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Lawn (38)

We use scotts products and do as the bag says, we still have CRAB GRASS and clover what should I do ?? The weed and feed didn’t work.We purchased Chickweed and clover oxalis killer on the clover from you and it didn’t work.First priority is the crabgrass. Thanks, Pt

The directions on Scotts products are kind of vague since they have to cover a wide variety of customers. Since Hewitt’s only has locations here in the Capital District of NY. I’ll assume that you are local and give you this tip for applying crabgrass preventer in this area. The most effective way to stop crabgrass is to apply crabgrass preventer right at the end of the blossom cycle of the forsythia bush right as the flowers are dropping off (just as the lilacs begin to flower). This stops the crabgrass seeds from sprouting and since crabgrass is an annual that grows from seed each year, it is a very effective control. Very often a customer will apply their crabgrass preventer just as soon as the lawn greens up. Since crabgrass only acts on crabgrass during the sprouting phase waiting a bit and using the timing I described above will give better results. Since the crabgrass preventer form a thin film on the surface of the soil it is vulnerable to getting eroded or washed away before it has a chance to act on germinating crabgrass seeds. The opportunity to use crabgrass preventer has passed for this season so the spray is your only option at this point. Repeat sprayings will likely be necessary. The chickweed and clover killer you used will work but needs to remain in contact with the LEAVES of the weed for at least 20 hours (and longer is better). If you watered or it rained within 24 hours of your application then the herbicide was washed off the leaves and it won’t work. Remember, weed killers are absorbed through the LEAVES of the weeds. They will kill the roots but must be absorbed by the leaves.

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How do you get rid of “creeping charlie” in your lawn?

The best weed killer to use for creeping charlie is Bonide’s Chickweed and Clover Killer. Just like all liquid weed killers, Bonide’s Chickweed and Clover Killer is absorbed through the leaves of the weed. It kills the roots too but is absorbed through the leaves. Because of this you need to apply it when rain isn’t expected for the next 24-48 hours. Naturally you won’t want to water it in so you’ll need to shut your sprinklers off for a couple of days. You also need to know that no weed killers should be used on a lawn when temperatures are expected to go above 85° of it will also kill the lawn. Adding a drop of dish washing liquid to the spray will help it coat the weed’s leaves for better contact.

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i live on a busy road in glenville, several years ago i planted spruce trees to allow for privacy, they have since overgrown. i would like to replace them with something that might cut down traffic noise and leave some privacy (on front lawn), is there anything you might recommend? would veriegated dogwood shrubs work? thank you!

Sure, variegated dogwood can make a nice privacy barrier but it loses its leaves in the winter so it will only be a seasonal barrier. If this is OK with you and the area gets full sun then you should also consider weigela, spirea, lilacs, burning bush and a whole host of spreading flowering shrubs that can make fine hedges. If you’d prefer a year-round barrier then there are arborvitae and upright or spreading junipers. If you wish to keep the spruce trees, you could prune off the lower branches and plant spreading junipers to fill in below for a very dense barrier.

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How to get rid of mushrooms in your lawn.

Once mushroom spores blow into your lawn they need a couple of things to grow into the mushrooms. First, there needs to be plenty of moisture available…mushrooms love dampness and won’t grow in dry lawns. In a damp year like last year mushrooms seemed to spring up everywhere. In a normal season the lawn usually dries out well between rainstorms so mushrooms are less of a problem. Very often mushrooms are a problem in a lawn that has a sprinkling system installed. Folks with these sprinkling systems seem to like to see them operate and have them set to water the lawn frequently but not very heavily. This causes all kinds of problems for the lawn including encouraging mushrooms and, worse yet, fungal lawn diseases. Properly programmed, a sprinkling system should provide 1″ of water per week in one single watering. This amount of water will penetrate at least 8″ into the soil stimulating deep root growth. It also allows the blades of the grass many day of dryness which makes it much harder for mushrooms and fungal diseases to take hold. Everyone with a sprinkling system should do a test to see how long it takes each zone to put out 1″ of water. This can be done by placing a small tuna fish or cat food can in the zone and run it until the can is full and note how long it took. Then each zone should be set to run for that amount off time just once a week. The second requirement for mushroom growth is the presence of rotting organic matter. This could be an old tree stump rotting below the surface, buried construction debris or something as simple as rotting grass clippings and leaf debris. Removing buried debris and bagging your clipping can help prevent mushroom growth. Mushrooms don’t harm the grass and are actually helping the lawn by breaking down organic matter that the lawn will eventually benefit from. The main reason to eliminate mushrooms is for the safety of small children who might eat them.

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How do I get rid of brown spots in my lawn?

The answer to this will depend on what is causing the brown spots. Brown spots in your lawn could be from something as simple as a female dog peeing on your lawn or it might be one of several fungal diseases…without seeing it, it would be impossible to diagnose. In the case of a dog being the problem you’ll have to prevent the dog from peeing on the lawn. If this is impossible then keep an eye on the dog and, once it finishes peeing, hose down the area with at least a couple of gallons of water. This will dilute the urine to the point that it won’t burn the grass plants. As far as brown spot caused by diseases, you’ll need to first identify the disease. Here’s a good site to help with that: http://www.american-lawns.com/problems/sick_lawns.html You should also bring a sample of the brown patch into Hewitt’s and let one of our experts identify it and the proper solution…usually a high nitrogen lawn food or a fungicide. Make sure the sample includes the transition zone from healthy grass into the diseases area. The folks that usually have an issue with fungal lawn diseases are folks that have an underground sprinkling system that is set up to run for a short time each day. A damp lawn is the perfect breeding ground for fungal disease. Your sprinkling system should be set up to provide 1″ of water per week all at once. This will soak the soil at least 8″ deep promoting a stronger, deeper root system. This also allows the lawn to enjoy extended periods of dryness which makes it far less likely that a fungal disease will be able to take hold. To figure out how long a sprinkler zone takes to put out 1″ of water, place a small tuna fish or cat food can within the zone and let it run until the can is full. Then reset the system to run that zone just once a week for as long as it took to fill the tuna fish can. Do the same for all the zones and your lawn will be better for it and you’ll use way less water and save money on fungicides too.

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my question also have to do with browning. this is a new lawn that i was so excited with because until now, i have not had a lawn for some years. i followed the directions on seeding and watering, making sure it did not get dry. the seeds sprouted and i havent cut it yet. now it is starting to brown. should i stop watering it everyday? will i lose my lawn yet again?

Yikes!!! Stop watering it every day! The requirement for constant moistness is for the grass in its seed form. Once it sprouts you can stop watering it every day. Sure, the lawn only has tiny roots but you need to encourage those roots to go down into the soil to get moisture. Let it dry out and only water when it starts to look wilty. A really good idea would be to apply a grass starter lawn food like the Fas-Start that we sell at Hewitt’s. This food will feed those roots to help get the lawn established. Aplly and water in the starter food on a cooler day or apply it before a cool rainy stretch. Don’t feed your lawn (or any lawn) during a warm spell where temperatures can go above 85°. In other words, take a break from watering and let that new lawn enjoy some dry weather and sunshine so it can grow.

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Good morning – This morning I woke up to 5-6 “dead spots” on my lawn all around the same area (under a tree). It literally happened overnight. I do have 2 dogs, but they don’t spend any time in the front yard so I ruled out pet damage. The only thing I can think of is either insects or fungus. I attached a picture – would you mind offering some assistance on how to kill and prevent it from happening again? The only thing different I have done with my grass since the weekend is water it. heavily. The last watering was on Monday, for about 3-4 hours starting at 8am. This is actually the only time I have watered it all summer. PH and other nutrients are at good levels and I aerated it in the Spring of 2009. Any ideas? Thank you so much for your help, Robert

Robert, Considering the time of year, the speed of onset and the fact that you recently watered the area heavily, I’d suspect that you have an outbreak of Summer Patch’ which is a fungal disease. Here’s the address to a Purdue University pdf file describing the disease and suggestion on what to do about it. . . . www.ces.purdue.edu/extmedia/BP/BP-115-W.pdf . . . It looks like your watering may have played into the hand of the disease and that’s why it appeared so suddenly after your watering. We have a couple of fungicides ‘Bayer Lawn Disease Control’ and Bonide’s ‘INFUSE’. Both have the same active ingredient ‘propiconazole’. These products can cure many diseases but with summer patch it is suggested that it be used starting in mi-May as a preventitive. In your case I’d start using the Bonide Infuse since it is in a throw away hose-end sprayer. A liquid application will get deeper into the soil and get at the disease at the root level. This should prevent the disease from spreading too much farther. Make sure to start using Infuse as a preventative in next spring May as suggested since you know you have the disease present in your lawn. Peter Bowden

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Peter, its me Laura! Hows the office looking? lol two questions…I have literally thousands of tiny hills with one entrance hole all throughout my lawn…. is that from beatles emerging from last years grubs? two.. I have bent grass and want to know the easiest way to get rid of it…. can i kill it with a herbicide, rake the heck out of it and reseed or does if have to be dug up? HELP????

Laura, If The Beatles are emerging from your lawn then you need to start selling tickits!!!! Seriously though, there are several insects that could emerge from the soil as they go from the pupa (cocoon) stage to the adult stage. Japanese and European Chaffer Beetles are among those insects but there are also other beetles wasps and bees that also do this. The fact that there are ‘Thousands’ leads me to believe that it probably Japanese or Chafer beetles that caused this in your lawn. Naturall you’ll want to apply your grub control this month (July) so thre next generation of grubs will be killed when they start hatching in August. To get rid of bentgrass you’ll need to kill it and reseed in mid-august. You can spray the area with Kleen-up then rake off or dug out the dead grass. You could also cover the area of bent grass with clear plastic and anchor the perimeter with rock or something heavy so the plastic is sealed to the ground. The sun will heat the air under the plastic so high that the grass dies. You’ll still neeed to rake off or shovel ot the dead grass before reseeding.

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Mr. Bowden [on TV] stated that when cutting the lawn the mower deck should be approximately 4″ above the ground. At least that is how I interpreted it. Did I mis-understand? It was in reference to the dry period we had without rain. Thanks,

Yes, in my garden segment (which you can find on my blog here: http://ourgarden.freedomblogging.com/ I suggested letting the lawn grow to about 6″ and then mowing it back to 4″ during the hot part of summer. These taller blades will shade the soil below preventing it from overheating. If the soil temperature goes to above 85° to 90° for three or four days the roots start to die. In mid August or so when rain gets more regular and the high heat of summerwanes we can go back to letting the grass grow to about 4″ then mow it back to 2 1/2″ to 3″ to encourage side growth and thickening of the lawn through fall.

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HELP! Crabgrass has taken over my normally lovely lawn – and I mean taken over – it’s about 25 to 30% covered – what can I do!

The bad news is is that the best time apply crabgrass preventer is in the spring just as the forsythias are finishing up their flowering cycle (just as the lilacs are starting). There are summer crabgrass killers but they need to be applied to a wet lawn and not get watered off for a couple of days (like weed killer). Usually it takes a couple of applications for summer crabgrass killer to work. Even then, the crabgrass plants will probably already produced seed so you’ll need to apply a crabgrass preventer in spring anyway. I’d suggest that you apply crabgrass preventer for the next two to three spring to be sure you’re rid of it. Then monitor the lawn for the next couple of years since seeds may be redepostied onto your lawn by birds and such. Any digging may stir up crabgrass seeds from deeper in the soil to the surface where they’ll germinate into a new crop in that area. Crabgrass seeds buried too deep to germinate can remain viable for as long as 75 years!!!

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I am wondering what the wide blade grass is that pops up in my lawn every year about this time. It is a lighter green and seems to grow faster than the rest of my lawn, it will take over large patches. what can I do to prevent this or get rid of it? Thanks, Nate

The bad news is that it is crabgrass. The good news is that it is easily controlled. The bad news is is that the best time apply crabgrass preventer is in the spring just as the forsythias are finishing up their flowering cycle (just as the lilacs are starting). There are summer crabgrass killers but they need to be applied to a wet lawn and not get watered off for a couple of days (like weed killer). Usually it takes a couple of applications for summer crabgrass killer to work. Even then, the crabgrass plants will probably already produced seed so you’ll need to apply a crabgrass preventer in spring anyway. I’d suggest that you apply crabgrass preventer for the next two to three spring to be sure you’re rid of it. Then monitor the lawn for the next couple of years since seeds may be redepostied onto your lawn by birds and such. Any digging may stir up crabgrass seeds from deeper in the soil to the surface where they’ll germinate into a new crop in that area. Crabgrass seeds buried too deep to germinate can remain viable for as long as 75 years!!!

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I recently purchased a home that literally has no grass in the yard what-so-ever. I would love to grow some, but I don’t know which kind would survive in our soil. I did a soil test and got a 9.0 on the pH, low levels of Nitrogen, medium levels of Phosphorus, and high Potassium. Our property has pine trees on it. It is even possible to grow grass here?

Congratulations on the new home Jade. The good news is that you can grow a lawn in just about any soil including yours. . . . The results of your pH test are a little confusing though. One would expect a yard with pine trees to have a low ph (more on the acidic side) than you 9.0 which is quite alkaline. There are a 3 reasons I can think of that would lead you to get such a high reading. The first is that the soil is clay which is very alkaline. If the soil isn’t clay then the previous owner might have been spreading lime or wood ash on the lawn without checking the ph and has overdone it. The third reason you might have gotten such a high reading is that you used tap water instead of distilled water when you performed your test. Tap water will contain minerals and chlorine both of which will make your reading come out higher than it should have. Distilled water is neutral and won’t affect your test. If you used tap water or well water then you should redo your pH test using distilled water. . . I like blends and of the blends we have at Hewitt’s, I like the Sandy Blend the best. It has 3 types of deep rooted tall fescue grass types. Tall fescues will have the best chance to grow and thrive in your difficuly area. . . . The next step in starting a lawn from seed is to turn organic matter into the area to be seeded. The more organic matter that is turned in, the thicker and more drought resistant the lawn will be for years to come. Peat moss is the easiest form of organic matter to use for improving the soil before seeding. Peat moss is capable of holding 20 times its weight of water. In very sandy soil, the addition of one 4 cu. ft. bale of peat moss per every 100 sq. ft. turned in to a depth of 6” will be necessary. This sounds like a lot of peat moss (and it is) but it is well worth the effort. For a large area, you should rent a roto-tiller to blend the peat moss and lime (if needed) into the soil to a depth of 6”. Once the soil and peat are blended together, the area should be raked smooth. This is easier to accomplish with one of those extra-wide aluminum rakes. If you can’t borrow one, a metal bow rake will do but it will take longer to get the contour you’re looking for. Next you’ll need to roll the soil with a water-filled roller to compact the soil. If you can’t borrow one, rent one. Again, if you skip this step, the project won’t come out as you’d hoped. After you’ve rolled the soil, take another look at the area to see if it is nice and smooth and has the proper contour. If not, rake and roll the area until you’re satisfied. You’ll be looking at the results for many years so take the time now to get it right. Once you’re satisfied, lightly rough up the surface of the soil with your metal rake. Finally it’s time to broadcast the seed. Consult the folks at your local garden center to determine the best grass blend for your particular soil and light conditions. For late–summer seeding, avoid cheap blends that contain annual ryegrass. Broadcast the seed evenly over the area at the recommended rate. Then roll the seed with the water-filled roller to press it into good contact with the soil. If it is a large area, you’ll want to cover it with straw. A smaller area can be covered with burlap or horticultural fabric. The reason you cover the seed is to help keep the sun and wind from drying it out while it’s germinating. After all this is done, you can start watering and watering and watering. This is the trickiest and most important part of the project. No matter how high the quality of the seed used, it won’t germinate unless the area is kept moist CONSTANTLY. It can’t be allowed to dry out, even for an hour. IF THE AREA DRIES COMPLETELY, THE SEED DIES AND CAN’T RESTART. Premium blends of fescue and bluegrass will take 2 weeks just to sprout so be diligent about watering and be patient. If you use a blend that has perennial ryegrass in addition to bluegrass and fescue, be aware that the ryegrass will sprout a week or more earlier. Even after the ryegrass sprouts, continue watering as if nothing has happened to ensure the germination of the desirable fescue and bluegrass seeds. After the young grass is up, apply a slow release winter or starter type of lawn food to stimulate quick root growth. Look for a starter food with a higher middle number (phosphorus). When the grass finally grows to 4”, mow off an inch (and no more) to promote even more root growth. In spring, apply another shot of the starter lawn food to insure that the young grass develops a mature root system

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The recent draught has been tough on my lawn. I am interested in overseeding my lawn. From what I have read clover is the way to go, and white clover is superior to the red variety. Clover fixes nitrogen, is heat tolerant, and it resistent to pet spots. What do you say? Please describe the optimal procedure for overseeding with the variety of seed that you recommend.

While we are having a hot summer and there have been many extended periods of dryness, your lawn shouldn’t have suffered much damage if you’ve been mowing properly. As June winds down, make sure you start raising your mower’s blade. By July (our driest month) you should have a lawn 4″ to 5″ tall and only mow it back to 3″. This keeps the soil cooler and the lawn will come back just fine. As far as clover is concerned, you are right in all you say…it can be a great addition to a lawn as long as you like it. The only other thing to take into consideration are the clover flowers. While you might like the flowers be aware that they will attract bees. If you have small children or someone who live there or visits regularly who is allergic to bee stings then you’ll want to think twice. I’d broadcast the seed really early spring right after the snow melts. Spring rain will pound the seed into good contact with the soil and it will sprout with the first warm weather in late April or early May. You can also use this procedure for grass seed. I always like to suggest Hewitt’s Sandy Blend since it has deep rooted tall fescues as a majority of the blend. Modern tall fescues are fine bladed but deep rooted for better drought resistancy.

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When is the latest that I can plant grass seed in the fall?

The best time for this project would be mid August through the end of the first week in September. This will give the grass seed a chance to sprout in the last warm days of summer and get mature enough to winter over. While it can be done later you’re gambling a bit. It might be OK if we have a warm fall (and I beleave we will) but it still a gamble.

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Peter – I had some patches of lawn in my back yard in Glenville which has low spots which have been filled in. Some typical weeds are growing in – so its “green” for now but I’d rather have grass. What is the protocol for fall planting of new grass – i.e. when to seed, when to fertilize, use a rye for 1st year growth or go with regular seed r mix of both?. Areas are partly shady with sandy soil with one area under 60 foot pine trees.

The shorter, cooler days of late August and early September make it the ideal time to make permanent improvements to the condition of our lawn. Turf experts agree that this is the best time of year to start a lawn from seed. This is the best time to tackle this project but the window of opportunity is a small one so don’t put it off. The first step in starting a lawn from seed is to turn organic matter into the area to be seeded. The more organic matter that is turned in, the thicker and more drought resistant the lawn will be for years to come. Peat moss or peat humus are good choices. Peat moss is capable of holding 20 times it’s weight in water. In very sandy soil, the addition of one 4 cu. ft. bale of peat moss per every 100 sq. ft. turned in to a depth of 6” will be necessary. Peat moss must be turned into the soil so the soil will retain moisture where the roots are growing. This sounds like a lot of peat moss (and it is) but it is well worth the effort. For a large area, rent a rototiller to blend the peat moss into the soil to a depth of 6”. Once blended, the area should be raked smooth. This is easier to accomplish with one of those extra-wide aluminum landscape rakes. If you can’t borrow one, a metal bow rake will do but it will take longer to get the contour you’re looking for. Once the area is raked smooth, tamp the soil down with the back of your shovel. For a large area, you’ll need to roll the soil with a water-filled roller to compact the soil. If you can’t borrow one, you can rent one. Again, if you skip this step, the project won’t come out as you’d hoped. After you’ve tamped or rolled the soil, take another look at the area to see if it is nice and smooth and has the proper contour. If not, rake and roll until you’re satisfied. You’ll be looking at the results for many years so take the time now to get it right. Once you’re satisfied, lightly rough up the surface of the soil with your metal rake. Finally it’s time to broadcast the seed. Consult the folks at Hewitt’s to determine the best grass blend for your particular soil and light conditions. Broadcast the seed evenly over the area at the recommended rate. Most folks overdo it and put down way more grass seed than is necessary. Finally, tamp or roll the area to press the grass seed into good contact with the soil. If it is a large area, you’ll want to cover it with straw. A smaller area can be covered with burlap or horticultural fabric. The reason you cover the seed is to help keep the sun and wind from drying it out while it’s germinating. Now the tricky part After all this is done, you can start watering and watering and watering. This is the trickiest and most important part of the project….here’s why. No matter how high the quality of the seed used, it won’t germinate unless the area is kept moist CONSTANTLY.It can’t be allowed to dry out, even for an hour. If the area dries out completely, the seed dehydrates and dies and it won’t restart. If that happens you’ll have to buy more seed and start all over again. Premium blends of fescue and bluegrass will take 2 weeks just to sprout so be diligent about watering and be patient. If you use a blend that has perennial ryegrass in addition to bluegrass and fescue, be aware that the ryegrass will sprout a week or more earlier than the other two. Even after the ryegrass sprouts, continue watering as if nothing has happened to ensure the germination of the desirable fescue and bluegrass seeds. Finish up with a good meal After the young grass is up, apply a slow release starter lawn food to stimulate quick root growth. Starter foods should have a higher middle number (phosphorus). Phosphorus stimulates root growth, and that’s what’s needed for a new lawn. The stronger the root system, the quicker the grass gets established and the better it will come through winter. Avoid high nitrogen lawn foods on a newly sprouted lawn. It will stimulate excess blade growth that the young root system will have a hard time supporting. The roots are the foundation of your new lawn. Just like building a house, you need to start from the bottom up. Keep the young grass tall but mow frequently When the grass finally grows to 4”, mow off an inch (and no more) to promote even more root growth. In spring, apply another shot of the starter lawn food to insure that the young grass develops a mature root system before summer heats up. By midsummer your new lawn should be well established, and you can start feeding and mowing it in the same manner as the rest of your lawn.

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HOW DO I RID MY YARD OF MOLES ? HOW DO I RID MY LAWN OF GROUND IVY ?

To get rid of moles from your yard you should apply the repellent Mole-Max. It is a granular product that you apply with a lawn spreader and then water in. Once the active ingredient is in the soil, the moles can’t stand it and leave the area. This is a good time of year to use it since young moles have been kicked out by the mother mole and ore out exploring the world for a place to set up a burrow. Moles like to stay in one place so, once they leave, they’re gone. Of course the Mole Max’s effect wears off by spring so a new mole might set up shop. One application in spring and another in late summer/early fall should keep your yard mole free. Most weed killers do fine with dandelions and plantain since they have individual roots systems. Ground ivy is, of course, a vine so it is a little harder to kill and a stronger herbicide is needed. I’d suggest Bonide’s Poison Ivy and Brush Killer . You can use it on the lawn without harming the grass if you follow the directions. This is a good time to go after the ground ivy since the temperatures have backed off from summer’s heat and the soil is moist..perfect conditions for weed killing. You can find both Mole-Max and Poison Ivy and Brush Killer at your local Hewitts.

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I bought some country estate winterizer fertilizer and have a republic ez rotary spreader and need to know what setting to use. (its the same as the old ortho rotary). thanks

Joe, As it happens, I still have one of the old Ortho rotary spreaders. On the Country Estate Winterizer (and all CE foods) you’ll see a setting for a Cyclone spreader. That’s the one to use and the setting for Winterizer is 3 3/4. Thanks for your question.

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is compost from the colonie landfill good for repairing a lawn?

Thanks for your question John, Yes, the soil (compost) produced by the Town of Colonie will be fine for use on your lawn. The PH is a little high but that will come down quickly.

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HOW DO I GET RID OF THE HUGE NUMBER OF ACORNS THIS YEAR?

Sorry, there’s no good answer other than to rake them into piles and shovel them up. Oaks will produce an extra heavy crop of acorns every 3 to 5 years and this looks like an “on’ year. Worse than all the acorns is the population explosion of destructive chipmunks that has happened due to all the easy food available. Peter Bowden

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Can you spread grass seed in November so it will germinate in the spring? I planted a new lawn in a shadey area in mid August, and the germination wasn’t what I had hoped for. I chose a shadey mix seed (mostly fescues). I wondered if I were to spread some seed in November on the sparse areas, if it would sprout in the spring. I also wanted to know if it would help to put down fall fertilizer now, or is it too late. I did use a starter fertilizer when I planted the seed in August. If I can put the seed down in Nov., should I mulch it with straw, or isn’t it necessary?

Yes, you can put seed down in November (the later the better). This is called ‘dormant overseeding. The seed will get pounded into the soil by snow and rain and sprout naturally when the soil warms in spring. There’s no need to use a starter food on the area until the grass sprouts in spring. If you are seeding bare ground then a layer of straw will help hold the soil in place over the winter. If there is already some grass there then there is no need to mulch with straw.

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How do I get rid of voles? As the snow melts I see they’re ruining my lawn. Any suggestions?

You can apply Bonide’s MoleMax when the snow melts again. MoleMax is a repellents that will gat rid of voles and moles which are a bad problem every spring.

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Last year was my first spring/summer in my new house. Not ever owning a home before, I don’t know what to do when it comes to my lawn. Over the summer, a lot of crab grass took route. We applied a fertilizer in the fall. Right now, at the end of March, the snow is gone, the grass has not started to green yet, but I can just see all the dead crab grass and the lawn looks horrible. I know that I should wait to apply the crab grass preventer until when? Late April? Early May? But, what about the dead patches of crab grass that are there now? Should we plant some more grass seed? Will the new grass grow “over” the dead patches of crab grass from last season? If we should plant new grass seed, when should that be done? Thanks!

Crabgrass, unlike most lawn weeds, grows from seed that the mother plant produced the previous summer. The mother plant dies completely over the winter never to be seen again. In early spring the seed germinate and start to grow. Crabgrass preventer is an agent that dissolves and forms a coating on the surface of the soil. ANY seeds that try to sprout and push a root through that barrier are killed. The best way to time your crabgrass preventer application is to keep an eye on a forsythia bush that is growing in your yard or neighborhood. The best time to put your crabgrass preventer down is right as the flowers are falling off the bright yeallow forsythias (right as thelilacs are just opening). It is a convenient coincidence that crabgrass seeds germinate at the same time that forsythias are finishing flowering. Spring weather can be fickle but, if you use the forsythia as your clock, your crabgrass preventer will always go on at the right time. Remember that crabgrass preventer forms a thin film on the surface of the soil so make sure that all your raking is done before you apply crabgrass preventer. If you rake afterward, you will scratch up the barrier and crabgrass will be able to grow.

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Is there anythings to put on lawn that will kill ticks and fleas and not harm the dog?

The best way to treat for fleas and ticks is to use the drops on the animal itself. I use Frontline. The only non chemical flea and tick control is diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is like shards of glass on amicroscopic level. It cut the insects and they die. It is harmless to humans and animals when used on the lawn. Here’s a link to an article about using diatomaceous earth for fleas and ticks. http://www.ehow.com/how_2070717_rid-fleas-yard-naturally.html Remember fleas and ticks don’t like the hot, sunny areas of you lawn. They lurk in the cooler, shady areas so focus your efforts there.

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As the snow melts there are many raised trails apparent on the lawn. What causes this and is there a remedy? Also there are crows pecking at the lawn–any connection ?

The trails on the surface are from voles. Those are trail that they used over the winter to search for food under the snow. They will disappear once you rake the lawn and it starts to grow. The mole repellent Mole-Max will keep the voles away as well as the more destructive moles. Crows pecking at the lawn is often an indication that there are Japanes Beetle grubs in the soil. Those grubs eat theroots of your lawn and can cause the lawn to thin out if there are enough of them. Here’s the scoop on grub control: Controlling Grubs As usual every spring, there’s a lot of interest in how to kill those nasty grubs that have had a hand in wiping out some lawns. And, as usual, I have to tell folks that, if they had treated their lawn before the grubs hatched last August and September, they could have saved their lawn from all this damage. There’s so much confusion about grub control that garden centers will sell a much larger percentage of grub control in the spring than in summer when, logically, it should be the other way around. I’m sure that much of this has to do with the fact that the damage that the grubs do in late summer and fall isn’t visible until the following spring. The first step is to understand the life cycle of the Japanese Beetle. Let’s start at the beginning. The female Japanese Beetle, after feasting on your beans and rose bushes all summer then lays her eggs into warm sunny areas of healthy grass. The healthiest grass around is probably the sunny areas of your beautiful lawn that you’ve worked on all summer. She won’t lay her eggs in the shade since soil temperatures are too low to keep the eggs alive. Each female is capable of laying a couple of hundred eggs. These eggs will all hatch within four days after they’re laid. Are you listening? There are no grubs hatching in the spring. None. They ALL hatch in late August or September. After the grubs emerge from their eggs in late summer, they must eat and what they eat are the roots of your lawn. They eat and eat and eat and eat until they are the size that you are familiar seeing when you find them in your garden while you’re planting. As the soil’s temperature drops in the fall the grubs must burrow down below the frost line to avoid being frozen over winter. Naturally, there is nothing for them to eat down that deep in the soil so they survive on all that body fat they put on by eating the roots of your lawn. Finally in spring, the soil’s temperature begins to rise and the grubs (who are ravenous after months in hibernation) burrow their way back to the root zone of your lawn. Now the feast begins all over again. After putting on another round of body fat (compliments of your lawn) they pause and pupate; that is: they form a hard shell and begin the transformation into the adult or beetle stage of their life. They will enter this pupae stage during Early to mid-June. In mid-July the beetles emerge from the soil and the cycle begins again. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve realized that by the time you get out there in spring with your grub killer three quarters of the damage the grubs cause has already occurred. This is a classic case of closing the barn doors after the horses have run off. There’s no way we’ll ever convince the Japanese Beetles to change their habits so, we must try to change ours. The best time to wipe them out is during the hatching period in late August or early September. If you have a severe grub problem you may need to treat this spring just to save your lawn from extinction but you should try to time your grub control application so you can prevent the situation from happening again. If you find that you need to apply a grub control as an emergency measure in spring, you should pick one that is fast acting. The best choice for spring applications would be Dylox (Bayer Advanced 24 Hour Grub Killer Plus). It kills quickly and on contact then breaks down quickly once it’s killed the grubs but, since there are no new grubs hatching in spring, it is of no concern. As with all grub controls, it is imperative that they get watered-in for a couple of hours IMMEDIATELY after application. DON’T COUNT ON RAIN TO DO THE JOB! Rainfall is never hard enough to get the chemical off the surface of the soil and down to the roots where the grubs are. You must realize that all grub control chemicals begin to break down as soon as they are out of their bag. Sunlight and air both begin to strip the chemicals of it’s potency the instant it’s out of the bag. Left on the surface of the soil, it will lose about 33% of its potency every 24 hours. As soon as you put your spreader away after you apply your grub control, get the sprinkler out and soak the area with an inch of water. Use an empty tuna fish or cat food can.

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My husband and I are having serious differences about when is best to give the lawn its first raking. I think it should be when all frost danger has passed — he says NOW! Who is right?

There’s no reason I know of to wait to rake the lawn until after the danger of frost. I have to agree with your husband. You can do a better job with less effort if you rake he lawn before it starts to grow so get crackin’! You two must have a great relationship if this is all you have to have a serious difference about ;)

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My front lawn has been taking over about 75% by crabgrass so I am starting from scratch and going to reseed. I also had a problem with grubs. I have thatched the lawn to get up all the dead crabgrass but a couple of weeks ago I put down weed and feed as well as Grub and insect control. I plan on putting down 1-2 inches of new topsoil as well as fertilizer. Since this is my maiden run at this my question is will the weed and feed keep my lawn seed from growing? Thanks.

I hardly know where to begin Doug. My best advise is to send you to Hewitt’s to talk to the manager about your project. I wouldn’t do a thing untill you have the new soil in place. Then put your grass sees and starter food downand start watering to get the seed to sprout. If you cover crabgrass seed with 2″ of soil then it won’t sprout anyway. I’m not sure what grub control you used but the best time to treat for grubs is during July with Bonide’s Annual Grub Control. The weed and feed was put down WAY too early so the weed killer won’t do anything and isn’t effective against crabgrass anyway. Crabgrass Preventer is made for that. The answer to your question is: No, your weed and feed won’t keep your lawn seed from growing since you’re covering it with 2″ of soil. Before you go any further with your lawn, you need to learn more about it since you are wasting a lot of time and money applying the products improperly or at the wrong time. Either visit one of the Hewitts and have the manager there set you on the right course or come to one of my lawn care seminars. Here’s the schedule: http://www.hewitts.com/meetpeterbowden.html

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Peter: Can I apply grub killer like Bayer Advanced and milky spore at the same time? Also can I plant new grass around the same time? Thanks Dick

You shouldn’t use chemical grub control if you are using Milky Spore. As the grubs are killed by the MS their decomosing body leaves the disease in a new spot. Over time the entire lawn carries the MS disease so grubs that hatch catch it and die reproducing the the disease every year. If the grubs are killed by chemical grub control they can’t spread the disease. Grub controls have no effect of starting grass seed.

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When applying crabgrass preventer,do you water the lawn before or after applying,or doesn’t it matter.

Crabgrass preventer needs to be lightly watered after application. Rain ususally does the job. Weed killer which we apply in a month or so, wants to sit on the leaves of the weeds for a couple of days without watering. Folks get the two confused very often.

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Peter, We live in Ballston Spa. We are infested with ground bees. Last year we had one nest, put gasoline down it, and it was gone. This year, there are hundreds of holes, and thousands of bees. PLEASE HELP. We cannot even enjoy our yard or garden for fear of getting stung. We love our yard and gardens, but we are stuck inside. I have heard you are the expert on “just about everything” so I am hoping you can help us. Thank you in advance. Kim and Brian

There are a couple of suspects possible. Yellowjackets, which mimic bees nest in the ground. There is one entrance and all the insects would go in and out of the one hole. Yellowjackets are wasps and should be eliminated. I’d mix up some insecticidal soad in some hot water and pour it down the hole at night when the yellowjackets wasps are dormant. Trying this in the daytime would be dangerous. Mark the hole and douse it at night when it is safer. Plug up the hole with a wad of newspaper or a rock to seal them in with the insecticidal soap. There are also ground nesting bees which can appear in large numbers in spring and seem to like sandy soil. These bees stay for only a little while. They are females who dig a nest. Lay their eggs and leave. Later the eggs hatch and they fly off as well. These beneficial bees will be one to a hole but there will be many holes. Below is a description of them from this site: http://www.nybiodiversity.org/summaries/bees/species.html The majority of bees in New York State are digger bees, ground-nesting, solitary bees, such as Andrena, Lasioglossum, and Melissodes. Digger bees comprise roughly 60% of the species of bees in New York State. Species of Andrena are typical of ground-nesting bees in their life history. At the start of the active season (in the spring, summer, or fall, depending on the species) females begin constructing their nests, subterranean systems of tunnels. At the ends of the tunnels, females construct oblong cells which they line with a hydrophobic secretion produced in a gland specifically for this purpose called the Dufour’s gland. After foraging on nearby plants for pollen and nectar, they store several loads of pollen and nectar within each cell, form the pollen into a variously shaped loaf or ball, and lay an egg on it. Larvae consume the pollen/nectar provisions. When larvae complete feeding they may enter diapause (a resting stage) as last instar larvae (the developmental stage just before pupation). Most digger bees overwinter as last instar larvae. Development is completed in the following spring or summer, and adults of a new generation begin the cycle again. Some digger bees (such as Andrena, Halictus, and Lasioglossum) overwinter as adults. This is presumed to allow for the earlier adult emergence in the spring. Other important genera of ground-nesting bees in New York State include Colletes, Halictus, [mentioned above, as digger bee genus] Svastra, and Anthophora. All of these make subterranean burrows, like Andrena. Colletes inaequalis is a common vernal bee in the earliest days of spring. Females construct nests in grassy areas such as lawns, cemeteries, and gardens. Nesting aggregations can be huge (with several thousand nests) and dense (with over 100 nests in a square meter). If you are lucky enough to find these bees nesting in your yard, don’t try to kill them; they won’t sting, and they are probably good for soil aeration. They are also fun to watch! It is possible that you had some yellowjacket wasps in the one spot last summer and are experiencing a temporary outbreak of nesting ground bees. You’ll have to observe them more closely to see which it is.

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Peter, My daughter lives on New Scotland Road in Albany and her grass is coming up in large areas as white in color-no green. This seems to be covering more area than last year. I noticed other homes in Albany with the same problem. The grass is thick but no green color. As I said it’s “white” grass. What is this and what can be done to correct it? Last year, we put turf builder on the area(beside the Scott’s 4-step) and it seemed to help, but in the fall and now it’s noticeable again. Help! Thank you. Susann

I see one of these lawns every day on the way to work. This happens when the lawn is seeded with a single type of bluegrass (I think it is a stran called midnight). For this grass type this is nornal. Feeding helps a little but it is the nature of that grass to do this. I’d suggest introducing a blend like Hewitt’s Sandy grass seed blend to add fescues to the lawn. The easiest way to do this is by dormant seeding…put the new grass seed on the lawn in November. It will get pushed down to the soil over winter by snow and rain and sprout on it’s own in spring. If you overseed now, you’ll have to treat it like a brand new lawn which means watering constantly to keep the seed moist constantly. Dormant seeding is much easier.

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Is there any plant or product short of putting up a fence that will act as a deterrant for neighbors dogs from doing their business on my lawn and killing the grass. I am in the process of reseeding and don’t want all of our hard work to go to waste. Thanks.

“Fences make good neighbors.” There is a dog and cat repellent that can ‘help” dissuade the dogs from using your yard. It is called “Go Away Rabbit, Dog and Cat Repellent” by Bonide. It is a combination of white pepper, cinnamon oil and Thyme oil. You’ll apply the product around the perimeter of your yard so they will smell it and go the other way. Problem is they’ve already claimed your yard as their dumping ground so the product might not work as well as you’d hope. Also, rain washes the repellent away so you’ll need to reapply frequently. A fence would be the only sure fire way to solve this problem. In the meantime, if you see the dog peeing on the lawn, soak the area down right away with a couple of gallons of water. That will dilute the urine enough that it won’t harm the grass.

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I live in Voorheesville. A 20′x15′ section of lawn is interspersed with obvious dead patches…i.e., no grass where there was grass last year. I dug in a few spots and found grubs. I seem to recall having this problem a few years ago and then no problem for a few years. Anyway, I would like to know when to treat and wonder if I can go ahead a reseed now? Is the damage done for this life cycle or would any new grass just get eaten up by the grubs? Thanks for taking the time to answer…

Go ahead and reseed. The grubs that are in your lawn hatched last year and will have turned into Japanese Beetles before they are a problem for the new grass. You need to treat with Imidachloprid (Bonide Annual Grub Beater) in July. Apply and water in gently with 1″ of water…don’t think rain can do the job, it won’t. Imidichloprid needs to go on in July so it has time to get absorbed into the lawn’s roots before the tiny new grubs hatch in mid August through September. Applied in July and properly watered-in, Imidichloprid will kill 98% of the grubs that hatch. They are tiny when they hatch and easy to kill then before they do any real damage to the roots. You need to apply Imidichloprid every July. Another option is Milky Spore Disease. You apply that twice a year (now and late August) for three years. After that it reproduces itself every year but infecting each new grub hatch. I’m conducting 2 free lawn care seminars today (5/15) at our Guilderland store at 11 AM and 2PM. If you have an hour you’ll learn everything you need to know to take the confusion out of grub control and all other aspects of lawn care.

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My lawn has a lot of purple violets (I think that is what they are) What can I do to get rid of them? Thanks

Bonide Weed Beater Ultra will take care of the violets in the lawn. Here’s a link to my recent blog post that explains how to use lawn weed killers. http://ourgarden.freedomblogging.com/2011/05/11/waging-war-on-weeds-2/5705/

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My yard is being over run by wild oregano how do I get ride of it.Thanks for your advice.

Any broadleaf plant growing in the lawn can be killed with a lawn weed killer such as Weed Beater Ultra. If it is growing among other plants or shrubs it will need to be pulled up. Twice a year applications of corn gluten will keep seeds from sprouting in the future.

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What is the best thing that I can do at this time of year for grub control? Are there some products that are more eco-friendly?

The only eco-friendly grub control is Milky Spore Disease. Milky Spore is a disease that only affects white grubs. It won’t hurt earthworms or even a bird that eats a grub that has the disease. Milky spore needs to be applied two or three times a year for three years to reach “epidemic” proportions in the soil. Milky Spore is best applied in spring and fall and must get watered in heavily right after application just like the other grub controls. After that the grubs that hatch into your lawn will contract the disease then die reproducing the disease and spreading it throughout the soil. Milky Spore is more expensive up front but will last at least 20 years once it takes hold. Not a bad investment really. Over the years it will actually save you money to say nothing about the time you won’t need to spend spreading chemicals and running sprinklers.

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I want to overseed my lawn and I have both sun and shade areas. What is the best type of seed to get? I was in the EG store and saw sun, shade and sturdy grass seed. Which would be best? Also, my lawn was treated about 1.5 weeks ago and won’t be treated for another few weeks. Can I seed now? Thanks.

I would use Country Estate Sandy Mix which is a blend of fescue grass seed. Fescues grow equally well in Sun, Shade, Sand or Clay. Fescues have very deep root systems, which make them tolerant of drought. Ask the Store Manger for seeding and fertilizing intructions, and most important, be sure to water daily until the seedings being to sprout.

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bouht 7 yards of top soil so I could cover roots and reseed barespots. there is a lot of stones and glass chips in soil. will I be able to grow grass?

Try to rake out as much of the glass and stone that you can. If this is not possible, I would try to put down a layer of clean sifted topsoil and then proceed with your overseeding. I would still be leery of letting little ones or dogs run on your lawn dependent on the size of glass involved

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Do cherry blossom trees weather well here in new Latham. If so do you have the ability to get them.

Cherry Blossom Trees do very well in the Capital District area, and Hewitts’ carries a couple of different varieties. Weeping Cherry and Kwanzan Cherry are among the most beautiful flowering Cherry Trees, with long lasting blossoms, provided that we dont get a drenching rain storm. Any one of our locations will have these trees in the spring. The weeping variety will sell between $80.00 and $150.00 apiece, while the Kwanzan sells between $30.00 and $75.00 dollars. These trees carry the Hewitts’ Lifetime Guarantee as well. We are currently running our end of the year clearance sale, where you might be able to locate one of these trees at a deep discount, however, they are not covered by the guarantee..

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Fruits and Berries (9)

How should I prune my raspberry plants cut them all the way back or what and when?

Raspberries and blackberries produce fruit on 2 year old canes (stems/shoots). If you go look at your berry bushes, you’ll see the remains of the the canes that produced berries this year. Those cane grew last year and produced fruit this summer. They will look dried out and less vigorous. You’ll also see the new canes that grew over this summer. These are the canes that will flower and produce fruit next year so you don’t want to prune them off. Pruning can be done anytime after the fruiting period so go right ahead and prune of the old canes (the ones that made berries this year) since they will never make another berry. This is the annual cycle with blackberries and raspberries…always removing the canes that just finished making berries but leaving the fresh canes that will make berries next year.

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How do I make my HUGE poinsetta turn red? It is all green at this time. Also how do I get the christmas cactus to bloom. It blooms in the back room that is cool and not in the warm livingroom.

Both Christmas cactus and poinsettias are triggered into their flowering phase by the shorter day length. They need to follow the natural cycle of sunlight in October for the change to occur. The lights in your living room are preventing these two plants from getting the message the sun is sending them. Move them into the back room and make sure there are no lights on in that room for more than a few moments. Once you see that the cactus is budding or that the poinsettia’s leaves have started to change color, you can bring them back to the living room to enjoy. Once the change starts, it will continue regardless of the light.

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We want to plant Blueberry Bushes … We have trenches sixteen inches deep and sixteen inches wide dug. We believe we have to fill them with a mix of sand, peat moss and sulfur … is this so and how much of each? Please make sure that Peter Bowden understands how much he is appreciated on the Channel six segments he has done for years. M. A. Albrecht

Dear M. A. Thank you for the kind words. It is nice to be appreciated. It sounds like you are off to a good start. The sand will improve drainage while the peat moss will retain moisture. As far as how much sulfer to ad, that will depend on what the pH of the native soil is in the area you want to plant. You’ll need to perform a simple pH test. You can get a pH test kit at Hewitts and it is a very simple task ifyou follow the directions on the package. Make sure you use distilled water though since tapwater of bottle water have a pH value of their own and this will skew the test results. Here’s a link to an excellent website that will answer your question and many other you might have regarding blueberry culture. http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1422.html Have a great harvest! PeterB

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My pears on the tree are big yellowish with brownish dots and hard. When should i pick them? Will a frost harm them? Thanks.

Sounds like you have some nice pears. The brownish dots are nothing to worry about…they can be avoided by using a fruit tree spray every 2 weeks during the growing season but the spots are harmless and common on organically grown pears. I go ahead an harvest them. A light frost probably won’t harm them but a freeze will. They will finish ripening just fine inside the house.

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What is the best way to get rid of nutsedge in my lawn?

Thanks for your question Joe, At Hewitt’s, we sell a product made by Bonide called Weedbeater Plus Crabgrass and Broadleaf Weed Killer. Follow the directions on the package and you’ll wipe out the nutsedge as well as some other unwanted weeds without harming the grass. Never apply weed killers when temperatures are expected to go above 85° or it may burn the lawn. September is a great time for weed killing.

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thinking ahead to next year! I have a strawberry bed and last summer chipmunks ate the berries faster than I could pick them.What can I do to keep them out of the bed. Thanks

Thanks for your question Pat, I’d suggest a perimeter barrier of the granular repellent Repells All form Bonide. Apply the barrier whent eh strawberries are in flower and re-apply every couple of weeks through the harvest period. By starting early the chipmunks will learn to avoid that area and will be less tempted to cross the barrier when the fruit finally appears. Peter Bowden

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what is the best way to prepare my soil. It is sandy. also 3 years in a row my tomato plants have grown very very tall and spindly with few tomatoes. What am i doing?

Sandy soil has very little nutritional value and dries quickly. Add lots of composted manure to the soil and I’d also get a bag of Espoma Tomato-Tone food. and be generous with that (according to the label of course). You say that the tomatoes “have grown very very tall and spindly with few tomatoes”. This is usually the result of trying to grow tomatoes without enough sun. Tomatoes need 8 hours of direct sun per day MINIMUM. 10 or 12 hours is even better. Perhaps you need to grow your tomatoes in a sunnier location?

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Hello Peter, I have a small strawberry patch (8′ X 3′). Do i need to use straw to cover the plants? I prefer not to get a bale of straw for such a small area. Thanks.

You can rake some leaves over your strawberries to protect them. Another choice would be some evergreen boughs which might stay in place better than leaves.

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I want to plant either a Burbank Plum or Bing Cherry tree. Can either fruit tree be planted in two’s to pollinate each other or do both need a different variety to pollinate each other?

Bing Cherry and Burbank plums will not pollinate each other. Bing Cherry tree will need another sweet cherry tree to pollinate it. Black Tartarian wouldbe a good choice to pollinate Bing. Sour cherry varieties will not pollinate sweet cherry types. Burbank Plums can actually pollinate themselves or from another plum variety planted nearby.

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Trees and Shrubs (48)

I bought 3-Hydrangea Mac Harlequins at Hewitts. It says color: pink/red. They told me these would be mult-colored but after doing a search, I was unable to find anything using the name on the tag. Can you confirm the color and also explain how to prune them. There are different techniques depending on the type you have so I would appreciate it if you could let me know how to prune this particular type. Thanks:) Suzanne

Your Harlequin Hydrangeas have a bicolored flower…here’s the link to an image: . . . http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/images/harlequin1.jpg . . . Harlequin is a ‘Mophead Hydrangea’ and only require that you prune of stems after they die having been replaced by new stems or cabes. Here’s a link to a great site that will fill you in on everything you need to know about mophead hydrangeas. Other areas of the site cover all the other hydrangeas as well…it is a great resource! . . . http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/mopheads.html

 

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Seen a Jacaranda tree in Fl, Do they grow around our area I would love on. Thanks

Sadly, the Jacaranda tree doesn’t grow this far north. It is hardy only in USDA zone 9 and higher…we are zone 5. Jacaranda trees can never survive a hard frost let alone our long, cold winters.

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Deer are prevalent in my yard. What is the best method to “protect” them and when is the best time to wrap them? Does burlap work best?

Burlap will certainly keep he deer from damaging you shribs but a better option would be deer netting. Deer netting is a black plastic mes that comes in large sizes for wrapping shrubs and small trees that deer love to munch on. You don’t really notice the netting on the shrubs where burlap would be much more obvious. You should put you deer netting on in mid to late October after the leaves have fallen from the trees.

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Do you carry an Eastern Red Bud tree?

Yes, we carry both Eastern Redbuds and Forest Pansy Redbuds. You should call your local Hewitt’s to check availability since they are both quite popular and might run out of stock as the summer progresses.

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We planted some pine trees last year (about 2 ft. tall) and since then, a few have been hit by the lawn mower. The bark is missing, and we’re worried they won’t survive. Is there anything we can do to help repair the damage?

I’d say you have reason to be concerned Sherry. All the growth action takes place in the bark of the tree. The wood inside is supporting the tree but the wood is kind of like our fingernails. The transfer of sap containing moisture and nutrients flows up through the outer layer, the bark. If the bark is removed all the way around the trunk then that flow stops and the tree will die rather quickly. Obviously you want to stop mowing so close to the trees so you’ll stop damaging the bark. Perhaps removing the grass and mulching around the trees would be a good idea so you won’t have to mow right up to the trunks. Since you don’t mention any od the trees turning brown or dying I’ll assume that the damage you’ve done so far isn’t fatal. Take a close look at the bark to see if you’d scraped the bark off all the way around the trunk. Chances are you’ve damaged one side but there is still bark on the other. The remaining bark has takenm up the task of sending nutrients and moisture up to the branches above. The damaged area will gradually recover and grow bark all around the trunk. You could get some Tree Wrap, a papery material that comes on a roll that you wind up the trunk. This will help protect the bark as it recovers and help prevent any future nicks from happening.

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Do you have hydrangas that do well in this climate and how much do they run?

Hydrangeas have become quite popular lately so naturally we have plenty of interesting varieties in stock. A quick visit to the nursery here at the Hewitt’s location in Glenville turned up these varieties. Twist & Shout, Lemon Wave, Aplen Glow, Nikko Blue, Domotoi, Harlequin, Teller, Emile Molliere, and Snow Queen. I might have missed a couple. They range in price from $16.99 to $49.99 with most for $25. Mkae sure you keep an eye on our ad in the Times Union every Thursday or you can check the adout here at hewitts.com. New ad appear every Thursday as well.

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I had a landscaper plant 14 balled & burlapped Emerald Green Arbor Vitaes about 6-7 weeks ago. Now, half seem dead (needles brown, falling off, no green under bark when scraped). I was told to water once a week, which I did until I noticed them starting to turn brown, at which time I watered about twice a week with a soaker hose. Now, I am inspecting them and am wondering if they were planted correctly. The burlap surrounding the rootballs was never pulled away from the trunk, nor was it pulled down/slit to expose the roots at all. Could this have contributed to their early demise? Thanks for any info you might have.

For an arborvitae to go from green to brown in 6-7 weeks it would take more than just the burlap and twine not being undone. Unless the twine and burlap is made of plastic then, over the course of a few years, the arb might grow and get strangled by the plastic twine. If the twine is jute (like baling twine) then it will disintigrate long before it could become a problem. Often, it isbest to just leave jute burlap and twine in place when planting. Trying to unbundle the root ball might cause the root ballto fall apart. This breaks off all the tiny root hairs that absorb moisture from the soil. . . . It sounds as though you’ve been watering them enough so I think there are three possible reason why some of your arbs failed. . . . First, make sure that they have not been planted too deep. The original soil lineon the trunk where the bark meets the root bark should be at soil level, not below. If they are planted too deep with the bark buried, the flow of moisture up the trunk is greatly impaired. . . Second, make sure that mulch hasn’t been piled up against the trunk. Mulch as heavily as you want away from the trunk butnever pilemulch against the exposed bark of the tree. It has the same effect as burying the truk too deep in the soil. . . . If you check and they seem to have been planted and mulched properly then the only conclusion is that they experienced a period of severe dryness at some point in spring before they arrived at your home. In that case I hope for your sake that they have some sort of guarantee and will be replaced.

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Hi Pete, I have a camp in the Adirondacks with a set of dead arborvitae bushes around a sunny part of the driveway. I was told by a local person that the dear eat the arborvitae and its difficult to keep them away from anything green–especially in the cold months. I would like to replace these with a hardy shrub (similar to the arborvitae) to provide some privacy, but I am unsure as to what might be the best option in this setting. Any recommendation? Thanks for your time. Jim

Thanks for your question Jim, . . The local person is right…deer are a big problem for evergreens in the Adirondacks. There is one arborvitae that is deer resistant, the Green Giant Arborvitae. It is hardy to USDA zone 5 meaning it can tolerate temperatures as low as -25°F. Green Giants are also fast growing and can get quite tall…up to 40′ or so in 25 to 30 years. There are a couple of junipers that are also deer resistant. There’s an upright form called Moonglow Juniper. Moonglow doesn’t grow as fast as Green Giant but is a nice silvery color and will reach 20′ eventually. There’s alos a wide spreading juniper that is deer resistant called Sea Green Juniper. Sea Green gets about 6′ tall and 8′ wide. If you want some color, weigelas come in may leaf andflower colors and many will get 6′ to 8′ tall and wide. Being deciduous, they won’t provide privacy in the winter but will do a great job in the summer. It might still be wise to cover them for the first few years with deer netting in the fall to protect them over the winter. Deer netting is a black plastic mesh that you won’t notice but the deer can’t get their mouths through. You could check our Queensbury store for availability 792-3638. Ask for Charlie or Tom and they can tell you what is available there or at other Hewitt’s locations.

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I’ve bought and planted a hydrangea about 3 years agon. It has never bloomed. I moved and replanted it at the end of last summer to a sunnier spot b/c I thought that was the problem. Still hasn’t bloomed. Any suggestions?

Hydrangeas and other woody plants take some time to get established. Now that you’ve moved it, I’d leave it where it is for a few more years. I always suggest adding bone meal to the planting hole to provide a slowly available source of phosphorus that lasts for several years. Phosphorus stimulates root growth to get you hydrangea established and also enhance its ability to flower. In addition I’d feed it with Espoma Flower-tone as soon as the ground can be worked in spring and again about 8 weeks later. This agressive (but gentle) feeding will hasten establishment of a good root system and shorten the time until the plant can spare the energy for a flowering cycle.

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This spring I planted a peony tuber. It has brown leaves on it, yet the one next to it, planted several years ago is very healthy and has a lot of blooms in late spring. What is wrong with it?

Peonies take a while to get established. The older plant clearly is established but your young plant with a very shallow root system is likely struggling as a result of our hot and dry summer. Keep the younger plant watered and feed it in spring as soon as the ground thaws and can be worked. I’d suggest Espoma Flower-tone as the food. It can take 3 years or more for a peony to become well enough established that it has the energy to spare on a flowering cycle. Also peonies, once established, don’t like to be moved. Simply moving and established peony to a new location can cause it not to flower for a couple of years.

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When should the last fertilizer application be of rodies, arborvities and other plants?

The best time to feed these and other woody shrubs is as soon as the ground thaws and can be worked in spring. If you use Espoma’s Holly-tone or Flower-tone youe could feed againg 8 to 10 weeks later. Feeding is pretty much done for the season by early summer except for annuals that can be fed as long as the weather is warm. Other than on the lawn, I don’t suggest fall feeding. Shrubs, trees and perennials need to wind down with the season and late feeding can stimulate fresh growth that is more easily damaged by frost. Your last feeding for the woody shrubs you mention should be no later than the end of June.

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What kind of tree would you recommend for tall, fast growing, privacy in zone 3-4? I’ve searched online and found a Willow Hybrid but didn’t know if any local nurseries carried this.

A great tree for this purpose would be the Canadian Hemlock. As an evergreen hemlocks will provide privacy year round and can handle the cold of zone 3. Naturally they’ll follow their instinct and try to grow into a tree but pruning the top will force it to branch out and go wide instead of tall. Gradually let it get to the height you want and then trim the top every other year or so to keep it low and bushy. Hemlocks are widely available.

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We bought a house a few years ago and never paid any attention to the perennials and shrubs until now. We have 4 HUGE rhododendron bushes that do well every year, despite no care given. Since I’d like to attempt gardening, was wondering ab out some basic care: when is it ok to prune them? What type of mulch is the best to put around them? If they need fertilizer, what type? Thanks!

Thanks for your question Jen. It’s great that your rhododenrons are doing well on their own. That tells us that they are planted in a location that suits them and that’s half the battle right there. You should prune them right after they flower in spring. Rhododendron, azaleas and other broadleaf evergreens form their flowers buds during the summer and fall. Those buds must winter over and then open in spring. If you prune them late in the season, you’ll be removing the flowers you wish to enjoy. As always follow the pruning rules of 1/3. Never prune off more than 1/3 of the branch structure. Usually that isn’t necessary but if it is, prune it partway back then wait a year to do more. It is also a good idea to snip off the remnants of the flowers in spring. If you remove the seed pods then the energy the rhodos would have put into those seeds will go instead into more flowers the following spring. I like cedar mulch but and good bark mulch will be fine. You can mulch 4″ deep but make sure that you don’t pile mulch up against the trunk. That can smother the bark and cause more harm than good. I really like Espoma Holly-tone. It is a granular food that you should apply as early in the spring as you can. I like to pound hole with a small length of pipe down about 8″ and then pour the Holly-tone down the holes. That gets the food to the roots that can absorb it. You’ll need several holes and they should be made out away from the trunk of the Rhodo about as far as the outermost branch tips. Scattering the food on the mulch is wasteful since the nutrients have a hard time making it through the mulch into the soil where the roots are.

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How much sun does an arborvitae need, does the sun need to be on them directly?

Thanks for your question Don. Arborvitae will perform best in full sun. Full sun means that it the sun should shine directly on the plant for at least 6 hours. More is even better. You can add up all the sun that it gets to get the total. For example it might get 2 hours in the morning and 5 more in the afternoon for a total of 7 hour of direct sun. You should make these estimations during the growing season in June or July for instance. How much sun it gets in early spring, late fall or winter when the plant is dormant has no relevance.

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I am interested in purchasing a tree that blooms in the north each with dark orange blossoms. I don’t know what kind of tree this is, can you help?

Lesley and I exchanged email so I could get more clues. It turns out that the tree seems to flower in fall. Since there aren’t any trees that have showy orange flowers in fall I surmised that she was actually seeing the berry clusters of an American Mountain Ash

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Can you tell me if lilac bushes have to be pruned? They didn’t bloom this year on the same branches that they did last year. If i cut off the old dead flowers will it kill them or make them bloom there next yr. It was there when I bought my house 4 yrs. ago. It is about 7ft. tall. & just as wide. I would say it is pretty old.

No, pruning off the old, dead flowers (that have become seed pods by now) won’t hurt the lilac. A better time to do this would be right after the flowers finish up in spring. This prevents the lilac from putting any energy into producing seeds and that energy will then be put into growth and more flowers the following season. Since we know that you have an old large, well-established lilac, it may be time to rejuvenate it with some heavy pruning. You’re going to need a pruning saw for this. You probably have some very large, older trunks coming out of the middle of the lilac that are not producing many flowers. These older trunks may be 10 or 20 years old and no longer have the vitality to produce flowers the way they used to. Get in there and cut them off as close to the base as possible. Make sure that you don’t remove more than 1/3 of the total branch structure to avoid shocking the plant. Remove all these older trunks and the energy that they were using will now go into younger shoots that will produce the most flowers. Ideally you should have done this in spring right after the lilac bloomed. Lilacs form buds in the summer after flowering. Those latent buds winter over and produce flowers in spring. If you had pruned the lilac this spring, you’d have lots of new growth with buds ready to go. There’s nothing wrong with cutting your lilac back now but you won’t get the big benefit until the spring after next. People are often shy about pruning heavily but, as in this case, it is the best way to get the most out of your lilac. Once you remove the old, unproductive trunks, it will be several year before you need to do anything more than light pruning.

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We recently planted 6 arborviate which were around 3ft tall. We planted them in a mix of peat moss and native soil(sandy). They don’t seem to be doing well, leaves are turning brownish. What can we do to help them ?

It sounds like you did a good job planting your arbs. I suspect that the culprit is the hot, dry summer and fall we’re having. Newly planted shrubs need to be kept constantly moist during the growing season. In your sandy soil, this would have meant a thorough soaking every other day. To help them at this point, you shuld try pouring Mir-Acid (a food you dilute in water) from a watering can over the foliage. Mir-Acid can be absorbed directly through the foliage to feed the plant instantly. If you don’t have Mir-Acid then regular Miracle-Gro will also work. Also soak the soil by placing a slow running hose at the base of each plant for an hour or so to give the water a chance to get deep into the soils and the arborvitae’s roots. There’s rain coming that will help but deep soaking will take more than an inch or two of natural rain. This watering is especially important late in the growing season as plants (especially evergreens) are trying to store the moisture and nutrients they need to make it through the winter ahead.

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I’m looking for a shrub, evergreen, to put in my planter in front of my house. I would like to add some height to my landscape. The planter comes out away from the house approximately 30″. What would you suggest? Thanks

Thanks for your question Paul. Before I answer your question could you tell more about the planter. Is it free standing with a bottom (like a windowbox or pot) or more like a small retaining wall where there is no bottom and the plant can grow into the soil below? PeterB Peter, It is a small retaining wall planter without a bottom and ties back into the house. This planter is not in full sun but goes get quite a bit ob sun. It also runs between my house and the driveway. Thanks for clarifying Paul, Hardy perennials, shrubs and evergreens can be difficult to maintain in raised planters. This is because the planter will thaw and freeze repeatedly during late winter and early spring. Plants in the ground will stay frozen and dormant until the ground thaws in spring. Since a planter is raised up from the soil it will often thaw out during early warm spells in February or March. When this happens, it can lure the plants in the planter out of dormancy too early. The plants will start to grow roots and buds swell up with the first flush of growth. Of course normal, sub freezing weather returns and refreezes the planter. When this happens the new growth is killed and the shock of all this can kill the entire plant. It is for this reason you don’t often see hardy perennials or shrubs in raised planter…they have a hard time surviving. Having said that, I HAVE seen hardy plants in planter surviving and thriving. Those planters are usually in a location where there isn’t a lot of afternoon sun so the planter manages not to warm up enough during “false spring” weather and so the plants remain dormant. Perhaps your planter is in such a location and has enough mass to stay frozen in late winter. My suggestion for you would be to give Dwarf Alberta Spruce a try. They are slow growing and very hardy. If it is protected from the west and north wind, you could also try smaller rhododendron, azaleas and holly. Let me know how you make out. Peter B

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Its time for me to cut down my Hydrangea bushes,how far do I cut them down,I have not had flowers either on them in 2 years..Any suggestions? Thank you

There are different types of hydrangeas. Some flower on second year growth and some on new growth. You’ll need to determine what type you have. If you have been cutting back your hydrangea every fall then you might have been cutting off the shoots that will flower the following summer. Heree’s a wonderful site that will help you identify which type of hydrangea you have and when it should be pruned. http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/pruning.html

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our endless summer hydrangea stopped blooming in the third year. what can we do to get them to bloom?

Thanks for your question Charles. There are a couple of things that can prevent ES hydrangeas from blooming. Lack of enough direct sun. In our area (Albany NY) you’d want to get at least 7 hours of direct sun per day during summer. Even more is better. It is claimed that they will do well in ‘partial shade’. That may be true in the southern US but, up here in the north, they will flower better with more sun. If your hydrangea grew lush, large leaves but no flowers then it probably isn’t getting enough sun. Not getting fed. Hyrdrangeas don’t need a lot of food but, especially in sandy soils, they do need some. Espoma Flower-Tone would be a nice, gentle option. Don’t feed it now but as early in the spring as the soil can be worked. Without knowing the conditions your hydrangea is planted in I can only offer those possibilities. Here’s a great site that might help your sort out what has gone wrong. http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/

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I have a flowering plum tree that was place in a retaining wall by a lanscaper two years ago. I did some online research on tree disease because I noticed a some issues with the tree. It looks like it could be Black knot and or Bacterial canker. What do I do?

I have a flowering plum tree that was place in a retaining wall by a lanscaper two years ago. I did some online research on tree disease because I noticed a some issues with the tree. It looks like it could be Black knot and or Bacterial canker. What do I do? Thanks for you question Laura, This is bad news…both these disorders are common to plums and both are dificult to control. Here’s some information from Cornell on Black Knot http://www.nysipm.cornell.edu/factsheets/treefruit/diseases/bk/bk.asp and on Bacterial Canker http://www.ehow.com/how_5786749_treat-canker-plum-trees.html The bottom line is that you’ll need to prune away the infected growth and spray during the growing season with a copper-based fungicide. We sell one from Bonide and you can see it here. It is available in a spray or dust (that can also be mixed with water for spraying). Repeat sprayings will be needed and even then either of these diseases will be hard to control completely but you might keep them under control.

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My rhododendrons have buds on them. When is the correct time to prune them?

Thanks for your question Barb, That’s great that you have buds now…those are the buds that will flower in spring. Right after those flowers finish up in spring is the correct time to do any pruning. That way the new flower buds that form will form on the new shoots that grow after you prune.

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When is the time to prune hygerangea bushes? Should it be done in the fall or spring? Thanks

Thanks for your question Dave, Different types iof hydrangeas get pruned at different times. The best I can do issteer you to this great site. It will help you determine what type of hydrangea you vae and how to prune it. http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/pruning.html

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I have a beautiful zebra grass. I was wondering if I should trim it in the fall or wait until the spring. Thanks!

Honestly, it makes no difference to the plant whether you trim it now or in spring or at all for that matter. If you don’t like the way it looks now (straggly) then trim it back now. I would probably leave it until spring so the dead foliage will catch some leaves ans later snow to help insulated it over winter but Zebra Grass is so hardy that the choice is yours. Peter Bowden

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I have 6 shrubs that we purchased late in the season, and were unable to plant them. What can we do to keep them till Spring.??? They are now starting to dry, and I was going to put them into the cellar, in the furnace room till spring. Thanks

Often the plants I get during fall sales don’t look like much with the leaves falling off as they go into dormancy, but as long as the roots and stems are in good shape, I’m willing to take a chance. Sometimes the bargains are so good that I buy plants that I have no plan for but the price is so good that I can’t pass them up. These plants will often have to spend the winter in their pots while I come up with a plan for them. I’m not afraid to winter-over perennials in pots or balled-in-burlap shrubs or trees. It’s all a question of knowing how to bring them through the harsh winter ahead. First, scout out a sheltered location. We know that our prevailing wind comes from the west and north. The east facing wall of a garage, shed or even the house is a great spot. The building will block the cold, dry air that can dehydrate our wintering plants. I’ve got a 4′ high retaining wall on the western side of my vegetable garden that works well for this purpose. Parallel to the wall, I’ll dig a trench deep enough to set my potted and balled bargains into. If I happen to have a tree that is so tall that it sticks out above the wall, I’ll tip it on its side so the branches are below the top of the wall, protected from the wind. Then I’ll fill around the pots or root balls with loose soil and tamp it down well. Until winter sends my treasures into complete dormancy, I’ll keep an eye out that they don’t dry out, but with rain such a regular feature this time of year, that’s not of much concern. As early as I can in spring, I’ll find places in my landscape for my fall bargains and plant them (adding bone meal, of course).

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I’ve heard of a product called SuperRepellent to use on dormant trees and shrubs to prevent deer from browsing on them in the winter. Do you carry it?

Hewitt’s doesn’t carry SuperRepellent…the closest I can come is Liquid Fence Deer Repellent which uses putrescent egg solids, garlic, sodium lauryl sulphite and potassium sorbate to repel deer. It should be applied in fall and again during any thaw periods (above freezing) during winter…especially toward spring. PeterB

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I have a twin pine tree that has been dropping pieces since the fall and hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. My deck and lawn area is covered. The pieces are about 4 inch long small branches with green needles, no sign of brown needles. Any idea why the tree is dropping like this?? Never done this before. Thanks, Andy

I’ve been noticing the same thing. Don’t worry about it, the pines will be fine. We’ve had a very cold winter and we’ve had icing that has coated the pines for days on end. With the ice and extended cold spells the needles and small branches get very brittle so, when the high wind pounds them they snap off. They can even snap off from the weight of snow when the wind hits them as well. As the snow melts you’ll see even more broken needles on the surface. Rest assured, the pines will come through fine and will look great this spring with lots of new growth to replace what winter stripped away. This winter has been particularly cold, and icy. There is usually some damage like this in winter but this one has just been a little worse than the last few. Peter Bowden

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My lilac bush has scale and I tried to treat it several times last summer. I had some results but there still is a problem and I want to rid the bush totally before it blooms this season. What is the best way to totally eradicate the scale????

Scale is tough to get rid of. I had it on a weeping beech so I understand your frustration. There a way though. You’ll need to use a soil drench of Bonide’s Annual Tree & Shrub Insect Control. Follow the directions on the package carefull but you’ll dilute the liquid with water and soak the soil at the base of the tree using as much as the directions indicate. The lilacs will absorb the insecticide and it moves throughout the plant killing the scale as well as their offspring that hatch later. It worked great for me…one application did the trick but it does take some time to start working so be patient.

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Can 5 year old hydrangea bushes be safley transplanted to a new location?

Yes it can but do it as soon as possible. Transplanting is best done when the plant is dormant. Lucky for you the weather is still quite cool and your hydrangea is still dormant. To reduce transplant shock have the hole where it is to go dug and ready. Dig up the hydrangea with as large a root ball as possible to keep as many of the fine root hairs intact. Make sure to use some bone meal in the planting hole. Water in thououghly and keep well watered this entire season.

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It appears that my PJM rhodies got some winter burn – the tips of some of the leaves turned brown but are still pliable (not brittle). What can I do about this if anything? Could it be something else? Also, how do I get them to fill in better? This will be the third season they are in the ground and haven’t grown or filled in very much. They normally flower rather well though.

Winter burn is pretty common on rhodos…especially after a windy winter like the one we just had. Those leaves are nipped forever but will be masked by new growth this spring. Any that are totally brown can be removed any time. A burlap barrier on the north west side over winter can help prevent this in the future. It takes a while for shrubs to get established and yours has only been in the ground for 2 seasons so it is still getting settled in. You should feed your rhodos (indeed all your landscape plants) as soon in spring as the ground can be worked (right now). For the rhodos use Espoma Holly-Tone. Pound holes out away from the trunk as far as the outermost branch tips and pour a small handful of food into the hole and poke it shut. Do this in several places around the shrub. Throwing food down on the surface is easier but mostly benefits weeds. Get the food down to the roots and it will work better. Deadheading will also help the PJM fill out and flower more. After the flowers have finished, pinch off the seed pods that begin to develop after the petals fall off. The rhodo will put a great deal of energy into these seeds. By removing the seeds, you are redirecting that energy into leaf growth and flower buds for the next season’s show. You can also do any light pruning right after flowering. If you haven’t been feeding and deadheading try that first. It should be enough to get them to start filling. Try that for a season before you resort to pruning.

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We have 4 globe arborvitaes along our front porch that have grown full and about 4 ft. tall over the past 20 years. We have pruned them annually, but the inner leaves/branches are brown and only the outer exposed leaves are green. We would like to cut these back about a foot, but are concerned that this will kill them or we won’t get green leaves back this season. I think they are worth saving, but my husband thinks they won’t recover well. Can you advise us how to prune these to give them the best chance of greening up this season or should be just replace them for something smaller? Thanks for your help!

I have to agree with your husband on this one. Cutting off a foot all around you globe arbs will remove pretty much all of the foliage. That will shock the plant so severely that it isn’t likely to survive. The general rule of thumb for pruning is :”Never remove more than 1/3 of the foliage per year.” I’d suggest replacing them with something slower growing so this doesn’t happen again. Dwarf Alberta Spruce would be an appropriate option. Peter Bowden

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I would like to purchase a Rose of Sharon. When will this item be available at the Western Ave. location? Also with regard to lawn: What seed would be most appropriate for the mostly shade north side of our home

The althea (Rose of Sharon) should be available in a month or so and more arrive in late summer as well. Hewitt’s Super Shady is the grass blend you want…it can grow in the shade of a building with no direct sun at all.

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can you please advise on type of fertilizer for (1)arborvitae (2) boxwoods (3) flowering plum tree and frequency

For the arvorvitae and the box wood I’d go with Espoma’s Tree-Tone. This is a granular food that you’ll place into holes pounded onto the ground (an old broom handle or pipe works well for making the holes) and then fill the holes 3/4 full of the food. The holes should be out away from the trunk or stem about as far as the outermost branch tip (this is called the ‘dripline’). For the flowering plum I’d use Flower-Tone using the same method above. Feed right away and every spring as soon as the soil thaws. This way the plant is getting the food as new growth is forming in spring. Once a year is enough…never feed in the fall.

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I received a azalia bush last year. I was told to plant it at end of season. It looks like alot of it has died. Will it come back ?

Let it leaf out and then cut away all the dead stems. Since it was planted at the end of the season, it probably had a tough time over winter. Hardy plants should get planted as early in the season as possible to get a root system established before winter. Water it with Mir-Acid plant food every two weeks until the end of June (don’t feed it in the heat of summer). It should spring back to life and fill back in.

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Hello! A friend was given a mini azalea (assuming from what i was told, its really little) and it looked great. Some time passed and she forgot to water it causing it to dry up to near complete death. Its still alive after a dousing but most of it seems dead. She gave it to me figuring id pay better attention to it. I want to re-pot it into a bigger pot and because I cant put it outside in the ground. I know they like acidic soil and was told there was soil made just for them. Do you carry any? Ive been keeping the soil its in moist and it seems to be doing OK. Also what are these little pepper looking specks all over the underside of my spider plant? I its causing it to turn yellow and die.

Hello! A friend was given a mini azalea (assuming from what i was told, its really little) and it looked great. Some time passed and she forgot to water it causing it to dry up to near complete death. Its still alive after a dousing but most of it seems dead. She gave it to me figuring id pay better attention to it. I want to re-pot it into a bigger pot and because I cant put it outside in the ground. I know they like acidic soil and was told there was soil made just for them. Do you carry any? Regular potting soil will be fine but I’d wait until it recovers before repotting which will only add to the stress on the plant. Feed it with half strength Mir-Acid plant food every three weeks or so and keep it in partial sun until it recovers. It will be a few months before it is ready for repotting. I’ve been keeping the soil its in moist and it seems to be doing OK. Also what are these little pepper looking specks all over the underside of my spider plant? I its causing it to turn yellow and die. This sounds like spider mites. Spray weekly with insecticidal soap sprayfor 4 weeks. Make sure to spray thoroughly on top and bottom of the leaves.

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I asked a question about why my evergreen trees are turning brown and dying? you responded by wanting to know what type of tree they are and how old. they are blue spruce and five years old. I have not given them any food or fertilizer. I need your help thank you.

I asked a question about why my evergreen trees are turning brown and dying? you responded by wanting to know what type of tree they are and how old. they are blue spruce and five years old. I have not given them any food or fertilizer. I need your help thank you. Skip, Since your spruce tree are recently planted I’d like you to check to make sure that the twine that was on the ball is not still around the trunk. Most jute twines will rot away but plastic twine won’t. As the tree grows the twine strangles it. Next check to make sure that soil or mulch hasn’t been piled up against the bark of the tree. Sometimes, if the hole is dug too deeply the crown (where the trunk enters the soil) gets buried. Even mulch piled up against the trunk of the spruce is a problem. The bark needs to be exposed to the air for the bark on the trunk to pass nutrients from the soil below to the branches above. We find that buried stems and trunks and mulch piled against the bark are the leading cause for dead plants getting returned to us. Dig away around the trunk until you find the original soil that was at the top of the original dirt ball that the plant came in. Naturally you’ll get more growth and a healthier trees and shrubs if you feed then each spring…in the case of the spruces you’d feed them with Holly-Tone. http://blog.timesunion.com/gardening/spring-feeding-pt-2-shrubs-trees-and-perennials/650/

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I have what I think is a Purple Plum Tree out in front of my house, it has pretty pale pink flowers all over now, my quest. is , it is leaning toward one side, and I like to know what to do so it doesn’t do that, the weight is all on one side, it is beautiful , and I don’t want anything to happen to it, could you give me some advice on this. Thank You Pete Appreciate it…

If the tree is small enough, you could use a tree staking kit to bend it back so it is straight. After a couple of years of staking the tree will conform to it’s new position. If it is older and too large to bend then your only option is to trim some of the branches off the ‘heavier side to force the tree into more growth on the other side to balance it out. Never remove more than 1/3 of the total branch structure per year. This may take a few years to accomplish so be patient.

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Hello, We recently moved into a house that has had bamboo growing for about 30 years. Last spring we dug up the stalks that took up a 10′ x 20′ area. As the summer came around we continued to pluck what ever bamboo came up. And it still continues to come up. It’s very frustrating. My husband did some investigating and found that it takes a very long time to get rid of bamboo and the only way to do it is to keep cutting the stems as the come up because it will exhaust the roots. Is this true? Do you have any advise for us? Thanks, Kristin

I’ll assume that you’re dealing with ‘false bamboo’ aka Japanese Knotweed. This is a former ornamental that will eventually take over the world. I also moved into a house that had the bed one whole side of the house filled with that stuff. We cut it back for a couple of years hoping that that would kill it but it didn’t. What finally did work was covering the area with a plastic tarp 4 layers thick. I actually used an old pool cover that I found by the side of the road. We made sure that the area was covered right up to the house and out about a foot beyond where the knotweed was growing. We then covered the tarp with a thick layer of cedar mulch so we wouldn’t have to look at the tarp. We left it all summer and the next spring I peeked under only to find weak shoots still trying to grow. We left it covered for another summer. Finally, after two years it seems to be dead. We removed the tarps and dug around. We found a few weak roots that we removed and planted the bed with perennials. Every once in a while a shoot would pop up but we’d dig it out rather than just snapping it off….gotta get those roots. Now, several years later, we seem to have finally won our battle. There are weed killers that will kill it and sterilize the soil for two years but we were afraid that it would get into the roots of some nearby shrubs and kill them too so we went the tarp and mulch route. Be diligent and patient and you get it gone.

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Hi there. I bought my lilac tree from Hewitt’s in 2007 (I think. I’m still looking for the receipt.) It was blooming when I bought/planted it, but it has not bloomed again. It’s growing, and is full of lush green leaves, but no blooms. What am I doing wrong?? Help! THanks.

A lilac may not flower while it is establishing a roots system. Once that is done it can expend the extra energy on flowering. A lack of sun and phosphorus can slow down this process. Feed your lilac each spring with Flower-Tone by pounding holes out away from the trunk and pour the Flower-tone into those holes. Do this in several place around the lilac so more roots can find and use the food. If you have been pruning your lilac in summer you have been cutting off the buds for the next season’s flowers. Lilacs form the buds for next spring’s flowers this summer. Always prune your lilac in spring right after flowering so the buds form on new growth. If it is planted in shade then it may never flower.

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Four years ago we planted two beautiful profusion crab apple trees on either side of a bradford pear tree. Both trees have done really well with plentiful blossoms and beautiful green leaves. This year they both blossomed with their pink flowers, but only one has a full compliment of dense green leaves. The other although it did have blossoms, now has only a scarce leaves and mostly bare branches. I can not see any signs of pests or fungi though it does look as though some branches were damaged by the harsh winter. Is it possible the leaves will arrive later in the spring or summer? Or am I better off looking at replacing it now so it has a chance to establish itself he fore next winter? Thanks so much!

Check around the base of the trees for mouse or rabbit damage. If the bark has been partially stripped off by them eating it over winter then it can cause some of the problems you’ve been describing. If the bark has been stripped of all the way around the trunk then it is fatal. Also check to make sure that you haven’t piled soil or mulch up against the bark of the tree. Scrape away and bark or soil until you see the original soil that the tree came in. Burying the crown of the tree (where the trunk enters the soil) also slows or stops the flow of moisture and nutrients from the roots to the branches. The fact that they flowered and have some leaves is hopeful. Winter was indeed harsh so they are under some stress. I’d give them a chance to recover before ripping them out.

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What are some good types of shrubs to purchase for creating nice hedges about 3-5 ft high for a natural border or fence. I don’t want to go with the arborvitae because they grow too tall and tend to get brown in the middle. I have heard boxwoods are good. Are they the ones that can be trimmed nicely and literally look like a green wall? (That’s what I’m looking for) What size shrub should I start with so I don’t have to wait 5 years for it to be at least 3ft high and how far apart do I plant them? Thank you again for all your help.

Your boxwood idea is a good one but they are slow growing. Buy the largest you can. There is also Little Princess Spirea which gets 3′ tal and 6′ wide. Low maintenance with little pruning needed. If it is a very sunny location then miniature roses are another option. Miniature roses aren’t grafted and are very winter hardy so no special care is needed (wrapping & mulching) to get them through winter, There are also som low growing cotoneasters that might work for you as well.

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What are the best shrubs to grow in shade?

Azaleas do well in shade as do holly, japanese andromeda and holly. Yews also don’t need lots of sun. Endless Summer hydrangeas and many other hydrangeas like some shade. Euonymus likes shade too. Many varieties of viburnum thrive in shade as well. There are more as well…maybe come to the garden center to see.

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I have several groups of white birch trees we planted 5 years ago. They’ve been beautiful, until this year. Three groups have almost no leaves on them. They’re in different locations, only 2 groups are close to each other. I never saw signs of leafminers or anything affecting the trees or leaves last year. What could cause this?

There is a birch tree blight that can cause this. It is a leaf disease so it isn’t likely that it will kill the tree. This sometimes happens when we have an excessively damp spring. I might feed them a little Tree-Tone plant food by pounding holes into the soil under the drip line (outermost branch tips). Make sure to rake up and remove any leaves that fall and remove them from the yard…especially the leaves that fall this autumn. Another thing to check is the base of the tree where the trunk enters the soil. Make sure you haven’t buried the trunk with soil of mulch. Brush back the mulch or soil until you find the original soil line where the trunk enters the soil. If the trunk is buried with mulch or soil or slows the flow of moisture and nutrients up the trunk weakening the tree and making it more likely to die from diseases and stress. Peter Bowden

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Hello! We have three Princess Beatrix Hydrangea plants. They are now approx. 4 years old. Last year we did not have any flowers :( We thought it best to just leave the plants alone (did not prune at all) At this time, we have green leaves growing from the bottom up. What are our chances of seeing flowers this year? Most importantly, what is the VERY BEST way and time of year to prune them? Thanks so much! Beverley

I’d say your chances of seeing flowers are pretty good since you did not prune off last year’s growth. Princess Beatrix is a macrophylla hydrangea so it produces flowers from buds on stems that grew last year. Other hydrangeas can produce flowers on new growth. There is a lot of confusion about this and the best site for clearing up the confusion is this: http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/pruning.html#Know For you hydrangea you’ll want to follow ‘Pruning: Method One’

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I have two mature Boulevard Cypress shrubs in front of my home and one more than the other has many brown branches on it. I tried using Jobe spikes but see no results. Could it be damage due to the severe winter or a blight? Also should I cut those brown branches off. Thank you.

This was a particularly rough winter so i expect that is the problem. It is normal for some of the interior foliage to turn brown and fall off as the plant matures but this winter may have nipped them more than normal. The food spike were a good idea and they will help as they dissolve into the soil. Any branches that are totall brown and brittle should be removed. Another thing to check is the base of the tree where the trunk enters the soil. Make sure you haven’t buried the trunk with soil of mulch. Brush back the mulch or soil until you find the original soil line where the trunk enters the soil. If the trunk is buried with mulch or soil or slows the flow of moisture and nutrients up the trunk weakening the tree and making it more likely to die from diseases and stress. Peter Bowden

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Hi Peter,I have a unhealthy cherry blossom tree and it has very few leaves on it, branches seem a little frail and it has no flowers. Can it be saved? Just one more thing, it is a very old tree. Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Fruit trees, including ornamental cherry trees have a lifespan and, if yours is 30 or 40 years old, it may be reaching the end of it’s time. Having said that, I’m hearing of similar problems from others. There are some things you can do. The most obvious is to make sure that you haven’t piled mulch up against the bark of the tree. Next make sure to remove any suckers that sprout from the base of the tree. Suckers will rob moisture and nutrients from the upper branches and leaves. Naturally feeding it with some fruit tree spikes pounded into the soil underneath the outermost branch tips will help as well. If the tree hasn’t been pruned in many years there are probably many interior sucker-like branches that should also be cut off to encourage growth on the main stems. If it has been let go then this pruning needs to take place over a few years to avoid shocking the tree. Without seeing the tree or a picture, it is hard for me to be too specific but here’s a website that does a nice job describing the process. http://www.ehow.com/how_7333120_restore-old-fruit-tree.html

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I have 2 apple trees in my backyards and would like to spray them organically (no chemicals) to control worms, can you recommend anything?

This is a pretty involved question so I think it best to send you the link to this very comprehensive page from Michigan State University. Michigan’s climate is the same as ours so the information given is appropriate here as well. http://web3.canr.msu.edu/vanburen/organasp.htm

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Gardening (52)

We recently dug up some daffodil and tulip bulbs to redo our garden — can we plant them now or do we need to dry them and plant in the fall?

By now the bulbs have stored as much energy for next year’s flowering so it is up to you whether you want to replant now or in the fall. You can replant now if the space is available or later if it is not. I like to see bulbs like daffodils, tulips and such planted as early in the fall as possible so they have a chance to root in and grab some nutrients before winter. By early in the fall I mean late September or early October. The later they go in, the less chance they have to set roots which help keep the bulbs from being forced up but frost.

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How do I get rid of a rabbit in my garden that is eating my vegetables?

The easy answer is to build a fence to keep the rabbits out of the garden. I’ll assume that you’re not in a situation where a fence is feasible. At Hewitt’s we have ‘Repels-All’ which is a combination of dried blood, putrescent whole egg solids and garlic oil. It can be quite effective and claims to last for ‘up to 2 months’. The reality is that it will last only until the next rain shower washes it into the soil. You’ll need to reapply after every rainstorm to remain protected. Then there’s Liquid Fence which contains fewer ingredients that Repells-All but seems to do the job for many folks. To be most effective, apply these repellents as a stronger barrier around the area to be protected rather than scattering it about everywhere. There’s also Hot Pepper Wax spray which can be sprayed on vegetable plants. Rabbits don’t like the taste at all. You may also find that a repellent works well for a few years and then seems not to work. This means that the animals have become accustomed to the repellent and it is time to switch to a different one for a few years or until the animals become used to that one. This means that you should alternate between Repells-All and Luquid Fence every three or four years.

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I planted a Hydrangea plant 3 years ago and it has yet to bloom. It will produce the green leaves.

There are many differnt hydrangeas and several reasons why your hydrangea isn’t blooming…the first that comes to mind is: ‘Not enough sun’ Since I don’t know what type of hydrangea you have nor enough clues to answer your question, I’ll direct you to this website…great information: http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/index.html

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Mr. Bowden, We recently added a water softening system to our well system. Will we have problems when watering our raised bed gardens from the water softened system? Should we try to bypass the softener and still use the hard water from the well? Thanks love your info on the news Pete

You should NOT use softened water on your garden or houseplants. Here’s what an ag agent at Texas A&M about it. “Softened water is not recommended for watering plants, lawns and gardens due to its sodium content. Care must also be taken that water used in recharging a water softener be disposed through a storm drain or sewer due to its damaging effects. If you are on a septic tank, the logical method of brine disposal is to discharge the brine into the septic tank and soil absorption field where some leaching of sodium salts will occur. Other alternatives include a separate holding tank which could be evacuated by a vacuum truck or a separate disposal field or discharge point that does not affect neighbors’ property.” Get a bypass installed and use that hard water. The plants may benefit from the minerals in the water but will suffer from the sodium in the water softened water.

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Peter, Want to plant brussel sprouts. Seed packet says 4 months before fall frost, which is Oct 3 here in Albany. Do I sow directly in garden June 3? They sell transplants now, wouldn’t a transplant be too early to plant in May, for Harvesting after frost in October? Your planting guide says direct seed may 15 – June 10. Please help me resolve this confusion. Thanks Peter Best, Larry

Brussel Sprout transplants (started from seed indoors earlier or purchased at the garden center) can be planted now for harvest in summer. Seeds can be sown in June as you state for harvest in October. The crop sown in summer will be the better and more flavorful crop since it will mature in the cold days of October.

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Hello. I had a container garden last year that did very well. I am wondering if I have to replace all of the soil that is still in the containers or is there something I can mix in to reuse it? Thank You. Pam

No need to replace the soil unless you had disease problems. You can renew the nutritional value of the soil by blending in some Espoma Garden-tone or Flower-tone. I do this in all my large pots and planters every year….works great!

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i have beets in my garden up about1″.i have noticed quite a few ants at the base of the greens.is this because all of the rain we have been getting or should i be concerned about something else? and should i let them be or try to kill them with something?

Beets are sweet and ants like sweets. A couple of ants aren’t worth reacting to butm, if it seems that they are hariming the beets then I’d sprinkle some diatomaceous earth around the beets . Diatomaceous earth is the sharp skeletons of diatoms. There are very small and sharp (on a microscopic level) and will slice the ants if they attempt to go near the beets. All safe for you thugh I’d wast the beets before eating them. I’m sure you do that anyway. Peter B

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What can I put around my garden to keep the squirrels out, last yr they ate my entire garden. Does that shake away squirrel repelant work and if so where can I get it? thank you

The easy answer is a dog or cat…from there it gets more difficult. Just about everyone with a yard has squirrels. Some of us love them and some of us love them but wish they would leave our gardens alone…but how? At Hewitt’s we have ‘Repels-All’ which is a combination of dried blood, putrescent whole egg solids and garlic oil. It can be quite effective and claims to last for ‘up to 2 months’. The reality is that it will last only until the next rain shower washes it into the soil. You’ll need to reapply after every rainstorm to remain protected. We also have ‘Critter Ridder’ from Havahart that contains oil of black pepper, piperine, and capsaicin and can also work well if reapplied after rain. You also ask about ‘Shake Away Squirrel Repellent’…we have the ‘Shake Away Small Citter Repellent’ which doesn’t list squirrels on the label but is the same ingredient (fox urine). The idea here is that small rodents have a very keen sense of smell and, since foxes eat them, they will steer clear of an area that smells like them. Once again, fox urine will need to reapplied after a rainstorm. To be most effective, apply these repellents as a stronger barrier around the area to be protected rather than scattering it about everywhere. You may also find that a repellent works well for a few years and then seems not to work. This means that the animals have become accustomed to the repellent and it is time to switch to a different one for a few years or until the animals become used to that one.

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I noticed tiny black eggs on the underside of the leaves on one of my brussel sprout plants. They are in small, round bunches and resemble caviar. What are they and how do I get rid of them?

Your question is a little tricky since I can only go by your description. I’d suggest bringing a leaf with the sample eggs to one of the Hewitts locations for a positive ID. Having said that, I make an educated guess that you probably have Squash Bug eggs on your brussel sprouts. The easiest way to control them is to remove and discard the eggs before they hatch. Once they hatch, the beetles can be controlled with insecticidal soap or other contact killer rated for use in the vegetable garden. Here’s a link for more information on Squash Bugs http://www.planetnatural.com/site/xdpy/kb/squash-bug-control.html There are other insects that may attack your brussel sprouts. Here’s a helpful link to identifying them. http://www.harvestwizard.com/2009/06/brussels_sprouts_growing_probl.html

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Looking into Diatomaceous earth — do you recommend for my garden/yard and do you sell it?

Yes, I do recommend using Diatomaceous earth as and organic solution to many of the insect pests found in the garden and around the yard. DE appears to be a powdery substance but on a microscopic level it is a very hard and extremely sharp particle that ire the skeletal remains of tiny sea creatures called diatoms. When sprinkled on the ground, DE will slice through the exoskeleton of insects or slice slugs that crawl through it. Any insect unlucky enough to actually ingest DE will be sliced form the inside as well. Yes, Hewitts does sell diatomaceous earth.

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I am a pretty new vegetable gardener. Last year something kept making little bore holes into my peppers. Not into the stem, but the fruit itself. The holes were little, maybe a few millimeters in diameter. I just found the same type of hole in a very timy start of a pepper. I haven’t found any worms/caterpillars/bugs around to explain it. Any suggestions? I have not used any type of insecticide so far, but since I am a little more experienced, I want to try a lttle harder!

Welcome to the world of vegetable gardening. Kudos to you for not getting discouraged by last year’s lousy growing season From your description and the timing (small fruit stage) I’d surmise that you are having a problem with pepper weevils. Pepper weevils are fairly common and easily controlled by dusting or spraying with the insecticide Eight from Bonide. You’ll want to start spraying right away and repeat once a week for three weeks. That should take care of it but if the symptom returns, start spraying again. You can use Eight up until 3 days before harvest. As always read the label and follow the directions you find there. Make sue to remove any fruit displaying the holes from the garden…don’t compost them, throw them in the trash. In the future, you could try covering the peppers with a floating row cover (called ‘Grass Fast’ at Hewitts) early in the season to prevent the weevil adults from getting at the peppers.

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2 questions Why are our squash plants only getting false blossom flowers and no squash buds? How long does it take for potatoes to be ready to dig or how can we tell when to dig them up? Thank you

The problem with squash, cukes and other curcurbit producing flowers but no fruit can usually be traced to water washing the pollen out of the flowers before bees and other pollinators can pollinate the flower. If the pollen is washed out of the flower before pollination, the plant aborts the useless flower and puts its energy into producing another fresh flower. Rain can be the culprit but usually it is the gardener him/herself that is causing the problem by spray watering their garden. Remove all LAWN sprinklers from the garden and get a watering wand so you can soak the soil at the base of the plant without getting the flowers and leaves wet. You can also get those black soaker hoses that lets the water ooze out without wetting the plants. Spray watering not only washes off the pollen but wetting the leaves with cold water shocks (weakens)the plant and creates the perfect environment for fungal disease to take hold. There is no good reason to spray water your vegetable garden or flower beds unless you enjoy mushy flowers and vegetable plants that struggle to produce fruit. You can wait until frost kills the plant to harvest your potato crop. If you want ‘new potatoes’ you can harvest them from mid to late summer. I leave mine until frost so they can get as large as possible. You wouldn’t think that home grown potatoes would taste so much better than store bought but they really are…that’s why we grow them every year.

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is it too late right now (June 27) to prune a lilac tree or a hemlock tree. My hemlock tree is dead on the bottom but has branches growing up on the top. someone told me to cut the whole thing down and it would fill in on the bottom better.

You can prune your lilac now without any problems. The best time to prune a lilac is right after the flowers have finished. Lilacs form buds this summer that winter over and open in spring. Be aware that new growth that occurs near the pruned areas might not have time to form buds so there might not be flowers on those branches next spring. To prevent shocking the plant, don’t remove more than 1/3 pf the total branch structure. Likewise the hemlock can be pruned lightly now without problems. It is normal on most evergrees that the lower branches turn brown as the upper part of the plant fills in. As the upper part fills in it block sunlight from reaching the lower branches. Again, don’t remove more than 1/3 of the foliage to avoid shocking the plant.

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I bought some shallot plants at the beginning of June. I transplanted them into a garden plot. It then rained for almost two weeks straight. The green shoots on one plant have all turned brown and shriveled up, the other plant is mostly brown. Every where i look online it says they are ready to harvest when this happens. I dont think they transplanted well. What do i do?

Ugh…what a bummer. It sounds as though they must’ve rotted in the rain. Had they been planted a little earlier and had a chance to start growing they might have been handle the rain better. My only suggestion would be to replant but they won’t get as large as they would have with an earlier start.

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I bought a Mallow Hibiscus, just about 3 weeks ago. I read on the Internet that they like lots of water. I made sure I watered it at 8am when I went to work and again, around 8 at night to make sure it had plenty, but it is turning all brown Can you give me any suggestions? I have it in front of my house, that gets all day sun, it that the problem? When I bought it, I noticed you had it in front so I thought that would be ok Marlyn

Marlyn, Mallow hibiscus do indeed enjoy full sun. While you need to make sure that the soil stays constantly moist it is possible that you’ve been giving it too much water and the roots are drowning. Soaking it morning and night will create soil that is “soggy wet” not ‘constantly moist’ as is recommended for Mallow Hibiscus. Back off on the watering….you’re drowning the plant! Before you water again, poke your finger into the soil to a depth of 4″ to 5″. If the soil is cool and slightly moist, don’t water. Check again a couple of days later. Only when the soil at 5″ is dry should you water. Soak it thoroughly then check it again after four days or so. Never, never spray the plant with water but soak the soil below to keep the leaves dry and healthy. More on that here: See Wise Watering Without Waste http://ourgarden.freedomblogging.com/ You might remove any really brown leaves so it will grow some new fresh one to replace them. Feed them a high phosphorus liquid plant food like Blooms Plus or Jack’s Classic every fourth or fifth watering to help with the recovery. In spring, your Mallow Hibiscus won’t show any sign of life before the Lilac are blooming or even later. Be patient, they’ll be along. Peter Bowden

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I have 2 Mulberry trees, 1 red, 1 white under which I’d like to plant something perennial and hardy. Right now, I’m dealing with an ugly, almost bare lawn because, of course, nothing grows really well with almost no sun. Am I limited to hostas or do I even have that option? Are there any other options?

K., First I’d like to dispel the idea that “of course, nothing grows really well with almost no sun.” I’m sure that it seems that way because it IS difficult to grow a lawn or plants in shade but, it really has little to do with the shade. The real culprit here isn’t the shade but the roots of those mulberry trees. Your mulberry trees have a large and fairly shallow root system that is competing with the very shallow roots of your lawn. Guess which is winning that competition? That’s right… the trees. If you plant grass types that can grow in shade like those in Hewitt’s Shady Blend of grass seed then it will do fine under the mulberries. This is good news for you though since there are lots of option for perennials and annuals that can thrive in shade. Annuals for shade include impatiens, coleus, non-stop and wax begonias and others. You certainly can grow hostas and there are lots of interesting types to choose from. Other shade perennials to consider would be heuchera, bleeding heart, astilbe, ferns, epimedium lamium, vinca, and lots more. Google ‘perennials for shade’ and you’ll see lists galore. Before you plant under those mulberry trees though, you’ll want to improve the soil’s ability to absorb and hold moisture. This means blending peat moss into the existing soil at a 50-50 ratio. If you can blend the peat moss into the soil to a depth of 8″ to 12″ that would be ideal. Yes, that is a lot of peat moss but it will benefit your new shade garden for years to come. The you can start hunting for shade perennials to add to your new shade garden. Make sure to add bone meal into your planting hole to provide slow release phosphorus to help get the plants get established. Bone meal will last in the soil for several years but must be placed where the roots of the plant will grow into and use it. Bone meal sprinkled on the surface does no good. In spite of all the soil building you’ve done, it will still be necessary to water your shade garden a little extra since those mulberry roots are still down there robbing water from your shade garden. Oozing soaker hoses work great form since they soak the soil slowly while keeping the leaves dry and healthy. Thanks for thinking of Hewitts, Peter Bowden

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I planted a red bee balm in my garden. I water it at night after the sun is gone from that area of the garden, a few days ago, before this intense heat, it starting looking funny, loosing it’s bottom leaves, the top leaves have a greyish tint the them, almost looks like dust. It is in full sun and I don’t water it every night just when its really hot or we haven’t had rain for a while. Do you have any suggestions to save it. Thanks, Dotty

OK, first of all, stop watering in the evening or at night. If you water at night and get the leaves of the plant wet they will take longer to dry thus providing an extended period forfunal diseases to take hold. Water in the early morning instead. Also use a watering wand so you can soak the soil without wetting the leaves. Wet leaves are just what fungal diseases need to get started and thrive. What you describe is a fungal disease called powdery mildew and it is very common to see this disease attacking bee balm, lilac, garden phlox and some other plants. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the powdery mildew on your bee balm is specific to bee balm and won’t spread to your other garden plants nearby unless the are also bee balm. Once powdery mildew starts, you have no choice but to spray with a fungicide. Since you know that you have this issue now, you can expect it next year as well. You could start spraying or dusting the plants with the organic fungicide Garden Sulfer about once a week or after a heavy rain. Rains washes the sulfer off the leaves. Since the disease has already started, you’ll want something stronger. For this I suggest Bonide’s Infuse fungicide. It is a liquid spray and you want to apply it every 10 days or so following the directions on the package. Remember, these sprays are most effective when used as a preventative before the symptoms show up. If you like bee balm then you should start spraying by early June and continue through the the first half of August.

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Hello, on Saturday, we lost half of our garden to a ground hog. We had a rabbit fence up but somehow ‘Phil’ got into it. He didn’t go under it and I don’t think he can fit through it. Well today during the six o’clock hour, we lost the other half of the garden except for the red bell pepper. What would you recommend we do to win our battle against Phil? Also, do you think that some of ours plants will battle on? He ate pumpkin, squash, lettuce, tomato, and celery. The vines are still there but not much else…

I’m always sad to hear of this situation but many of us have hade the same thing happen at one time or another. Let’s start with the fence. A fence can exclude a woodchuck (groundhog). You’d need to start with a 5′ fence and bury the bottom foot of it at a 90 degree angle away from the garden since woodchucks will dig underneath a fence. This may deter a woodchuck but, since they climb, it is also suggested that an electric fence also be installed down low to discourage them from climbing. Another approach is to use rodent smoke bombs. This is tricky since you need to find and block all exit burrows before igniting and placing the leathal smoke bomb intothe main burrow. If just one exit is left open, the woodchuck will escape and may reinhabit the burrow again later. Then there is trapping. NY allows leg and body traps but you’ll need a trapping license to purchase and use those. You can use a live trap like a Hav-a-Heart but then waht to do with the living woodchuck. In NY it is illegal to transport or release wild animals unless you are registered to do so. I’d have to suggest that you hire a licensed pest removal person to trap and remove the woodchuck and improve your fence. Consider getting a dog. Here’s a website that has great information on woodchuck control:…. http://www.extension.org/pages/Woodchuck_Damage_Management Whatever is left of the garden will try and grow and you may get some squash and pumpkins tomatoes and peppers the woodchuck is removed.

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I currently work in an office with no windows and I am looking to have plants there. Can you tell me what plants I can get for this situation, any suggestions on how I can have plants is welcome, I was also considering a solar lamp (because I really want a gardenia bush there.

It sounds to me as though this will be a very difficult environment to grow any plants. There ARE some plants that do well in low light but no light??? not really. The best solution will be to place so gro-lights so that they shine down onto the area where your plants will be. Remember, those gro-lights might seem bright to you but they still will only put out a fraction of the light that even a bright window will provide. Keep those grow lights only a few inches above the plants…a gro-light several feet from a plant provides little energy. I’d put a timer on your grow lights so they’ll provide for the plants even when you are off for the weekend or vacation. Even with added light, you’ll want to stick with low light plants. For upright plants you should consider: . . Aglaonema aka Chinese Evergreen. it is a graceful plant with sword-shaped leaves with silvery highlights. Spathiphyllum aka Peace Lily. Similar in stature to Aglaonema the Peace lily has dark green leaves and puts out an interesting white flower once in a while. . . Dracaena fragrans ‘Massangeana’ aka Corn Plant. Not really a corn plant but a tropical plant that reminds folks of a corn plant. It is often found in larger sizes as a accent plant in offices. For hanging plants you’ll want to check out Pothos and the Heart Leafed Philodendron. Both these plants have heart-shaped leaved but those of the Pothos are speckled with yellow. There are a few others but these are the ‘old reliables’ and are commonly available. . . The biggest problem houseplants have is with their caregiver’s overwatering. Remember, low light plants use very little water. In most cases they’ll only need to be watered anywhere from once a week to once a month. Always check the soil by poking your finger into the soil a couple of inches before you water. If you even think it feels moist wait a few more days and check again. Never leave plants standing in water for more than a few minutes or they will drown. Drowned roots are dead forever and the leaves of the plant will whither in a few days to a few weeks after the roots have been drowned. It is actually better to let the plant get a little limp or wilty before you water to avoid overwatering. Likewise low light houseplants require very little food. I would suggest not feeding at all from November through March and then only light, quarter strength feeding every fourth watering from April through October.

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I have hydrangeas they were planted 3 yrs ago, first year they bloomed . They have not bloomed since .Ifeel that I have taken good care with them , they are growing taller with lots of leaves. No blooms.

This is pretty difficult to answer without knowing what type of hydrangea you have. The only clue I get is that they are getting taller which means that it is possible that they are getting leggy due to too little direct sun or maybe not enough enough phosphorus is being provided. Espoma Flower-Tone would help with that. The best suggestion I have is for you to visit this website to figure out what type of hydrangea you have and how to properly care for it: . . http://www.hydrangeashydrangeas.com/

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When lilies are done blooming and go to seed (big pods at top), do we need to keep them 6 feet tall or can we cut them down? Will cutting them prevent the little baby lilies from forming below the soil?

You should cut off the top of the lily stem to remove the seed pods that are forming there after the flowers finish. The plant pumps a lot of energy into those seeds while we’d rather that energy be sent to the bulb below to be stored for the next flowering cycle and to create new baby bulbs below the soil. The remaining leaves should be left to gather sunlight (food) as long as they are green. Once they turn yellow they can be cut off. The longer you can maintain those leaves, the faster your lily bulbs will reproduce.

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We have a 400 sq ft garden where we grow tomatoes, peppers, corn, peas, lettuce, gourds and a few other vegetables. I would like to plant a cover crop this fall and would like to know the best thing to grow and when to plant it. Thank you.

I’ suggest winter rye. It is fast growing, will control erosion and help buid the soil when turned under in the spring. It can be sown as soon as the crops are finished. It can germinate in coll weather so late September/early October seedings are possible. Winter rye will green up early in spring and can help get the soil dry enough to till a bit earlier. Winter rye can get tall in spring so it may need to be mowed down before getting turned under in spring.

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I was wondering if I could split the pots of mums I just bought. Even though I bought the smallest size, I have some smaller pots I want to plant them in and wondered if splitting the root balls of each mum would kill it. It would be great if I could cut the root ball in half and use a smaller portion of the whole pot in my smaller planters.

Your mums are probably in flower right now. Plants are expending maximum energy during the flowering process. Cutting into the root system during the flowering cycle might not actually kill the mum but it will shock it hard enough to cause it to abort the flowers. I assume you bought them to enjoy the blooms so I’d suggest that you not try and divide the plant right now.

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I have a variety of Lillys of the tall variety I think they are called stargazers. Do I cut them low when they are done blooming? Also, are there any (photo)reference guides to help distiguish weed leaves from the leaves of plants that you wish to nurture? In early summer it ‘s very hard to discriminate. Thanks in advance……..

Thanks for your question Larry. Right after your Stargazer Lily finishes flowering you should cut off the remainds of the flower (called deadheading) to prevent the lily from putting any energy into making seeds. Leave the leaves below the flowers as long as they remain green. The leaves are converting sunlight into food that is sent down to the bulb so it can grow and expand. Little bulbs will form from the sides of the original bulb and become full-sized lily bulbs producing their own flowers within a couple of years. When you have a cluster of lilies growing where you only had one, you can dig them up and replant them as individual bulbs and the process will begin again. make sure to use bone meal in your planting holes to provide phosphorus to help them root in and mature more quickly. This is one of the things I love most about lilies…their ability to reproduce quickly. As far as your question about a chart showing what weeds look like vs. what desireable plants look like, I haven’t ever seen such a chart. There are, however, charts that show what common weeds look like. You’ll have to use one of those to help you learn the common weeds and then go from there. Here’s a link to a good weed chart. http://njaes.rutgers.edu/weeds/thumbnail.asp

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Peter,I have been planting my tulips bulbs in late Sept, early Oct, and the moles or something are eating them. always in the same spot on the left side of my house, the ones on the right front they leave alone, what can i put in that is healthy and natural to repell, what I think is moles, eating my bulbs

One of the most common problems folks run into is having their bulbs dug up or eaten by mice, chipmunks, squirrels and voles. In the past this has been dealt with by adding black pepper to the planting holes or, in extreme cases, by surrounding the bulbs with wire mesh. Thankfully there’s a product that has come on the market in the last few years that makes those techniques obsolete and unnecessary. I’m talking about MoleMax. MoleMax is an extract of Castor Beans and the presence of it in the soil keeps moles, voles, and any burrowing rodents away. Just to keep the record straight, moles are NOT the culprit when your bulbs are dug up or eaten. Moles only eat insect larvae (like grubs) and earthworms but not plants or bulbs. Usually chipmunks are the real culprit but their cuteness seems to earn them immunity from blame. I’ll take a mole over a chipmunk any day. Here’s the directions from the package for using MoleMax when planting bulbs: For Bulbs: After placing bulb in hole, apply one (1) tablespoon of product into the hole, making sure granules surround the bulb, then backfill with soil. I’ve used MoleMax and it works great. I’ll apply it again in the spring to the area as a follow up. In reality I apply MoleMax to all my flowerbeds in spring to discourage the moles. If I can keep the moles out of the flowerbed then my dog won’t be tempted to try to dig them out. The mole damage is minor but the destruction the dog can do in a few minute of digging is something I’m glad to avoid.

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I just dug up the caladium bulbs I planted this spring so that I can reuse them next year. Should I trim off all the roots? One of the larger bulbs have two mini-bulbs attached. Should I seperate the little ones from the big one? How do I store them? I was going to put them in an onion bag and keep in my basement. Is that the best way? Thanks for your help. Kris

Thanks for your question Kris Now that you have them out of the ground, let them sit on some paper for a week or until the leaves have dried out. Trim off the leaves and any roots that have shriveled and dried. Your onion bag plan sounds good but make sure you store them in an area that says between 50° and 60°. The area also needs to be dry…humidity increases the chance of molds and fungus. If your basement tends to be humid, you might consider dusting them with a fungicidal bulb dust (like the Bonide Bulb Dust at Hewitt’s) before storage. Check them regularly in winter and discard any that seem to be getting mushy or very soft. You can pot them up inside in March and bring them upstairs to a sunny window. Then they’ll be a nice size when they go out at the end of May or early June. Don’t let them get any sun at all when you move them outside in to avoid sunburning the leaves . Peter Bowden

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What is the best way to store dahlia bulbs?

Cut off the foliage when you are ready to get them ready for storage. There is no need to wait until frost kills the foliage. Carefully lift (dig up) the tubers being careful not to slice the tubers with your shovel or fork. Gently hose off any soil off the tubers and let them dry for an hour or so. Dust them with a bulb dust (available at Hewitts) to prevent rotting while in storage. Place them into plastic bag like those in your grocery store’s vegetable section. Fill the bag around the tubers with vermiculite or very dry potting soil. Peat moss and sawdust are also used. Place those bags into light-proof boxes and place those boxes in an area that will be between 35° and 50° over winter. Check them a couple times over the winter to make sure they are OK. Remove any that appear to be getting mushy. If they seem to be getting limp from dryness, it is a good idea to mist them a little before they go back into storage.

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do I remove the leafs from my perinnel garden or do I rake if in the spring. Thank you for your help.

I leave the leaves on my perennial bed. They will protect the crowns of the perennials from drying sun and wind over the winter. This is important especially if we have a snowless winter…snow is the best protection leaves second best. Resist the urge to rake the leaves out too early in spring. The layer of leaves will help keep the sun from thawing out the beds during any early warm weather we might get in late February and March. A week of warm weather and sun can thaw the soil and bring our perennials out of dormancy too early. When the cold returns, it can damage or kill perennials that were lured out of dormancy too early. I’d leave the leaves on the beds until mid to late April or so. Peter Bowden

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The soil under my pines is very “rroty” and undiggable. Hostas thrive, but the roses don’t flower, the phlox and mock orrange have died. Can I add soil (2-3 inches) in those spots whre roots are not showing above ground in order to plant more shade-loving perennials? This is how the plot was found when we moved in. thanks!

Thanks for the question. I’m not surprised that the hosta are the only plant doing well under the pines. Roses, mockorange and phlox all need as much direct as possible to thrive and flower…10 hours of DIRECT SUN…not just a bright location. I find that people tend to overestimate the amount of sun they are getting (wishful thinking I guess.The other problem is that, under evergreen like pines, the soil becomes acidic more quickly than out in the open part of the yard. To correct that, you’ll need to check the ph of the soil with a ph test kit (very easy) and apply the amount of lime that the test indicates you need. Yes, you can add some soil to the area but make sure you don’t pile the soil up against the trunk of the pines since that can harm them. Finally, make sure that you choose plants that can thrive in shade. Hostas of course, ferns, huechera, tiarella, myrtle, hecherella, lamium and ladies mantle are a few that pop to mind. Do a search for ‘shade plants”‘ and you’ll find lots more suggestions…just make sure they are hardy for our zone, zone 5. Naturally, once spring arrives, the folks at Hewitt’s can help you pick out the right plants as well. Have fun! Peter Bowden

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I am starting my veg. seeds at work. We cannot use grow lights. An suggestions on how I can keep them from becoming long and spinly? Thanks.

Thanks for your question Al, How unfortunate that you can’t use grow lights. The reason seedling get long and spindly is that they are not getting enough light and are reaching for more. The ONLY windows that have any chance of providing anywhere near enough light are south windows. Even then, with days as short as they still are. your seedlings will reach for the light. But, lets get back to basics….it is a month too early to start most of your seeds. Planting season for tomatoes and other tender seedlings is the middle of May…three months (12 weeks) from now. The earliest seeds that need to get started like leeks and impatiens need to get started indoors 10 weeks before planting. Tomatoes and peppers should be started 6 to 8 weeks before mid May so that means the middle of March…about a month from right now. All this information is on the back of the seed pack. There is no real advantage to starting your seed a month too early since they will be the stretchy, leggy seedlings you’re trying to avoid. By waiting another month (in the case of tomatoes and peppers) you’ll have longer days and the seedlings won’t get as leggy. Spring won’t come any earlier just because you start your seed too early ;) Get a calendar and designate the week of 5/15 -5/21 as “PLANTING WEEK” . Then mark the week before that WEEK 1 (one week before planting) and keep going back labeling each week with the next higher number. You should end up with the week of March 20 – 26 as WEEK 8. Sometime between WEEK 8 and WEEK 6 is when you should start your tomatoes and peppers depending on the variety. This information is on the seed pack. You can read all the other seed pack and make notes on your new “Seed Starting Calendar” that you’ve created so you’ll know when to start what. Remember, starting your seeds too early doesn’t gain you a thing. I’d also suggest a small fan to move the air around your seedlings once they sprout…it can help strengthen the stems. Be patient and you’ll have better plants for May…now you just have to convince the person with the south-facing window to let you set up shop there ;)

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We have many leaves that were not raked up last fall, I am expanding my vegetable garden and would like to turn the leaves and some sand into rather heavy clay soil. Should I add anything else because of the leaves?

Adding sand and organic matter to the soil is a great idea. The leaves will break down and help loosen the soil and add somenutritional value as well. Leaves will also lower the pH of the soil so it would be a good idea to check the pH in spring and fall to make sure you’re keeping the soil’s pH around 6.5/ Here’s an excerpt from my vegetable gardening seminar that talks about pH. Here’s alink to the seminar schedule in case you want to drop by: http://www.hewitts.com/meetpeterbowden.html Check the pH Once you’ve beefed up your new garden with plenty of organic matter, it is time to check the pH (acidity) of the soil. The benefits of properly adjusting the pH of the soil and the benefits of limestone itself are far reaching. I could carry on for pages about nutrients in the soil (or from the fertilizer you pay good money for) being “bound up” and unavailable to plants because of acidic soil. I could write reams on how the microorganisms that “feed” your lawn die off in soils with a low pH. I could rant and rave about how important calcium and magnesium (from limestone) are in the formation of plant fiber or how osmosis (the ability of plants to draw moisture from the soil) is impeded in acidic soil. Let’s just say, it’s VERY important. Here’s the deal. There’s a tendency for soil to gradually become acidic over time. Decomposing organic matter, fertilizer and acid rain all contribute to acidification of the soil. In heavier soils like clay, this happens very slowly. In looser soils like sand, acidification occurs more rapidly. The more fertilizer and organic matter you apply to your lawn or garden, the more often you should check the pH. Different plants prefer different pH levels. Most vegetables grow best in slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH 6.5 to 7) while your lawn will be healthier if the soil is neutral (pH 7). Every once in a while I run into someone who’s heard that lime is good for the lawn and they’ll ask, “I’ve got a 10,000 sq. ft. garden and I’ve never limed it. How much lime should I apply?” To the uninformed, this seems like a reasonable question. To me, it’s like asking your mechanic, ”I have a mid-sized sedan. How much oil do I need to add?” There’s no way your mechanic could answer unless you allowed him/her to look at the dipstick. The inexpensive and easy-to-use soil pH test kit is your “dipstick” to determine how much lime you need to apply for healthy plant growth. If I’m asked, “I have a 10,000 sq. ft. garden and the pH is 6.0. How much lime should I apply?” I can then say that you need 10-40 lb. bags of pelletized lime to bring your soil’s pH up to the desired 7.0 that it should be. Of course, you may not need to ask since the information is provided in the pH test kit. Once you’ve corrected the pH, you shouldn’t need to apply it again for 3 to 5 years, maybe even longer depending on your of soil type.

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we have kept the decorative sweet vine tubers from last year,I have one in water now –with no roots forming??? Also is it easy to raise real potatoes??

I have saved those tubers as well and am going to plant them right outside in the ground in mid May. From what I gather you can get the roots started in water but folks report varying success with that. Yes, potatoes are very easy to grow. Plant the seed potatoes in early May in shallow trenches and continue to mound soil up around the plants as they grow all summer. By fall you will have mounds instead of the trenches you started with. After frost kills the leaves, dig up your buried treasure. You usually get 5 lbs. of potatoes for every pound you planted.

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I was reading your article about crabgrass and on line says, 3. An area treated with crabgrass preventer should not be raked or roughed up (kids, dogs, etc.) for four to six weeks so that the preventive barrier is not disturbed. I have crabgrass in my flower bed, can I rake it and them put the crabgrass preventer on the dirt? Can I plant in that area and if I do, do I have to wait before planting?

Crabgrass comes from seed each year so, if you have clumps of grass growing already in your flowerbeds then it isn’t crabgrass but some other perennial grass that comes back from an established root system, not from seeds like crabgrass. There are weed preventers that can be used in flowerbeds that will stop weed seeds from sprouting. There’s Preen and the organic alternative Corn Gluten. You’ll need to still pull any weeds or grass that are there now and then apply the Preen or Corn Gluten. Any seeds that blow into the flowerbed (from the lawnmower for instance) won’t be able to sprout through the barrier of Preen or Corn Gluten. If you dig or scratch up the surface of the flowerbed it breaks the barrier and seeds WILL be able to sprout and grow. Wait to apply your weed seed preventer until after all your planting is completed. Peter Bowden

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how deep should i rototill my garden? its going to be 24′x24′. there may be large rock in some spots.

Cover the area with whatever organic matter (aged manure) you’re going to till in and then rototill to a depth of 8″ or so. Good luck with those rocks!

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f a snap hot of an area was brought in are there design people on site to help plan out a ;andscape?

Bring your snapshot into Hewitt’s and we can make some great suggestions for you. We’ll also be able to make better suggestions if you have an idea of how much sun the area gets and what direction it faces.

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I added lime to my vegetable garden last fall and now it has a ph of 7.5. Is this too alkaline to grow vegetables? Should I add gypsum?

Oops! I guess you over did it with the lime. You’ll need to turn in some garden sulpher to bring the pH down to 6.5 or so. Follow the direction on the package to determine how much to use for the size of the area you have.

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What would you suggest I use for an organic fungicide? What about Green Cure? Does Hewitt’s carry Green Cure? Our garden last year had fungus on everything except lettuce. Thanks.

What would you suggest I use for an organic fungicide? What about Green Cure? Does Hewitt’s carry Green Cure? Our garden last year had fungus on everything except lettuce. Thanks.

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We wanted to put some vibrant color flowers in our front yard )perferably to stay in their pots) and put some red mulch around with a water fountain to make it look neat and inviting. We just don’t know what type of flowers to purchase that will stay with little maintenance. Any suggestions?

You need to plant annuals every year but they flower all summer and do fine in pots if enough water is provided. Assuming it is a sunny area then there are lots of choices. Geraniums, Ivy geraniums, vinca vine, spike plants, marigolds are just a few durable low-maintenance annuals that pop to mind. There are many more choices. Look at the tags and seek out plants for sun. Naturally you can ask the folks at Hewitt’s to make suggestions based on what is in the greenhouse at the time you visit.

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what can i use or do to kill the grass growing up between my tulips in my tulip garden without harming the flowers themselves?

The only solution is to pull the grass our by hand. Any spray that will kill the grass will kill the tulips as well. After that you can use a weed preventer like Preen or Corn Gluten to keep new seeds from germinating

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I have two Azaleas I purchased from you last fall and planted. Each is about 3 ft high and has a few buds (6-10). They look awful. What should I do? Thanks.

Fall planting is always tough since the plant has no time to get established before winter. The best thing to do at this point is to feed them with Holly-Tone in the soil and get some Mir-Acid plant food. Dissolve the Mir-Acid in water as directed and wash that down over the leaves and stem. Mir-Acid can be absorbed through the leaves and stems for emergency feeding. Do this once a week for the next month or so. The Holly-tone is slower and will feed the azalea for the rest of the season. Use Holly-tone every spring from now on.

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How do you test the Ph level of your soil!

http://blog.timesunion.com/gardening/the-acid-test/567/

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i did a soil test and found my garden has very low nitrogen , it states that i need to add ammonium nitrate . but all the others tested very high how do i add only one thing ? all the furtilizers i have seen are 5-10-5, 10-5-5 etc.

It sounds like you need some Milorganite…it is not real strong but is almost totally nitrogen (5-2-0). Here’s a link…Hewitts has Milorganite as well: http://www.milorganite.com/home/

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My pachysandra is dying in clumps around my maples…it used to be extremely lush…what to do??? thanks!!

Maples have a shallow root system and may be competing with the pachysandra for moisture and nutrients. I’d suggest broadcasting some gentle plant food over the pachysandra…Espoma Plant-tone would be my choice. You should also consider adding a thin (no more than an inch or so) layer of soil over the pachysandra to refresh it. This can be done by lightly sprinkling the soil from your shovel…not the easiest task but, id the pachysandra has been there a while, it could probably use a pick-me-up.

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My pachysandra are doing horribly this year. The beds are dying. What could be causing this. I read online about a blight that can infect them. What do I do? The beds are about 15 years old.

It is difficult from your description to tell if you have the blight. Here’s a link so you can see if you symptoms match up. http://plantclinic.cornell.edu/FactSheets/leafblight/pachleafblight.htm This was a difficult winter for pachysandra…I’ve heard others with similar problems. The heavy snow cover flattened pachy’s evergreen leaves. Compacted like this pachy will be more susceptible to disease. I’d get in there and rake and rough up the beds as well as removing any bad leaves. I’d go so far as to thin out the bed by ripping out some of the older looking plants. It would be a good idea to lightly sprinkle some plant food over the bed as well. Healthy, well fed plants can ward off disease better than weak anemic plants. I’d use something gentle like Espoma’s Holly-Tone. Lightly broadcast the food and then water it in to get any of the food off the leaves and into the soil. If the problem continues, snip off a coup[le of leaves and bring them to Hewitt’s so they can identify the problem and suggest the exact solution for it.

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i have squash seedlings about 3″to 4″ high.they are covered with these little bugs that look like ground black pepper on them. could you tell me what hey are and are they harmful and if they are, how do i get rid of them?

From your description it sounds like you have some black aphids although, without a picture I’m just making an educated guess. Aphids are easily killed with insecticidal soap. Here’s a link that might help you figure out exactly what you have. http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/pests/plant_pests/veg_fruit/hgic2207.html

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I have a hosta that has big leaves and when I bought it 2 years ago, it was blue. Now it has come up green. It is currently in a heavy shade area. If I moved it to an area with more sun, would it revert to blue? Or, is it something in the soil that will make it blue? I want it to be blue.

Sometimes if a blue hosta gets too much sun they can take on a greener look. If yours is indeed getting no sun then it might be that you need to feed it to help darken the foliage. I’d trench out away from the hosta just outside the root zone and sprinkle in some Flower-tone into the trench and then cover it up and water it. Do this every spring as early in spring as you can. It may be that the hosta is missing a nutritional element it needs to stay blue. This would be especially likely if the soil is very sandy.

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I am desperate to get rid of a grape vine that has taken over my yard. It grows and makes a canopy over my flowers and kills them. I need a permanent solution? What do I use to get rid of this monster?

Go to Hewitts and get a bottle of Bonide’s Stump and Vine Killer. Follow the vines back until you locate the main stem where the vine emerges for the ground. Cut the vine a few inches above where it emerges from the soil. Where you have made the cut, paint the Vine Killer (full strength..do not dilute) onto the cut and bark just below the cut. Be careful not to get it on any of the other plants nearby or it will kill them too. If there are multiple vines emerging from the soil, you’ll need to cut and paint them all with the Vine Killer. That’s it….end of vine.

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I just put my herb garden in on Sunday. In the last three days, ants have taken up residence in the garden…lots of them. Will this be a problem?? If not, I’d rather leave them alone. But if they are going to eat my herbs or if their tunneling is going to cause problems for the roots/new seedlings then can you suggest a good way to get rid of them? Thanks!

Chances are the ants won’t cause a problem. I’d suggest dusting the soil with diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is the ultra sharp (on a microscopinc level) skeletons of sea creatures. It is a harmless powder to us but ants running through it will be sliced and die. This will discourage them without the use of a chemical among your herbs. Peter Bowden

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Good afternoon Peter,I have 2 impatience hanging plants. I bought them a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately, I let them in my hot car for about 3 hours…..flowers started drying up. I have them hanging now but they are in some sunlight. I have been watering from the get go and the buds are not flowering. What should I do ? Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Well, I guess you’ve learned to bring your plants right home on a hot day…I’d say you’re lucky they survived at all. Now you’ll need to ne patient with your impatiens. Keep the soil just lightly moist but not wet. You don’t want to drown them at this point. Some sun is good but not a lot of hot afternoon sun. You’ll probably lose some leaves and the first round of flowers since the buds aren’t opening. A light feeding with Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster will help too. Dilute per package but no stronger (more isn’t better). It will take a month or so before they start to look happy again. Peter Bowden

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We just built container gardens, filled them with a mix of topsoil/purchased compost/peat moss, and planted seedlings (started from seeds a month previous) about 2 weeks ago. The zuccini in particular looks a bit rough — yellowish, weathered leaves – almost a bit scorched maybe? The corn also looks yellow-ish. I’m new at this – any ideas? thank you!

When you start seedlings indoors they will have trouble making the transition from the dimmer light inside to the bright sun outside. It is best to provide them shade for the first few days outside and gradually reduce the shade until they can handle the full sun they want. Also make sure that you haven’t buried dirt up the stem any higher than it was in the pot you started them in. While burying the stem is OK on tomatoes it is not OK on the rest of your garden plants including trees and shrubs as well as perennial and annual flowers. Both squash and corn will do better if they are started from seed sown directly in the garden. Squash in particular are sensitive to transplanting and often suffer from the transition. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and a few others veggies need to be started indoors in winter to produce in our short growing season but the bulk of our crops do best when directly sown in the garden…and it is easier and cheaper too! In fact, my blog this week is about just that…fear of seeds: http://blog.timesunion.com/gardening/fear-of-seeds/727/

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Normally this time of the year my impatients are gorgeous, however this year they are dying off daily. It starts with the flowers & buds & eventually the whole plant disappears. I cannot find anything on them that could be eating them. Is it because of the dry summer? I know they like a lot of water. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks Val

I would like to see a sample or photo of your impatiens to be sure. Maybe you could bring it into one of out locations for a Manager to look at. Is there any white powdering substance on the plants? If so, it probably is a fungus called Powdery Mildew, which can be treated organically with Garden Sulfur or chemically with Daconil. If this is not the case, my inclination is to think that is water related. Try to keep your plants evenly moist through-out the growing season, and add a light dose of Blossom Booster fertilizer.

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Peter, We reseeded our lawn a couple of weeks ago and the new grass is growing in but it still looks very patchy. I used the recommended setting on the spreader but I think that heavy rain storm we had last week lifted and washed away a lot of grass seed (I saw a lot in puddles by the road at edge of the lawn )How long should I wait before I start to try filling the bare patches? Will the grass grow or spread out? I don’t want to disturb or destroy the new grass that has grown in with loosening the soil again etc. but I don’t want anything to start invading my lawn again either in the bare spots. Can I just drop some grass seed on the bare spots without and keep it watered or will this not work? Thanks again for all your help!

Fescue and bluegrass seeds take about 2 weeks just to sprout. At first there is a single blade but each will grow into a clump of grass covering about 2″ by 2″ square. Over time they will fill in even more. Since the pesky storms have washed the seed around you may want to overseed the worst areas. You can do it right away just remember that you’ll need to keep it watered even as the other grass matures. Starting a lawn from seed is a tricky task because of the constant light watering necessary. These thunderstorms aren’t helping the situation either.

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Christmas (2)

What do I do with my Amarillus now that it is dying?

After the flowers are spent, cut off the flower stem. By now leaves have probably started to emerge from the bulb. To get your Amaryllis to flower again, it’s important to promote this leaf growth. Think of the leaves as solar collectors that convert sunlight into energy that’s stored in the bulb for the next flowering cycle. Bright light (but not direct sun) is the source of next year’s flowers. Keep the soil lightly moist and feed with a soluble plant food like Jack’s Classic at half strength about every two or three weeks. Wait to until the flowering cycle has finished before you start feeding. The best way to strengthen your Amaryllis is to sink the pot in a semi-shady flowerbed outside when things warm up next summer. Sink the pot into the soil so that the exposed part of the bulb is almost covered. Before frost, bring your Amaryllis inside and allow it to dry out completely. Keep dry and store at 60 to 65 degrees for at least a month. This dry storage period is necessary to stimulate your Amaryllis to begin its next growth cycle. Remember, Amaryllis like to be potbound, so leave it in the same size pot for two or three years.

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Other (29)

How do I get rid of gnats in my office plants?

The soil gnats in your houseplants are feeding on a fungus that is growing in the soil. The fungus is feeding on rotting plant material in the soil. The rotting material in the soil is, no doubt, dead rotting roots. The reason you have dead rotting roots in the soil of your office plants is because (like most folks) you’re over estimating the amount of water your plants need. Since you mention that they are ‘office plants’ I’ll assume that there are saucers under them to keep the water from ruining the carpet and floors. It is also a good bet that they get extra water on friday to ‘get them through the weekend’. The plants would rather there were no saucers so excess water can drain away. You should never leave any of your office plants standing in a saucer of water for more than a few minutes. There’s no need to give them extra water if you are going to leave them for the weekend or even a week. . . Step one is to stop watering your plants so much. Plants need far less water than most folks realize. You need to know that plants exchange gasses (breathe) with their root system as well as their leaves. When the soil is totally saturated (standing in a saucer full of water), the plant is drowning much like we would. You will drown about 1/3 to 1/2 of the root system of most houseplants simply by leaving them standing in a saucer of water overnight. Once those roots drown, they are dead forever (and now the fungus has a reason to take hold). A better tactic for watering houseplants is to wait until they are so dry that they are beginning to wilt and then soak them. If water then fills the saucer, wait 10 minutes and then remove any water that remains in the saucer so you won’t drown the plant. A plants roots can get very dry without dying and, when rehydrated, will pop back to life. In other words, you can drown a plant in less than 24 hours but to kill it with dryness will take a couple of weeks to a couple of months depending on the plant. Think of it this way: You could survive a lot longer without a drink of water than you could underwater without any air to breathe. Since you already have the gnats, you’ll need to drench the soil with insecticidal soap (which you can get at Hewitts of course) and repeat after a week or so. That, coupled with your new plan for not overwatering should do the trick. If they persist you’ll need to kill the fungus with a drench of fungicide like Captan. I would hold off on that though to see if your insecticidal soap/new watering habit works. In extreme cases, the plant may need to be repotted after removing all the old soil from the root system. Since this is shocking to the plant, it is a tactic of last resort.

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We just had a patio installed in our yard. This has sparked the motivation to put in pretty plants to spruce up our very bland yard. Any suggestions on what types of shrubs or flowers would thrive in this area? We do have pine trees, and a high pH level in our yard.

This question doesn’t quite give me enough information to make specific plant suggestions. My best suggestion would be to observe the area noting soil type, orientation (NSEW) and how many hours of direct sun does the area get each day. Draw a little overhead view of them, noting which direction is north etc. Bring your map to Hewitts and then look around the nursery for plants you like and the nurseryperson will be able to make informed suggestions for you.

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Peter – I am interested in installing some sort of water feature on my deck. I have a space that i had prepared to support a 6×7 hot tub, but have since decided that i will probably not use the tub enough to justify the expense. Hence, i am interested in filling the space with plants and a fountain or waterfall-type feature to make that area pretty. any suggestions? are there free-standing pools manufactured so i dont have to cut a hole in the deck?? I am open to suggestions. Thank you for your comments. melissa

Melissa, I have only dabbled in water gardening. I once made an in ground pond in a dug holw with a flexible rubbe liner. The other was a free standing water feature made from two whisky 3 whiskey barrel halves. One sat on the ground and one was inverted on the ground behind the first. The third barrel sat on top of the inverted barrel. The top barrel had a plastic liner with a spout molded into ti that directed the water into the lower barrel that also had a plastic liner. The pump lifted the water to the upper barrel where it cascaded down the spout back to the lower barrel. Something like this could be done on your deck for an easy water feature. We also carry new plastic whiskey barrel halves that will be less expensive that the wood version with liner that I used. For anything larger than that you’ll need to build a strong-walled enclosure for the pond. Water is heavy and will need a super strong enclosure and the deck needs to be well supported. A pond above ground will also freeze solid over winter and expand. This will kill any fish in the pond and may force the enclosure apart. Our Clifton Park store stocks some pumps and liners but you might also contact a local pond store to see what else is available…Eddies Aquarium come to mind for instance.

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I have a problem with chipmunks and squirrels eating the seeds of sunflowers before they get a chance to sprout and grow. Any suggestions for deterring the critters from getting the seeds before they have a chance to sprout? Thanks, Sue

Sue, I think everybody who has ever planted sunflowers seeds has had the problem of chipmunks, squirrels and crows eating the seeds before they sprout. There are repellents you could spray on the area to discourage the critters but there’s another approach that I prefer. After the seeds are planted, cover the row or area with germinating fabric (aka floating row cover). This light fabric will protect the seed and trap heat and allow water to pass through so the seeds will sprout as quickly as possible. Once the plants are growing, the critters lose interest and you can remove the fabric. If you have some cheesecloth or burlap that could be used as well. The next problem will be when the new seeds form on the sunflower’s flowers at the end of summer. All our critter friends will come right back and eat those seeds before they ripen. Once again your fabric comes to the rescue. Wrap those sunflower heads with the floating row cover or other light cloth and that will keep the chippies and birds from getting at them. You might need a ladder if you grow the larger sunflower types. Germinating fabric/floating row cover fabric is available at Hewitt’s under the name ‘Grass Fast”. You can reuse it from year to year and is also very handy when you want to protect plants from late spring or early fall frosts.

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What is the solution for spider mites on Alberta Spruce and other Evergreens?

The answer that came first tomind was a spray of horticultural oil but I checked the label (always read the label) and find that it can damage the needles when sprayed on evergreens. I’d recommend a spray of Spinosad which is relatively new to the arsenal of insect killers. Here’s a link to more on Spinosad…very interesting stuff! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinosad At Hewitt’s we sell it in a product called ‘Captain Jack’s Dead Bug’. It is a very safe biologically produced spray that gardeners (especially organic gardeners) should know about.

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I am attempting to get rid of lichen that is growing on a corrugated fiberglass overhang (extends about 10′ off the edge of the roof). There is a tree nearby with branches that extend over the overhang that also has lichen growing on it. What is the appropriate herbicide/fungicide to get rid of the lichen?

Thanks for your question Roberta. The product you are looking for is a spray of potassium based soap. You can find it at Hewitt’s under the name of Safers Moss & Algae Killer. Although lichen isn’t mentioned in the name of the product, it will do the job. It comes in a easy-to-use hose end sprayer so you won’t have to do any mixing. Here’s a web address that you can use to find out all about it: . . . http://www.saferbrand.com/store/garden-care/5324

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Every year I buy mums and every year they die on me. I love the way they look, but I don’t have the touch to keep them. I spend too much money and then I’m mad at myself. Is there something else that is hardy and can go in the ground for fall and look nice?

Thanks for your question Linda. First let’s tackle the question why your mums aren’t making it through the winter. First, make sure you are buying ‘Winter Hardy Mums’ There are lots of mums out there these days and the ones you might pick up at the grocery store may not be varieties that are hardy this far north. Go to a real garden center like Hewitts and get your mums there. Even hardy mums want to get into the ground as soon as possible after purchase. Many folks like to leave their mums in the pots for display and then pop then in the ground at the last second before the ground freezes in the fall. This doesn’t give the mum much time to get some roots into its new location and makes it much harder for them to winter over well. Once the flowers have finished, they should be cut off (leave the leaves) to prevent the mum from wasting energy producing seed. If you remove the flowers, that energy will be used to grow roots instead. To get your mums to be low and bushy the following growing season you’ll need to pinch it a couple of times to get it to branch out and look more like it did when you bought it. There is a fact sheet you can pick up at Hewitts that describes this procedure in detail. As far as a substitute for mums I’d suggest hardy asters. Unlike the mum which comes from China, asters are native to North American and there are varieties that grow wild in this area. Fancier cultivated asters have larger blooms that the wild varieties but are just as hardy. You can find a selection of asters at Hewitts along with the mums. It is a personal preference but I prefer asters and have some in my flowerbeds. Give asters a try, I think you’ll enjoy them too.

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What plants will work best in an elementary classroom? One whole side of my room has windows, facing east. Also, school rooms have extreme variation of temperatures during the school year. Thanks

Thanks for your question Bonnie, Your east facing classroom will get a half day of sun at the best. This means that you’ll need to limit your choices to low light plants. Couple that with the wide swings in temperature that classrooms have and you’ll need to only consider durable low light houseplants. African Violets for instance have been crossed off the list. I have some suggestions for a few that should have no trouble with your conditions. Heart-Leaf Philodendron. It is a vining plant most often seen grown in a hanging basket. Your light conditions will suit it. Pothos, A variegated vine that somewhat resembles the well-known heart shaped philodendron except that the leaves are variegated for a splotchy yellow/green look. Asparagus Fern. The foliage does indeed resemble the wispy, feathery foliage of the asparagus we grow in our garden. Also mostly grown in a hanging basket. Peace Lily. Peace lily is will known as the champ of low light conditions. In your setting, low humidity might be an issue so it will enjoy regular misting. Spathipphyllum (another name for the Peace Lily) is one of the most popular house plants due to it’s ability to thrive just about anywhere as long as it is a low light setting. In fact you’ll need to make sure that it is not in direct sunlight in your classroom. Aloe Vera. The healing plant Aloe Vera should also do well. Make sure it gets as much of that morning sun as possible. The gel inside the leaves is great for treating burns and other skin rashes and cuts. These are just a few that come to mind but you should do a search on the internet for ‘low light plants’ to see if there are others that appeal to you. One note though, in your setting you’ll need to make sure that you keep the plants very much on the dry side especially in the winter. Plants only need enough water to replenish what is lost to evaporation. For low light plants the need is very small. During the winter, the days are so short and the room will be so cool at night and on weekends that it will be especially important to keep them on the dry side. It will be tempting to give them “little extra water for the weekend”. Try to avoid this. Plant can tolerate dryness much better than wet conditions. The plant might get wilty from dryness but, once watered< the dry roots and wilty leaves can bounce back much more quickly than if they have been drowned. Think of it this way You could survive much longer without any water to drink than you could underwater without any air to breathe. Peter Bowden

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I have a woodchuck under my deck. I have tried a Havahart trap with no success. I put out carrots, lettuce and tomatoes. Can you recommend a type of woodchuck lure that would help lead my little fella into the trap? Thanks!

The problem with catching woodchucksthis time of year is that there is so much food out in the world for them that it is hard to tempt them into that trap. If it has been eating something in your garden then that would be the first to try as bait. They tend to prefer food that can be found close to the ground since that is where they forage. Tomatoes and various melons will tempt them and I’ve heard that they have a preference for broccoli. Make sure that the bait is kept fresh so you might want to try different vegetables or even flowers every day. If all else fails the I’d also try peanut butter. Keep at it and you’ll find something that will tempt it into your trap.

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I wish to transplant a ferm called Osmunda Cinnamonea. It is currently smushed in a corner of the house in the shade. Whiteflower Farm (from whom I bought it) says it takes full sun to part sun. The American Horticultural Society book for the NE says it takes full shade to part sun. Which is it? If it can take full to part sun, I have many spots where it can be showcased. Does it transplant well? Thanks – Kris

Kris, I’ll come down on the side of the American Horticultural Society on this one…shade to part sun. The sun to avoid with Cinnamon Fern (or any fern) is the hot, infrared afternoon sun. I can see this large fern easily handling a half day of morning sun since early light is much cooler and ultraviolet than afternoon sun. The sunnier the location, the more water it will need. It is likely taht the fern will get larger more quickly in a shadier location. It should do fine with the transplanting but wait until it is dormant before you attempt to move it. As early in spring as you can dig the soil after it thaws would be the best time to transplant it. Give it some room since as you’re probably aware this is a large fern that cab reach 4′ in height at maturity. Thanks for your question Peter Bowden

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How do I winterize my tropicana plants (they are in two big containers). Please help!!

Kathleen, Thanks for your question. Your tropicanna plants are a very colorful type of Canna. Cannas can be grown in containers or planted in the ground. They are NOT however, winter hardy. That means that they will need to be dug up and stored inside over winter. This is actually quite simple. Enjoy your canna as long as you can. Just water it but don’t feed it anymore. This will let it slow down with the season. Once the first frost kills the foliage, lift the tubers from the pot and cut off the dead leaves right down to the tuber. Brush off any excess soil with a wisk broom…don’t spray it with water to clean them…just brush them off lightly. Leave them out on some newspaper to let them dry out so the cut has a chance to scab over. Then place the tubers into a paper bag (don’t use plastic bags..you want the bulbs to ‘breathe’). Now you need to find a nice cool place to put the bulbs for the winter. They want to be cool but they don’t want to freeze. The coolest part on an unheated basement would work. When winter starts to wind down, you can get your cannas going for the next season. In early April, plant the tubers into some smaller pots at the same depth you found them at when you dug them out. You can use smaller pots to get them started to save on space. Once they’re potted, water them in thoroughly to let them know it’s time to grow again. Just keep them very lightly moist so they don’t drown and rot. Place them in the sunniest window you have. No need to feed them yet. In mid-May you can transplant them back into the larger pot and start light feedings with a good soluble food like Jack’s Classic. Late in May move them to a bright but shaded area so they can get used to a little sun. Gradually move them to sunnier and sunnier places until they are acclimated and you’re good to go for another season…have fun!

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How do you get rid of sumac once & for all? I got a rash from it this summer & it was worse than any poison ivy I’ve ever had. Thanks. Carol

Thanks for your question Carol, I’m sorry to hear of your run-in with poison sumac. Just to set the record straight…the sumac are most familiar with is staghorn sumac. This is the sumac we see all along the roadside…it is turning bright red now as we enter autumn. Poison Sumac is actually very uncommon but does grow in this area…usually in damp areas especially near streams, rivers and ponds although it can show up[ just about anywhere. Like the harmless staghorn sumac, poison sumac is a small, woody tree. Here’s a site that illustrates the difference. http://www.poison-sumac.org/ To kill sumac of any kind, I’d suggest a product from Bonide called Stump out Stump and Vine Killer. With great care and wearing gloves, cut the sumac and then use the brush applicator that is attached to the cap to liberally coat the fresh cut with the product. That should do it. As always follow the direction on the label and don’t get it on any desirable plants…this stuff will kill them (roots and all) as well.

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I purchased our hibiscus from you this summer. It is still blooming. I have been bringing in and out of garage for a few weeks. Should we now put in basement and do we prune back? water?How much light?

“I purchased our hibiscus from you this summer. It is still blooming. I have been bringing in and out of garage for a few weeks. Should we now put in basement and do we prune back? water?How much light?” Yes, it is time for your tropical hibiscus to come inside for the winter. Rather than sending it to the basement for the winter, it would be better to find it as bright a window as you can find for it even if it is in a very cool room. I’d prune it back about 25%. No matter how bright the window, your hibiscus is going to get way less light that it does outside in summer. Water it very sparingly and don’t feed it at all. It will lose leaves and won’t flower much if at all. It will go into a semi dormant stage and will require little care other than very light watering. Sometime in March, it will push out some new growth in response to the lengthening days. You can respond to that with a little extra watering and very light feeding (1/4 strength food like Jack’s Classic or Miracle-Gro) every 4th or 5th watering. As it grows new leaves you can gradually increase the water but never so much that the soil stays moist for more than a few days. In late May, it should be warm enough to put it back outside. At first it will want to go in a shady area as it gets used to increased sunlight. Let it spend a week in a shady area then a week in a brighter area and so on until it is back in the sunny spot where it wants to spend the summer.

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My rhoderdandron does not have any blooms in the summer, why not and what is it lacking?

Rhododendrons only flower once per season. There are a few things that could be preventing yours from flowering. If it is recently planted (within the last 5 years) it may not be well-established enough to flower yet. Plants like rhododendron won’t flower until they have energy to spare…flowering takes a massive amount of energy. To help it get established more quickly I recommend mixing bone meal (phosphorus) into the planting hole. The phosphorus in bone meal stimulates root growth and flower production…both things we want from a new rhododendron. Spring feeding is a must for better flowering (or any flowering in your case). Instead of using an evergreen food like Holly-Tone try Flower-Tone instead. Flower-Tone is a granular food that also will provide phosphorus to help stimulate flowering. To get the Flower-Tone to the roots where it’s needed you should pound holes about 10″ deep in a circle out away from the trunk of the rhodo and full those hole halfway with Flower-Tone. You can use a hammer and pipe to pound the feeding holes. Don’t feed now but in the spring as soon as the ground thaws. Rhododendron make the buts for next year this year so, if there are no buds on your Rhodo now then there will be no flowers in spring. If a Rhodo is planted where there is a lot of drying winter wind (say on the west or north side of the house) they will need a windbreak made of stakes and burlap or, better yet, move then to the east side of the house out of the prevailing winter wind.

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Amaryllis– Actually, I have had my amaryllis (4) for many years. During the year i water them only occassionally. I’ve been cutting the green leaves back. Is that how you take care of them? I get flowers every year. Sometimes not as big as the ones in the stores. Also, Should i separate the bulbs in the pots? I missed the amazing amaryllis. Thanks.

It sounds as though you are doing well with your amaryllis. I’d suggest that you not cut off green leaves since they are gathering sunlight and converting it into food that gets stored in the bulb. They are like solar collectors and should be left to grow until they start to turn yellow on their own. Amaryllis love to be potbound and can spend a few years in the same pot. If you have some that have doubled, you could unpot it and gently break the bulbs apart. I’d wait until the dormant period (late summer) to do this rather than when they are actively growing. Peter Bowden

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I have a mandevilla plant in a pot on my deck. My friend tells me to just put it in my basement for the winter and it will rebloom next year. Is this true? How do I take care of it during the winter.

Thanks for you question Mary, Mandevilla is a tropical plant as you know. It will probably survive (at least the stems should) if youput it in the basement over winter. The leaveswill all fall off of course. Certainly it would be happier if you can find room near a bright window for it to spend the winter. It will still lose lots of leaves but not all. It won’t need much water either and no plant food. Sometime in Late February or early March you’ll notice that it has started to put out some new shoots in response to the gradually lengthening days. You could then start giving it some plant foo at 1/4 strength to get it going again. By early June it should have lots of new growth and be ready to go outside for the summer. Bring it to a shady location for a week or so so it can get used to the increase in light and gradually move it to brighter and brighter places until it is acclimated. I just noticed that you said it is in a pot on your deck. If that is the case then it has probably already frozen and is already dead. If that is the case then it is not going to come back no matter what you do. Peter Bowden

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Hello there my roomates mother had a outdoor fern hanging basket that we took in for the winter months. Its starting to look a little sad. Or droopy. One leave is also turning brown. I give it water in begining I was doing it every other day and now do it every day. It is by a windwow which I open the blinds for it to get sun. I want to try to keep it alive all winter what can I do. Thanks for your help.

Yikes!!! stop watering so much! The biggest problem houseplants have is with their caregiver’s overwatering. Remember, lower light plants like ferns use very little water. In most cases they’ll only need to be watered anywhere from once a week to once a month. Always check the soil by poking your finger into the soil a couple of inches before you water. If you even think it feels moist wait a few more days and check again. Never leave plants standing in water for more than a few minutes or they will drown. Drowned roots are dead forever and the leaves of the plant will whither in a few days to a few weeks after the roots have been drowned. It is actually better to let the plant get a little limp or wilty before you water to avoid overwatering. Your fern does enjoy high humidity so get a mister bottle and feel free to mist as often as you wish. That will be much better than water every day. Thanks for your question, Peter Bowden

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Hi Peter, I recently bought a tiny evergreen plant from the Saratoga Hewitt’s store. It looks like a ground cover as it has many ‘rootlings’ reaching for the soil. What is it? Care info? Lost 1/2 of it after watering. Did I drown it? Was fantastic. Thanks a bunch! Robin

I’ll have to guess that you bought one of the ‘Frosty Ferns” that we had for sale in December. It is also known as ‘selaginella kraussiana variegatus’ and has more in common with ferns than evergreens. Your “Frosty Fern” will like medium light with no direct sunlight and loves high humidity and soil that is lightly moist all the time. This means that you’ll need to water frequently but lightly. If you have you pot in a saucer make sure that you never let the plants stand in water for more than a few minutes….soggy soil is not the same as lightly moist…if you have done this then you may indeed have drowned your fern. High humidity is difficult in the winter since our homes tend to be dry; especially if you have forced air heat. Misting your fern a couple of times a day can help with the humidity so a spray bottle should be kept handy. Peter B.

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Hi Someone told me that he does not mix fertilizer such as miracle grow or any other to fertilize his perennial gardens, all he does is in the early spring before the snow melts he sprinkles 5-10-5 all over the areas of the beds.. Is this safe??? Is there another alternative if not to mixing all those buckets of miracle grow.. Thanks

Thanks for your question. I reserve the use of miracle gro for my annuals and for container plantings. Miracle gro is fast acting but goes away quickly. You need to use it every couple of weeks. I agree with your friend about using a granular food although I don’t use 5-10-5 since it is a quickly released food (although it lasts longer than M-Gro) and, being a chemical fertilizer, it can burn the leaves or even the roots if applied too heavily. I prefer gentler, longer lasting foods like Espoma’s Flower-Tone. I also like to get the food into the soil near the plants rather than broadcasting to food all over the surface. On the surface, the food ends up benefiting any weeds as much or more than your garden plants. Phosphorus especially has a hard time percolating into the soil so it needs to be blended into the soil to benefit the plants and to prevent runoff into streams and other waterways. Here’s a link to a video where I demonstrate how I feed my gardens in spring. http://ourgarden.freedomblogging.com/2010/04/23/feeding-our-grass-plants-and-trees/481/ Thanks, Peter Bowden

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is there any kind of pelletized weed killer to put on a stone driveway

There is no granule or pelletized product for this, only liquids. Kleen-up and Round-up are both sprays that will kill anything that it gets sprayed on be it weeds, grass or your prized rose so great care must be taken and never spray on a rainy day. Any seeds that blow into the area will sprout and grow. Then there’s Bonide’s Total Vegetation that kills everything and stays in the soil preventing any plant growth for up to a year. This product gets put on with a watering can as a soil drench. The directions for this must be read and followed to the letter since, if it leeches beyond the area of application it can kill trees and other large plants if it comes in contact with their roots. Use this product with great caution.

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What can I do to keep my neighbor’s chickens from digging up my flower beds without putting up fencing?

There is no good answer except a fence although it would seem that that should be your neighbor’s responsibility, not yours.

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Every year my clematis come back and bloom but then start to turn brown and the leaves fall off. Usually from the bottom up. The top of the plants stay the longest. What can I do? Thanks.

What you describe is ‘clematis wilt’, a fungal disease. The disease spores winter over on the old vines but doesn’t affect the root system. Make sure you remove all the old vine from the trellis and put it in the garbage (not your compost bin or brush pile) to get it out of your yard. Start spraying every 10 days with Bonide’s Sulfur Plant Fungicide. Sulfur spray is a preventative fungicide so you need to use it before you see the symptoms. Other than when you’re spraying on the sulfur spray, you should never spray your clematis (or any garden plant for that matter) with water since wet leaves are the perfect place for fungal disease to take hold. If the disease shows up in spite of your efforts with the sulfur spray, cut the clematis right to the ground. This will force it to regrow from the roots which are immune to the disease. Continue to use the sulfur spray as a preventative as the clematis reestablishes itself. Large flowering clematis are more likely to catch the wilt than smaller flowered varieties.

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I wanted to plant Myrtle ground cover on a hilly area in the front of my yard, but will the road salt kill it in the winter or prohibit growth for the following year?

A bit of salt won’t harm myrtle but if it is right next to the road and the plowed snow piles up on it all winter, it will likely not make it. Here’s a site that lists salt tolerant many od which we’ll have later in spring. Make sure that the plant you choose is hardy in zone 5 or lower for our area. http://www.bloomindesigns.com/category/wholesale_2public.salt_tolerant/

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Hi, I’d like to know which evergreen vines I can plant that will produce a fairly good screen affect, grow rapidly and produce berries for my lovely backyard birds. I’d like to have evergreen varieties so I’ll have the leaves all winter. Zone 5 please. I will also mix some annual vines as well. Any suggestions? Much appreciated! Thanks, Sue

I’m not aware of any evergreen vines that produce berries for birds. In fact there are few evergreen vines that can survive our winters. I think the best you can hope for is growing cardinal vines to attract hummingbirds. There is also Moonflower vine, a member of themorrning glory family that blooms at night and can attrach nocturnal moths like the giabt Luna Moth. Sorry I cn’t help but there nothing for zone 5 that will fulfill your need.

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This is my second question. First, Hello Peter! I didn’t realize that it was YOU who would be responding to my question. I read your column weekly and I’m hooked on all your advise, thanks, you’re a wonder! Now…we have moved into my Grandmother’s home and I’m thrilled to work in her gardens that have been long forgotten. Her Whisteria vine has grown massive, at least 50 feet up the trees and the trunks are enormous! It flowers way up in the tree tops, beautiful lavender/bluish flowers (thought it was lilac) but I’d like to cut it down and start over so I can train it properly and save the trees from being strangled. Will it flower if I cut it down or will I have to wait 15 years? I also found it’s seeds all over the lawn, can I plant them? How long before it flowers? 15 years? As I read online? What should I do? Thanks Peter, for the help! Sue

Wow, that is one out of control wisteria. I’d suggest cutting it back right away to about 4′. This will force it to regrow from the roots so you can save the trees and retrain the wisteria to a more managable size. This is severe pruning and the wisteria won’t flower this year and it may take 3 or 4 years to rebloom. Since the root system is well established it won’t take 15 years to rebloom. I have no direct experience growing wisteria from seed but here’s a tutorial: http://www.ehow.com/how_2214274_grow-wisteria-seeds.html This will be a long, slow process and it will likely be 15 years before you see a flower from a wisteria started from seed. Peter Bowden

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ello peter, i have a hill in the back of the yard that is hard to mow every year . i would like to put some type of plant garden with little maintanace if any that will grow every year any help you could give me? im not much of a gardner so all the info you give me will be helpfull. if you have any pic ideas please send thank you ed

You could grow a ground cover like myrtle on the hill but that will require killing the grass off with Roundup spray before you plant the myrtle. Then you’ll need to keep the weeds at bay while the myrtle grows in. Whatever you plant there will be a project while it gets established which may take a few years. It may be less labor to continue mowing the area.

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i have about 4 tomato plants. that have leaves at the botom that are turning ayellowish color. what does that mean?

It isn’t uncommon for the first leaves on a tomato to turn yellow and fall off as the upper plants takes over and starts to shade the base of the plant. If the new growth looks OK without spotting and such then all is probably well. The best way to avoid fungal diseases on your tomatoes is to keeps them as dry and warm as possible. This means watering only when necessary and especially keeping the water off the leaves as much as possible. NEVER SPRAY YOUR PLANTS WITH WATER! It is bad enough that the rain wets the leaves but you shouldn’t add to the problem by spray watering. Get a watering wand so you can direct the water into the soil at the base of the plant without getting the leaves and flowers wet

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My husband and I have an old wire fence and would like to grow vines on it to help with the privacy from our neighbors. Can you tell me what is the fastest growing, sturdy and privacy vine to grow on it? Thank you

A trumpet vine will do the trick. They grow fast but make sure the fence is strong enough to support it. Trumpet vine will provide quick privace and the flowers will attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Yes, we sell trumpet vines.

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Peter, HELP! We have red spider mites everywhere! We have a stone patio with walls and pillars the length of the back of the house (faces SE direction). The tiny red mites have spread to the siding of the house and over the patio furniture, and are even crawling on the patio door frame. They try to come into the living area if we leave the patio door open with the screen for fresh air and breeze. What do you recommend we use to get rid of these annoying insescts?

The good news is that this will be a temporary situation. It sounds to me like you have clover mites invading the area probably coming from the lawn. They enjoy all the dampness and it sounds like you have a population explosion this year. You can get Bonide Eight in the disposable hose end sprayer to spray the stone patio but make sure to test it on a small area of paint before spraying large painted surfaces to make sure it won’t damage the paint. If they get inside you’ll want to vacuum them up since they can stain is squashed. They will subside within a week or so even if you don’t spray. This may happen every few years or so. Here’s a link to more information. http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/clovermites312.shtml

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