Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My Gardenia

I live in South Florida and had a very healthy Gardenia that I moved to the side of the house about 2 years ago. It has never grown leaves. I cut it down to help it along and it still remains bare. It is not dead. What can I do?

Thank you,

Anne's response: It may not be dead but a plant that has not had leaves in two years is not healthy and may never recover. There may be a problem with the root system of the plant in its new location. It needs good drainage - no wet feet - but it is not very drought tolerant. The soil should be acidic and contain a high level of organic matter. If the plant is near a concrete slab there may be too much lime in the soil. A plant that is too deep in the ground may also suffer. The plant should be planted a bit higher in the ground than it was in its original location. This allows the soil to settle without lowering the crown of the plant. The plant needs at least 4 hours of sun for good growth. If the stems of the plant show signs of green buds beginning to swell this spring fertilize the plant with a fertilizer for blooming plants.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pine Trees


I’m really glad that you’re part of the News 14 Local News. Being new to the area and very much into gardening myself, I’ve learned a great deal from your segments. ‘Thanks You’

Question – I’ve recently had to have several dead pine trees cut down in my yard and I’ve even noticed more in my backyard that are dead – they were all good size pine trees, way taller than my home and cost a pretty penny to have them cut down. Then I noticed several other dead pine trees in my neighborhood – what is killing them? It is; lack of water, age or some type of bug?

Do you have any ideas?

Thank you,

Anne's response:

In new neighborhoods it is often caused by damage to tree roots in new home construction – and in hot dry weather the problem is worse. Another major cause of pine damage is the pine beetle. We have had a number of pine bark beetle infestations in Wake County. Living trees can be protected with some chemical sprays that are available to tree care professionals. Once the tree shows signs of damage it is usually recommended that property owners remove the trees to get rid of the pest. When you have a number of trees dying it may be time to consult a certified arborist that can diagnose the problem. Companies such as Bartlett Tree will often do a free consultation to diagnose the problem.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Killing grass in ground cover

We have grass growing in a couple of spots in our flower bed amongs the low growing ground cover. I have pulled and pulled the grass out but it is a losing battle. Is there a product that you can safely apply that kills grasses but does not harm other plant life? Harold M.

Anne's response:

There are herbicides labeled as “grass-killers” or are labeled to kill grassy weeds in shrubbery. Ortho has one in their line; so does Bayer, Bonide and Hi-Yield. Many of these products will take care of the grass you have growing in the groundcover. Read the label carefully to make sure it is safe to use on the ground cover you have. Remember that “Mondo Grass” is a groundcover and member of the lily family of plants. It is not a grass.

Watering newly planted trees

Dear Anne,

I recently planted, during the last week of October, Norway and Serbian spruce trees, and Douglas fir trees. I live in Essex County NJ. How often do I need to water them and how much water is recommended? If snow is on the ground, does depth matter, and does it matter if snow is or is not directly under the tree branches?

Thank you for your help.


Anne's response:

When plants receive the equivalent of 1 inch of water a week, whether in the form of rain or snow, there is no need to water plants. As long as there is snow on the ground there is no need to water. Another problem is the cold and drying winds of winter. Newly planted trees do need to be sprayed with an anti-dessicant to prevent the needles from drying out. Wilt-Pruf is one trade name for such a product.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ground cover suggestions


I'm giving up on grass in Raleigh. I have about a 600 sq ft area where I want to put a ground cover. I want something that is low, evergreen, non-invasive, can handle partial shade and some tree roots. Any suggestions?


Anne's response:

I am using some dwarf mondo grass in a shady area. It does take light foot traffic, looks like coarse grass but would be expensive. I am using partridge berry on a bank and it works very well. It is a "vine" similar to vinca but hugs the ground and is also easier to control. It will also take light foot traffic. Moss is a possibility and so is strawberry begonia (saxifrage). None of the groundcovers will take the hard traffic that grass does however.

Magnesium Sulphate

Would a solution of Epsom Salt poured on any plant material have a harmful affect on the plant?

Would it have a beneficial affect on some plants and if so whhat plant family would it be beneficial for??

Thanks for your wonderful program, I try to listen each week on PTF.

Ted A.

Anne's response:

Some soils are deficient in magnesium so adding Epsom salt is recommended in many organic gardening books to improve the color and taste of carrots, eggplants and tomatoes. Rose growers often sprinkle a half cup of Epsom salts around rose bushes in early spring to encourage basal breaks for new canes from the base of the plants. It does get mentioned in some texts as a means of encouraging more vivid colors in ornamentals. As with all garden chemicals adding material that is not needed or adding excess amounts will cause other problems. It is a good idea to take soil tests in our yards every 5 years to make sure what materials are deficient or in excess.

Watering dormant trees

Do I need to water the deciduous trees I planted last spring while they are dormant?


Anne's response:

Yes. The roots of dormant plants are still growing. They do not need as much water as they do when they are in leaf but deciduous trees do need to be watered weekly the first year they are in the ground.

Dying Leland Cyprus Question

Anne… I have a privacy border consisting of about 8 leland cyprus running along each side of my back yard to screen my deck from the neighbors. The yard slopes away from the house.

On each side of the yard, I'm loosing the two or three leland cyprus at the lowest end of the row… those downhill and furthest from the house.

At first I thought it must be the drought… but as a few showed signs of ill health I hit them pretty hard with a lot of water. No use. They continued to decline.

I'm wondering if there is something else causing the trees to die… and if I should quickly cut them down to keep them away from the remaining healthy trees.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Tom P.
Waxhaw, NC

Anne's response:

The plants at the lower end of the row may have been planted too deeply in the ground or they may be in an area that retains more moisture then those at the top of the hill. I would did around the plants to see if you can determine if the roots are too dry, too wet or smothered with too much soil.