flower color as well as size. Here in Kentucky, camellias are best planted in the spring or summer if you are going to be around to water them. Even though some are more cold-hardy than others, it is a good idea to get them in the ground earlier in the year so that the roots can establish themselves before the cold winter arrives. These acid-loving plants are happiest growing in a space where they will receive morning sun and afternoon shade. If you are interested in having your soil tested for acidity you can contact the Jefferson County Cooperative Extension Service. They are located at 810 Barret Avenue. The phone number is (502) 569-2344. The Plant Kingdom on Westport Road, (502) 893-7333, in Louisville has carried many different cultivars including the April series, which are japonicas but a bit more tolerable of the cold temperatures. The Ackerman hybrids developed by Dr. Ackerman of the US National Arboretum are all good choices. Any of the winter series will all do well in your new garden. ‘Pink Icicle,’ ‘Two Marthas,’ 'Taylors Perfection,' and ‘Freedom Bell’ are other cultivars to consider.|
|You already replied me once; however, I forgot to ask how often I need to water my herbs during the winter. This is the first year I grew garden sage, rosemary, lavender, Russian sage, anise hyssop, false indigo, and wormwoood. They all are on the ground and I will mulch them. Is 1 inch mulching thick enough? Mel, Danville|
|Hi again, Mel: As the seasons change so do the light levels and temperatures. During the colder months of the year the light levels are at their lowest as well as the air and soil temperatures. For these reasons it is not necessary to water our plants during this time. They go dormant and do not require additional moisture like they do during the warmer months while they are actively growing. At this point they have stored up the nutrients they need and it is time to put them to bed for the winter. They will receive additional moisture from Mother Nature in the form of snow and rain (hopefully no ice) during the winter as well. All the plants you mentioned are herbaceous but if you have any evergreens it is important they do not go into the winter months with dry soil. Because they retain their foliage, if they do not have sufficient moisture before the winter arrives it can make them more susceptible to winter burn/damage. As far as mulching your perennials the general rule is not to apply any more than 2 inches thick. Any thicker will actually encourage insect and disease problems. There are many different mulches to choose from and the choice is more of a personal preference in terms of aesthetics, but keep in mind that some are dyed with chemicals and others are not. The dyed ones will bleed and eventually lose their color.||