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Ron Wilson

Gardening Questions


“How often should I feed my shrub roses this summer?” – It’s amazing how well they can perform without a lot of feeding, but maybe look at doing a monthly feeding, until late August. Then stop feeding to let the plants begin to shut down for the season. Keep deadheading those roses as well – keeps them cleaner looking, a part of the pruning process, and helps with new growth and new growth means more flowers! Again, we’ll stop this process early September, so the roses will start to slow down and prepare for the end of the season.

-“I heard you talking about deadheading thru the summer. Can you go over that one more time?” – Sure! Deadheading is the art of removing spent flowers from a plant in order to achieve a few different things. The main idea behind deadheading is to stimulate more flowers. By pinching off the old flowers, it helps to stimulate new growth and more flowers. Some plants need a simple removal of the spent flower, where others may need removal of the spent flower as well as the stalk on which it’s growing. This process is used on annuals, perennials, roses, flowering shrubs, etc. Deadheading is similar to a pinching or pruning process that helps keep plants more compact, rather than getting long and lanky. By removing the spent flowers and a bit of the stem below the flower, you’re encouraging a fuller plant. And of course, with more new growth, in turn, you’ll have more new flowers. Deadheading also helps to eliminate the plants trying to go to seed, like these daylilies, which can take a lot out of the plant. Instead of producing seed heads, the energy can be sent to the plant and its foliage, and again, in many cases, like these gaillardias, the plants will continue to re-bloom. If you have coreopsis, a light shearing will help stimulate these plants to keep flowering all summer long, as well as keeping them nice and compact. Deadheading is also a way to help stimulate a second flowering period from plants that may typically flower only once. Summer flowering spirea is a good example. Once they’re finished flowering, lightly shear off those spent flowers, and within a few weeks, a second flush of new growth will appear, along with a second period of flowering. And, as with some perennials and woody plants, even if deadheading doesn’t help stimulate more flowers, it definitely helps to keep your plants looking a lot nicer for the summer season.

“Quick question about trees. We accidentally scraped the trunk with the mower and took off a large piece about 3 ” of the bark. Is there any home remedies I can use to help the tree heal if not what would you buy to help the tree?” -Do a little bark tracing if needed to clean up any loose bark and create a clean edge along the scar (it will seal over quicker) and then leave it alone. Watch for any bugs in the edges, but otherwise let it seal it self over. No wrap, no tree paints, not tar. And one last thing – make a mulched bed around the tree. That way the mower doesn’t get close enough to cause “mower blight”.

“We have several container plantings and were wondering if you had tips for watering when we go away for a few days?” – If you’re a container gardener, then you’re committed to watering. But what happens when you need to go away for a few days? Well, here are a few hints to keep your plants watered, without having someone stop by and do it for you.
1.) If possible, group your plants (indoors or out) together in a semi shadier location. Grouped plants shade each other, won’t dry out as quickly, and the shadier location helps slow down water loss as well.
2.) If you used Soil Moist when first planting your containers, great! These small crystals absorb 200 times their weight in water, and re-release it back to the plants roots when the soil dries out, cutting your watering as much as in half. If you don’t have Soil Moist in the soil, it can be added by punching several long holes with a pencil or dowel, and then dropping a few crystals in each hole.
3.) Water your plants thoroughly just before you leave, whether they need it or not. That way the soil, the plant, and the Soil Moist have been recharged with maximum amounts of water.
4.) Supplement additional water needed by adding an AquaCone or 2 to each container. These cones, when attached to a 2 liter bottle filled with water, will slow drip water into the soil over an extended period of time, adding moisture to the soil as it is used up by the plant. Again, extending the amount of time before the next watering would be needed.
5.) And lastly, if you’re going to be gone for a week, this is one time, and the only time, we will suggest placing a saucer under the pot and leaving water in the saucer. Again, this is the only time we would recommend doing this, but it will extend the time before the next watering is needed.
In some cases, doing all this may last from 2-3 days to a week without adding more water. Experiment before you leave, to make sure you know how long it will last for your plants. Soil Moist and AquaCones – two great ways to help you water, whether you’re home or on the road.

“Any tips for the lawn as we go thru the summer?” – The summer season can be a very trying time for homeowner’s and their lawns. So, here are a few general tips to help keep your lawn looking its best this summer. 1.) Keep mowing on a regular basis. Never remove more than 1/3 of the grass blades each time you mow. 2.) Mow at a higher mowing height. Keep your mowing height at least 2 ½ to 3 ½ inches. Longer grass blades mean less stress on the turf, the crowns are shaded and protected from the heat of the sun, grass roots should grow deeper, and your turf will do much nicer during the summer than the lawns mowed close and stressed.
3.) Change your mowing pattern each time you mow. Mow east to west one week, then north to south the next. Then take it diagonally. Just like the golf course pros do! This encourages your grass to grow upright, rather than laying down (being mowed one direction all the time) and definitely creates a happier lawn! 4.) Throw those clippings back into the turf. Returning those clippings is like one additional fertilizing each year. Grass clippings are 75-85% water, decompose quickly, and do not create thatch problems. 5.) Have those mowers blades sharpened on a regular basis, which means at least 3-4 times throughout the mowing season. Dull blades shred rather than cut which will give your lawn a yellowed look, and will make the grass more susceptible to disease. 6.) Be sure to clean out under the mower deck when you’re finished mowing. It’s important to remove that grass build up, especially if you have an under the deck exhaust. It also helps the mower deck to operate properly. So keep under the deck cleaned! 7.) Last, but very important, if your lawn doesn’t get enough rainfall, water as needed. Remember the golden rule of 1 inch of rainfall every 10 days or so. If we don’t get it naturally, you have to supplement. And when you do supplement, do it all at one time; a deep, thorough watering. Deep watering creates a deeper rooted lawn, which makes it much sturdier during possible drought situations, as well as being a much healthier lawn. Please, don’t be a water tease. One thorough watering is much better for the lawn and all plants, than frequent watering teases!

-“We’re already seeing the bottoms of our tomatoes turning black! What is that called and what do we do to stop it?” – Blossom End Rot, a very common problem on tomatoes (can also happen on peppers, squash, melons, cucs, eggplant, etc), and can be the result of many factors:
-Water stress (uneven soil moisture available to the plant – when plants take up moisture from the soil, it goes to the foliage first, then to the fruits – lack of even moisture affects the fruit first.) This also results in less calcium being carried to the fruit.
-Lack of calcium in the soil available for the plant to take up. -Plants trying to get rooted in / established, producing new growth and fruit all the same time. Root damages can cause this as well. -High feedings of Nitrogen -High salt levels in the soil -Too low or too high pH -Cold air and soil temperatures -Soils high in salts. -Individual plants just not doing their job internally resulting in BER. Again, this problem usually occurs more earlier in the season (especially if up and down temperatures, poor plant establishment, wet spring, then dry ad fruit begins to set, etc), and seems to taper off as the season progresses (plants become better rooted, weather adjusts, etc.). It is a physical problem, not a disease, so the ripened fruits can still be eaten (slice off the black spot) if desired.

Controlling Blossom End Rot:
-Try adding calcium to the soil, using lime or gypsum, before planting the plants in the ground or containers (add to soil and till in) just to make sure that is not an issue. These can also be added (top dress and light raking) once Blossom End Rot shows up on the fruit, to help correct future fruit from being affected. (Water soluble lime, hydrated lime, very fine lime become available quickest of the lime – apply early.) This may or may not help, especially if involves other factors that may cause BER, but at least you know lack of calcium is not the issue. -Regulate your watering, so the plant is receiving good – even soil moisture at all times. Increased timely waterings, as well as mulching tomatoes to retain soil moisture will help. -Do not over feed the plants, especially with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Excessive growth, stimulated by the high Nitrogen, increases foliage production, which increases the need for water and calcium to the leaves, and results in the lack of moisture and calcium to the fruits. Use an all-purpose garden food, which is lower in N and higher in Potassium and phosphorus, as well as other needed nutrients, including Calcium. –Check pH levels. -Cold temperatures (soil and air) will also affect the flow of calcium / water to the plant and fruit. Another good reason to not plant tomatoes too early in the season! Plant when the temperatures get warmer. –Keep records as some selections are more susceptible than others. NOTE: For container gardening, potting mixes do not contain calcium / harder to keep evenly moist, etc, so it is advised to calcium to the mix / use Soil Moist to help keep even moisture levels / water as needed. The larger the pot, the less watering needed. There are Blossom End Rot sprays, but are slow to be absorbed, it’s temporary, and you’re better off trying to correct the overall situations causing the problem if possible.

”We have lace bugs really bad on our azaleas. They are in part shade. Is it okay if she sprays them with insecticidal soap in the evening and then hose off in the morning before it gets too hot? Or what would you suggest at this point in the season?” -No reason to hose them off. Watch the temps, and spray with soaps, horticultural oils, or Spinosad, making sure to spray the undersides of the leaves. Do it 2-3 times on 10-14 day intervals. Still time to apply a systemic drench as well (imidacloprid). You may even give them a light feeding of HollyTone and water it in well.


“Groundhogs are eating my dad’s garden. Any suggestions?” -Groundhog stew. Physical removal is the only sure cure for the groundhog problem. Fences (including electric) may work, but in some cases still not a sure thing. By the way, if they are burrowing in your yard, throw dog feces down the hole. They hate it and generally will move on to another location. 

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