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Past Questions and Answers | May 2013

Question #1

Question:  What is the proper type of soil to plant herb seeds small starter plastic pots. Thank you!

  Sandy Ekis, Phillipsburg, NJ


ANSWER:   You can buy pre-mixed potting soil for starting your herb seeds. General potting soil is fine, you do not need a specialty product to grow herbs. Or you can mix one third compost, one third coarse vermiculite, and one third peat moss and use that. Be careful when using peat moss as it carries a fungus that can make you sick if you inhale any.

Question #2

Question:  I just moved up in the garden world by starting a traditional row garden instead of a box. I planted snap beans, cucumbers, zuchinni, squash, and cabbage. I read that it's good to mulch your garden. Should I mulch mine and what mulch is best to use? I don't want to kill anything. My bean seeds were just planted on Sunday so they haven't popped up yet. When should i put the mulch? Thanks!

  Jennifer Wainwright, Lake Charles, Louisiana


ANSWER:   You wait to mulch until the seedlings are visible and about three inches high. Mulch is a good idea. You can use wood chips if you add extra nitrogen to your fertilizer, as the wood uses nitrogen when it decomposes. Hay works well. Pine straw works well, but will acidify the soil a little over time. Whatever you use, you should put down three inches of it all around your plants. It absorbs water and helps keep weeds from coming up in your garden.

Question #3

Question:  I have been pruning my roses by just cutting back by about half. Now I have nothing but green growth coming out of old striated canes. what should I do?

  Rebecca Hynum, Newborn, GA


ANSWER:   Different types of roses are pruned differently. There is an excellent publication put out by Clemson University Extension that you can read for the directions specific to your type of rose.

Question #4

Question:  I have what appears to be a highly invasive plant in my flower garden. It spreads with a root system running just below the surface. It has several clustered, toothed leaves, grows to 12-18 inches and produces a flower/head of white. Any ideas? What is it? How do I control/eliminate it?

  Sandi Miller, Miamisburg, Ohio


ANSWER:   I cannot identify the weed from your description. However, the way to get rid of it is to carefully paint the leaves with Roundup. Be very careful to only get the Roundup on the target plant. You can use a bbq mop to put the herbicide on the weed and only the weed. Dispose of the bbq mop the same way you would an empty container of Roundup.

Question #5

Question:  I have large circles of lighter colored grass in my Frescu lawn. Its fine in texture and spreads in fairly straight lines.The circles are from 12" to 3'in diameter. At the collar the growth is thicker and higher than the rest. It doesn't look like the wire grass i have seen. I tryed Weedbegone to no avail.

  John Reynolds, Milford, Delaware


ANSWER:   Weedbegone will only kill broadleaf weeds, not grasses. I would suggest you take a three inch by three inch plug of the problem plant, making sure you get the roots too, and take it to your County Extension Agent. Not only can they positively identify the problem, they can tell you exactly how to eliminate it.

Question #6

Question:  I hired someone to mulch existing plants/shrubs. I already had a fabric down and about an inch of mulch from last year. Instead of pushing the old mulch aside and taking up old fabric, he placed new fabric over the existing mulch and fabric then placed new mulch down. Is this a problem other than costing me more on the mulch to cover the fabric? Will the layering hurt the shrubs & bushes?

  Carol Armstrong, Vanceboro, NC


ANSWER:   The layering will not hurt the shrubs and bushes. We actually recommend three inches of mulch around shrubs and bushes and in flower beds so you will not have a problem this year with the extra mulch.

Question #7

Question:  I am starting roma tomatoes in newspaper pots but they seem to just die after sprouting and starting just fine, are there any toxins in average newsprint that could account for this?

  Larry Evans, Tenton, NE


ANSWER:   You have damp off, a fungal disease that occurs when there is too much moisture around the seedlings. Starting seeds is a delicate dance of enough water for them to do well and not so much that you get fungal infections. You can help by watering from below by setting the pots in a shallow trough of water and letting them absorb all they need. Then return them to their grow light or the regular place you are growing them.

Question #8

Question:  I live in the mountains of N.C. I love flowers, My yard is mostly rhodadendron and trees, in other words, lots of shade. I have two acres of this and want to add color and flowers. Can you help?I currently have lilac (love them) hostas, day lillies and some roses.I want to plant a path of something flowering..Thanks for your help

  Maureen Lindquist, Banner Elk, North Carolina


ANSWER:   You can try impatiens, Browallias, coleus, wax begonias, dwarf salvias, and other shade tolerant annuals can give you some color. Spring flowering bulbs can be planted in deep shade if you replant new bulbs each year.

Question #9

Question:  I have set out some ground cover plants (stepables)I have never planted these, and I am in Colorado, where weather changes overnight. which it did last night. A heavy snow and cold temps. Will they survive, should I do anything now to help? Or is it too late?

  Barbara Stimmel, Loveland, Co.


ANSWER:   Without the actual names of the plants, I cannot give you a prognosis for them. At this point, you will just have to wait and see if they live. Before the next storm, you might mulch them to give them extra warmth.

Question #10

Question:  I have three pots of forced asiatic lillies. ) Beautiful blossoms with many buds not yet open. Chance of frost is over here. However temperatures are fluctuating at this time in April, ranging from 70 degrees to 50 to 44 and 37 degrees. Weather is expected to rise to 50 and 70 degrees over the next week and stabilize. Can I remove these plants from their pots and put them into the ground now? I believe they are a shorter variety of lily unlike many that are tall and come up every year in my garden.

  Particia Marchand, Holliston, MA


ANSWER:   You will need to harden them off by putting them out a few hours the first day, a few hours longer the second day, and so on for a week before planting them in the ground. They should be fine then.

Question #11

Question:  I would like to know what flowers thirve in oklahoma heat and humidity? Is there a website that I can go to to locate the best flowers and plants for my area

  Kelli Mcentee, Broken Arrow, OK


ANSWER:   Oklahoma has a program called Oklahoma Proven that recommends plants adapted for Oklahoma.s climate. The website is

Question #12

Question:  Is there an effective deer repellant, short of fencing?

  Bonnie Sharp, Thompson Falls, Montana


ANSWER:   Extensive research has been done on this question and the only thing that seems to help, other than a fence, are motion activated sprinklers which squirt the deer with cold water and startle them. The sprinklers must be moved around occasionally so the deer do not learn to avoid them and get in other parts of the yard.

Question #13

Question:  We have a large twisted willow whose roots are large and on the surface creating tripping hazards since they have invaded the walkway. They are making their way toward the garage and house. Can these roots be pruned without killing the tree?

  Nancy I Jones, Scottsville, Va


ANSWER:   Pruning the roots will probably kill the tree. However, if it is a safety hazard, the options are pruning the roots or taking out the tree altogether. Given that pruning the roots will probably kill the tree, you would be better off removing it completely.

Question #14

Question:  I would like to put rubber mulch around our house but have heard both good and bad things. Please offer your expertise.

  Mary Koski, Maple, Wisconsin


ANSWER:   On the whole, the problems with rubber mulch outweigh the good things about it. Rubber mulch gets hot and smells bad in the summer, can kill many plants because of the zinc in the tire material, and kills the good microbes and insects in the soil. It is also very expensive. A good wood chip mulch is a better way to go. If you use three inches the first year to mulch everything, then every year afterward you need only top off the mulch with another inch of material and you are done for the year.

Question #15

Question:  What is the best way to get rid of English Ivy. I've been online and I've read everything to really harsh commercial chemicals to back breaking work like pulling all the runners, locate the root bulb and pull up. Is there anything on the market that will penetrate the waxy leaves? If not and I have to locate the root bulb, once removed should I apply any killer to prevent future growth. Luckily, the ivy is confined to asmall area along a fence in my back yard

  Donavon, Dumfries, Virginia


ANSWER:   You will have to dig out the root bulbs. You can cut the English Ivy and apply Roundup to the cut ends. That should travel to the root bulb and kill it in one to two weeks. You can then remove the dead ivy and any root bulbs you find.

Question #16

Question:  Our purple plum has only produced fruit one time. What do we need to do. We have 3 a plum trees growing together.

  Karen Roll, Fredricksburg, Indiana


ANSWER:   Plum trees do not self-pollinate. They need two varieties of plum to pollinate each other. If the three trees you have are all the same variety, you will need to plant another variety to act as the pollinator. You also did not mention how old your tree is. Trees need to be five years old or so before they start producing well. You might also have a chilling hour problem. If you planted a variety that needs more chilling hours than you have, or less, it could cause problems with blooming too soon or too late and not producing fruit. You can get the number of chilling hours in your county from the County Extension Agent.

Question #17

Question:  I have a nine bark that has outgrown it's space. Can it be safely moved this spring or should we wait until fall? Shall we cut it way down to make it easier to move?

  Pat Stephens, Bellbrook, Ohio


ANSWER:   You need to wait until winter to move it, when it is dormant. After you plant it in the new location, remove one third of the top growth to let the roots catch up with the top after being disturbed.

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