I was gone for most of Memorial Day. When I got home, something strange was happening in my pond. Many of the goldfish and some of the koi were behaving abnormally. They were lethargic, and some were staying directly under the waterfalls in an apparent attempt to get more oxygen. Before the next morning, a 21-inch-long koi, a foot-long koi and ...Read more
Q: I have a plum tree with little holes in the leaves. This happened last summer and again this spring. Can you tell me again what the cause could be and how to treat it?
A: Plums, apricots and peaches all get a bacterial disease called "bacterial leaf spot." It is also commonly called "shot hole disease," because it looks like someone stood ...Read more
Q: In last week's article, you commented that one of the factors of plant deaths over the winter is the timing of fall pruning. I thought we were supposed to prune our trees and shrubs in the fall: Can you go into more detail on when we are to prune trees and shrubs?
A: Since we are still in spring, let's start there. We prefer to prune spring-...Read more
Q: Apparently the polar vortex last winter killed several of my trees and shrubs. I had carefully selected the plants based on the hardiness zone maps in plant catalogs and on plant tags. I know it was cold, but shouldn't the plants have done better? Some of the trees were planted five to 10 years ago, but some of the shrubs were planted last ...Read more
Q: I need to replace a pear tree. The first one was planted in the fall; last spring, it didn't bloom, which is normal for a newly planted pear. However, what wasn't normal was that the tree started dying from the top down. It was exhibiting the symptoms of fire blight, which, as you know, is a quick-acting and deadly disease in pears. Fire ...Read more
Q: I have several apple and pear trees that I have treated with the fungicide Captan for several years to try to prevent fungal disease problems. It doesn't seem to work. Last year, I specifically didn't treat some branches of the trees to see if I could tell the difference. There was no difference. What can I do to protect my fruit trees?
A: ...Read more
Q: I would like some suggestions for what to do with all the pine cones that fall in my yard from the pine trees (other than just burning them, which so far, I have never done). I don't want them to make more trees. Have you got any suggestions? These are not the really attractive cones that can be used decoratively. They are just ordinary, ...Read more
I am sure you have heard the saying "stop and smell the roses." Well, let's say that we traveled 55,000 miles and stopped at over two million flowers. What would we get? Tired from bending over, for one thing, but if we were honeybees, we could have made some honey. It takes that many flowers and that much work to make only one pound of honey! I...Read more
Q: On the news, I have seen amazing pictures of the clouds of pine tree pollen in North Carolina. Why is there so much this spring? Is there something wrong with the trees? Why are the trees producing so much pollen?
A: There is nothing wrong with the trees. There are many cycles of growth in nature, and sometimes they overlap. Seven years ago,...Read more
Q: We don't have a lot of money for landscaping, but we want to propagate several shrubs in our yard. We want the plants to be the same kind and have the same color leaves and flowers. We figured that collecting and using seeds would potentially give us different colors. We don't have a greenhouse or any way to grow cuttings. What would be an ...Read more
Clover and Weed Control
Q: There is an outbreak of clover on my lawn and in my flower beds. It has been spreading for several years. I tried a pre-emergent weed killer, and it didn't help. What do you recommend to prevent it from taking over the whole lawn?
A: There was a time when the pre-emergent weed killer may have helped, but that time is...Read more
Q: Our flowerbeds need mulch. We have seen mulch that is colored red or black. The black mulch looks nice, but we are concerned that the coloring may not be safe for our dogs, and for any vegetables we plant.
A: The dyes used to color wood mulch are primarily carbon-based and iron oxide-based. Iron oxide (rust) is the most commonly used dye. It...Read more
Believe it or not, spring is coming. It has started in the south and is moving north. Spring is an exciting time to be a gardener, but it can also be a bit overwhelming. Sometimes the whole yard and all its many nooks and crannies can seem overwhelming.
It does not matter if your yard is new or old. Planning is one of the most important steps. ...Read more