Gardening Q and A

Moths in Ferns

Q: My hanging ferns have been invaded with small white moths. They have just about killed the ferns by eating the leaves. What should I do? A: Moths don’t eat leaves, their offspring (caterpillars) do the damage. Unusually high numbers...

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Tomato Fusarium Wilt

Q: To prevent tomato fusarium wilt, I am in the process of solarizing my garden. Do I need to do anything to my cages and red plastic mulch trays in order to keep this disease from returning? A: Fusarium wilt...

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Raccoons

Q: I started feeding birds several years ago. Then squirrels helped themselves to the sunflower seeds. After a while I began attracting an occasional raccoon. However, I recently saw six raccoons in my yard. Will they starve if I quit...

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Planting Camellias

Q: When is best time to plant camellias? A: My rule of thumb is that mid-September through mid-November is terrific for planting shrubs and trees. The soil is warm enough to encourage root growth but the air is cool, so...

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Ground Covers

Q: What would you recommend as a fast growing ground cover in sunny and shady areas? A: For shade, I like Lenten rose or mondo grass. For sun, spreading juniper and purple euonymus are hard to beat. For more groundcover...

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Caterpillars on Azaleas

Q: My azalea had caterpillars clustered at the tip of the limb. They have red heads and red feet. A: Azalea caterpillar, Datana major, is an occasional autumn pest of azaleas. They defoliate random azalea limbs but they will not...

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Rotenone Insecticide

Q: I have been unsuccessful in finding rotenone, an organic insecticide I have used for many years. Where can I get some? A: Rotenone has been used as an insecticide for more than a hundred years and as a fish...

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Azalea Fertilizer

Q: I have bags of azalea fertilizer that are four years old. Would it harm my shrubs to apply the fertilizer this fall? A: My rule of thumb is to apply fertilizer to a plant when it is actively growing....

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Watermelon – Slow Ripening

Q: I have a hard time telling when my watermelons are ripe. They have been the size of a cantaloupe for several weeks. A: Watermelons can be slow to fully ripen because they depend so much on the right ratio...

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May Beetles

Q: Every August, I hear a distinct buzzing sound when I go outside in the early morning. It sounds like bees of some sort, from the air above me. What could these critters be? A: I think the buzzing comes...

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Pruning Arborvitae

Q: I have two arborvitae that are getting so big they are obstructing the security lights and part of my garage door. I need to take one of them down at least 6 feet. Will it recover from such a...

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African Violets

Q: I have three African violets that bloom often and seem to be very happy. However, they are each showing a long stem at the soil line. I know that can’t be right. A: It’s common for the lower leaves...

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Dodder Vines

Q: I have orange vines, about the size of spaghetti, wrapping itself around my coreopsis and vinca. It does not seem to have roots. Any ideas what it is? A: It’s the parasitic plant named dodder, also known as devil’s...

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Weed Killer

Q: We had a large oak tree removed and the area underneath sprayed to control English ivy. I would like to plant a vegetable garden in that area next summer. How long does it take weed killer to dissipate? A:...

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Japanese Maple Seed Pods

Q: I have a mature Japanese maple that has generated lots of seed pods. How do I store and germinate the seeds into seedlings. A: Although maple seeds nominally require three months of moist, cold conditions, I’d plant a dozen...

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Walnut Tree Mulch

Q: This spring, after planting the garden, we heavily mulched with fresh shredded material the power line maintenance crew brought us. It has been a total bust. The tomato plants were dwarfed, the cukes were disfigured, and I only had...

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Anthurium – Re-potting

Q: I need to repot my anthurium. Do I need to put a layer of stones in the new pot? A: There is no need to put stones in the bottom of a pot. In fact, you harm the plant...

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Lilies – Pruning

Q: When do you cut back the leaves of calla lilies, daylilies, and Oriental lilies? A: I scissor off brown leaves whenever I see them and have my pruners handy. It’s my experience that “green leaves are good leaves” so...

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