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Ron Wilson

Gardening Questions

Gardening Questions


“My blue hollies looked great last month. Now all of a sudden the top leaves are turning brown! What should I do for them?” – Again, this all may be the results of the winds and colder weather from this past winter, and those hollies could show even more damages if they had been stressed or declining last year or going into the fall season. All we can do is wait and see. Be patient and let them show you what they’re going to do. Leaves will drop. Some branches may die or you may see some tip dieback. They may require cutting back. Give them plenty of time to show you before you over react. Be patient!

“If I want to make my own ‘nectar’ for my hummingbird feeders, how do I prepare the sugar water?”- The formula is 4 parts water to one part sugar, and it does not need to be boiled or colored red. As a matter of fact, do not color it red!

“What is the name of the product you recommend to help control the suckers growing out of the base of our crabapple? Pruning them 3 -4 times a year is getting to me!” -There’s a new kid on the block, and it’s called ‘Sucker Punch’; prohibits re-growth for about 3 months or more, which usually gets you thru the season. It’s not cheap, but it lasts for years in the bottle, and certainly saves you a lot of time and bending over!

“In spite of rotating crops, we continue to have problems with our tomato plants with the leaves turning brown. Is there something we can put into the soil to stop this?” -We need to determine what exactly “this” is, and then go after it. But in the meantime, Actinovate helps control some soil diseases, keep up with the crop rotation, mulch around the plants to keep splashing down, remove the bottom 12 inches of leaves (same reason), reduce over head watering, and use a foliar fungicidal spray program to help suppress leaf diseases. Also, keep adding compost / organic matter to the garden each fall. And look for plants that seem to show to most resistance to many of these diseases / viruses. If it shows up again, get samples to someone to try and determine what it is that’s happening.

“I would like to dig up some daffodils and replant them. When is a good time to do that?” -Feel free to dig and divide / transplant as soon as the foliage begins to yellow later this spring. Remember to leave the foliage (green) on the bulbs for at least 6-8 weeks after flowering to give them time to replenish the energy in the bulb for re-growth and re-flowering next year. 6-8 weeks or when the foliage begins to yellow – whichever comes first. Dig, remove the old foliage, and replant just like you would have done in the fall.

“What is that purple flowering weed in my lawn and garden?” -It’s probably Henbit or Purple Deadnettle – winter annuals that actually started growing last fall. They’re shallow rooted, so simply rake or pull them out before they flower and drop seeds. And if they do drop seeds, just remember to apply Preen this September to the area, to help stop henbit, nettle, hairy bittercress, and chickweed from getting started.

“Is it okay to put weeds in my compost pile?” -Yes and no; use some caution. First, make sure your pile is really cooking so you cook the weeds. Try to not put weed seeds in the pile, and if the weeds are invasive weeds (spread from stems, roots, rhizomes, etc) you may want to let them dry out on the driveway or walk first, then add them to the compost pile. But make sure you cook them. If not sure, don’t add them. That’s your safest bet.

“Would you recommend applying a grub killer to kill the grubs, which I think the moles are after right now? Or, what should I do to get rid of the moles?”

Trying to control grubs in the spring can not be very effective. And if you did spring treat for the grubs, and it did kill a few, it takes time for them to die and time for them to decay and in the meantime, the moles would keep feeding on them. So spring treating now for grubs isn’t highly recommended. BUT – as we have always said, do not treat for grubs to try to get rid of the moles! Only treat for grubs if grubs have become a problem to the lawn (use a grub preventer applied in June). Grub control is not mole control. Moles eat a lot more than grubs in our soils, with earthworms being their staple food source (they feed on all sorts of soil insects). Grubs are only a temporary source of appetizers for moles. Physical removal is the only sure cure for moles. And if you’d like, there are plenty of repellents and poisons for you to try. Visit  for more mole info than you could ever ask for!

“I’m already seeing some dandelions popping up in my lawn. What is the best way to get rid of them?” -The best defense against dandelions and other weeds in the lawn, is a thicker lawn – bottom line. Where the lawn has thinned, weeds can move in. That’s the way it works. So do all you can to get that lawn thicker. Now, speaking of dandelions: try to understand this beautiful plant. Believe it or not, at one time, there were no dandelions in the United States. They were brought here by the Europeans to serve many purposes. 1.) The dandelion roots, which can get an inch thick and grow deeper into the ground than many tree roots, were harvested and boiled for making a tea used for medicinal purposes. 2.) The foliage was grown for harvesting and eaten as you would any other type of greens. 3.) The unopened flower buds were also eaten along with the foliage, and the opened yellow flowers were harvested and used for making dandelion wine, as well as battered and deep fried for a nice little snack. But, unfortunately, the dandelion escaped from the garden and has become a nuisance for many in the lawn. A nuisance if you don’t like flowering plants in the turf. So, keep the lawn good and thick. In most cases, where you see dandelions growing, the lawn has thinned. Along sidewalks and driveways, low compacted areas, and poorly maintained lawns are where they show up the worst. Feel free to dig them out, cutting off the root about 6-8 inches below ground level. Try Bonide’s Weed Beater Ultra and spot treat as needed. Best time to do this is when the flowers are in the puffball stage, or wait until the fall, which is actually the best time to spot treat for dandelions. By the way, dandelion flowers are an important early bloomer for honeybees. So if you have a few dandelions, let them flower for the bees first, then spot treat later. And if you still can’t get rid of those dandelions in your lawn, well, remember – if you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em.

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