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Past Questions and Answers | June 2012

Question #1

Question:  I have a sage bush that is about 3 years old. I live in Wisconsin (zone 4) and we had a very mild winter. In April it started to get flowers. I have cut them off to be able to harvest it throughout the season. It barely began! The flower buds are forming again, and I am not sure if this is normal. Is it safe to harvest now or do I continue to keep cutting off the flowers? Or is the herb at the end of its life cycle? I would like to harvest the leaves with the most healing and flavorful properties, but with it being so early in the growing season, I am not sure. Any advice you can give me would be helpful and greatly appreciated!

  Katherine D.


ANSWER:   It is safe to harvest your sage leaves now. Continue to remove the flower buds and harvest the leaves as normal. The mild weather has many trees and plants flowering early and continuing to flower longer than normal this year.

Question #2

Question:  Can a person transplant iris's this time of year? Do we need to wait until fall?

  Mary Altmeyer, Newburgh, IN


ANSWER:   You can transplant your iris, but it will not bloom until next year if you transplant it now. Simply dig up the bulb, cut two thirds of the foliage off, and plant in the new location. The foliage will grow back but it will be next spring before you get blooms.

Question #3

Question:  Planted asparagus last spring..What should I do next.its growing tall this year and have to wait till next years to eat.

  Paul Lewiston, Maine


ANSWER:   Let the ferns grow until fall, then cut them off at ground level. They are storing food for the long winter and need to be allowed to grow or the asparagus will not make it through the winter.

Question #4

Question:  My question is our fruit trees have no fruit? We had a early spring with no real cold temperatures in March or April and they had lots of blossom. What could have made the fruit not set?

  Sandra Hutchinson, Camden, Al


ANSWER:   In order to produce fruit, fruit trees have to spend a certain number of hours each winter below a certain temperature. This is referred to as the chilling hours requirement. Because of the mild winter, your fruit trees likely did not get the required chilling hours and will not set fruit this year.

Question #5

Question:  I have a west facing wall of clematis, almost everyone thrives there but for the Duchess of Edinburgh and the Vyvyan Pennell (B1 category). I have left the strongest branches through the winter, which was mild here in Kamloops this past year, but the only growth (and it is vigourous) is new growth shooting from the ground. The old wood appears to be dead and dry, I shall have to cut it down? what is going on here? TPlease and Thanks for your help.

  Lynne Gardner, Kamloops, BC


ANSWER:   Some clematis do not do well if they get too much sun. For example, the flowers of 'Nelly Moser,' 'Hagley Hybrid' and 'Hybrida Sieboldiana' will fade badly in the full sun. They need to be planted in an eastern facing direction. For your clematis that are not doing well, prune the old wood off and allow the new growth to continue. They may need to be moved to another location where they face the east to protect them more.

Question #6

Question:  I have a nice red rassberry patch, I also have a bunch of crabgrass in it. I've tried digging it out with little success. Is there a product that will kill crab grass without harming my rassberry plants?

  David O.Brien, Klamath Falls, OR


ANSWER:   No, everything that will kill crab grass will kill raspberry plants. You will have to continue to dig it out.

Question #7

Question:  My 3 rose bushes are infested with greenfly. What can I do and will my bushes die?

  Patricia Bailes, Leeds, Yorkshire


ANSWER:   Insecticidal soap, applied carefully with thorough coverage of the underside of the leaves as well as the top of the leaves, is very effective at controlling greenfly (we call them aphids in the United States). Aphids rarely kill the roses but the secondary infection of powdery mildew that often accompanies them can, so it is important to treat them.

Question #8

Question:  Hi, I've got a 3 year old apple tree. Last year it produced 12 apples. This year, it had an abundance of flowers, but there was no apple formation, and all the flowers fell off. I haven't noticed any bees this year, is this the problem? Regards Pete

  Peter Bright, Torquay, Devon


ANSWER:   The winter was mild, so the tree may not have had the required chilling hours to set fruit. Fruit trees need a certain number of hours each winter below a certain temperature or they will not set fruit, and lots of people are reporting that their trees did not get the needed number of chilling hours this winter.

Question #9

Question:  I have a small yard in the back of my house with decorative stones layered over sand. The cats in the neighborhood seem to think it is a litterbox. How do I keep out the cats without killing them?

  Cathy McGuire, Pittsburgh, PA


ANSWER:   There is no good repellent that keeps cats out without harming them. You might try temporarily covering the area with chicken wire. The cats do not like it and will not use the area as a bathroom with it there. Otherwise, you will have to fence the area in such a way as to keep them out.

Question #10

Question:  Lilac bush with no leaves: We had an unusuaaly mild Winter here in Zone 7. Everything came up about a month earlier than usual. My lilacs started to produce buds in early March. (I guess these were leaf buds). Then we got some cold weather and frosts. And now the bush is completely barren- no foliage. (with those little nipped in the buds still sitting there). The bush has no leaves, nothing - and it is late May. Is it dead? Is there any hope for it?

  Natalie Sager, Laurel, MD


ANSWER:   Try trimming it back to the ground level. If it does not start to grow more foliage within a couple of weeks of doing that, it is dead.

Question #11

Question:  We have lawn mushroom. I was wondering if they would harmful if eaten by our family dog?

  Deb Perry, Greeley, Co


ANSWER:   Yes, lawn mushrooms can kill dogs. It is important to pick them and put them in the trash as soon as they appear. Make sure you wash your hands well after handling them as they can make you sick as well.

Question #12

Question:  I have an established asparagus raised bed that has only produced 3 shoots this year. Prior years we ate for 8 weeks from several roots. What has happened?

  Jeffrey Richard, Portsmouth, RI


ANSWER:   Has the bed had enough water and fertilizer? Most of the country suffered from drought last year and many people lost even established beds of plants to the drought. How old is the bed? Asparagus lives from 15 to 25 years, so the bed may have reached its age limit and died off. You may need to replant with younger crowns to start over, or may be able to pamper the bed and bring it back.

Question #13

Question:  I have several Otto Luyken bushes with holes in the leaves. At first I thought it was due to insects, but now the leaves are dying on branches at a time. We have cut off the dead branches, but the problem is continuing . Could it be shot hole fungus? Do I need to dig them up and replace them, or is there a cure?

  Judy Waller, Knoxville, TN


ANSWER:   If it is shot hole fungus, a fungicide containing copper will control it. Since there are many problems that could cause these symptoms, it would be a good idea to take a sample branch to your Extension agent in your county and get a definitive diagnosis before spending the money to treat the plants or removing them.

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