Frequently Asked Questions
Q. When is it safe to cut back my asparagus plants?
A. After the ferns tops have turned brown it is safe to cut them back.
Q. My roses have blackspot, what can I spray them with?
A. Blackspot is a fungus so you should spray with a fungicide, also destroy any leaves with blackspot on them. Plant the roses where there is good air circulation and practice cleanliness around the plant, as the fungus will overwinter in the soil under the plant.
Q. My walnut trees have very unattractive webs and worms on the ends of the branches, will this kill my tree?
A. No, if your trees are well established they should not harm you tree, even though they are very unsightly. If your trees are young, pick them off and destroy them. On larger trees you may have to resort to chemical control.
Q. When is it time to move my peony bushes and when can I cut them back?
A. Peony plants should be moved in early fall, September is a good time. The tops should not be cut back until after a heavy frost.
Q: Why won't my Hibiscus bloom?
A: Hibiscus like average temperatures and high light, with evenly moist soil but not waterlogged. The best way to get them to set buds is to prune them in late March, before they set bud. This gets rid of winter leggyness, and helps keep the plant bushy. It also stimulates new growth. Fertilize with a fertilizer that has a high middle number or top with compost. They love being outside for the summer. After danger of frost start slowly by putting the plant is bright defused light, but no direct light. After a week give more light. Continue this way until the plant is in full sun. This should stimulate blooms. In the tropics hibiscus live in full sun. Reverse the procedure in the early fall to bring the plant into the house before danger of frost.
Q: Why won't my peonies bloom?
A: The usual problem with peonies not blooming is that they are planted too deep. The tuberous roots need to be planted close to the surface at about 3.5cm deep and not deeper that 6cm. Peonies also like full sun. They survive in shade but usually do not bloom when planted in shade. They prefer being moved in early fall and may not bloom the first year after being transplanted. Remember to mulch with compost in the spring.
Q: Do I need ants to help my peonies bloom?
A: People associate ants and peonies, but peonies bloom very well without ants. Ants are on peonies to collect the sweet sap that peonies secrete just before the buds open, but have nothing to do with the flower opening. After the flowers open the ants continue to crawl through the petals collecting sap.
Q: My lawn dies each summer and goes all brown. What can I do to keep it green?
A: Some grasses go dormant in the heat of summer and become dry and brown. They are not dead and will come back in cooler weather or next Spring. To have green grass all summer, you need to over seed with heat tolerant grasses. Good choices are the fescues, especially Red fescue, Perennial Rye, and Dutch Clover. All are drought tolerant and remain green all summer.
Q: I want to repair some patches of my lawn that are dead. When is the best time to sow new seed?
A: Fall is the best time to sow new seed. Mid to late September sowing will allow the new grass to establish roots giving it a head start in the Spring. Spring sowing can be done in the early Spring before the hot weather arrives. The roots of Spring planting are not as well established for the Summer heat.
Q: How can I get rid of crabgrass in my lawn?
A: Crabgrass is an annual weed. So to control it you must prevent seed formation and/or seed germination. Hand weeding will control seed formation and distribution. The use of a fertilizer with corn gluten in it in the early Spring will prevent seed germination. Remember that corn gluten is a non-specific germination preventer, so do not use it with seeding. Allow 6 to 8 weeks before sowing any seed if you plan to do that.
Q: I have brown patches in my lawn. What causes them?
A: Brown patches in lawns may come from any of several causes. Dogs' urine will kill lawn grasses, so ensure that your lawn is not being used as a doggy bathroom. Washing the tap with tap water after the dog has used it will reduce the damage. Grubs of certain insects will kill the grass by eating the roots leaving patches of dead brown grass. Identify the felon and institute a cure. Nematodes are available at many nurseries and garden centres for grubs (the larvae of the insect). Spraying a nematode solution when the grubs are active (late Spring or early Fall) kill them Certain fungi can also cause circular rings of dead grass often with green centres. These are called Fairy rings. Improving the general health of your lawn will make it more resistant to infection. De-thatching by driving spikes onto the dead area will allow water, air, and nutrients to the roots. The fungal activity tends to block such access.
Q: Water restrictions make frequent lawn watering difficult. How much water does a lawn need?
A: lawns can survive 6 to 8 weeks of drought without the grass dying. It will go dormant and look brown but will green up when rain returns. Lawns need a good deep watering (1"/2.5 cm.) each time you water. Ideally they need water every week or ten days if there is no rain.
Q: I have an old lawn and want to fertilize it for better growth. What type of fertilizer is good? When should I apply it?
A: Grass needs a good supply off nitrogen, so use a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content ( e.g. 8-2-2). A slow release fertilizer is a good way to go. Spring dressing with compost annually and adding shredded leaves each the Fall will build up a rich soil naturally. Late Fall is the best time to apply lawn fertilizer. Choose a time when the grass has stopped growing but has not yet gone dormant. The end of October is good in our area.
Q: I have been told that mowing the lawn is a good way to get it to thicken up. Is that true?
A: Yes it is true, but the mowing should not be down to a very short level. The ideal height is 3" to 4" / 6 to 8 cm. So set your mower blades high. Be sure your mower blades are sharp.
SHRUBS AND VINES
Q: When should I prune my Lilac?
A: Flowering shrubs should be pruned just after they have finished flowering. With the lilac that would be in early summer, late June or early July. Lilacs buds are formed during the summer and need winter frost to mature, so Fall pruning will remove the flower buds for next year.
Q: How should clematis be planted?
A: Plant clematis in the Spring in moist, not wet, loamy soil with good drainage. Clematis does best when its roots are kept cool so a mulch after planting is a good idea. Shade from the hot afternoon sun is also helpful.
Q: Why has my two year old wisteria never flowered?
A: Some wisteria do not bloom until they are 4 to 6 years old. So it may be too young. Wisteria prefers mildly alkaline soil and will bloom better if it is not given too much nitrogen. Nitrogen promotes leaf growth perhaps at the expense of flower production. If after a few years it still does not flower, prune the roots by digging straight down into the soil about 18"/30cm. from the trunk.
Q: When is a good time to prune roses?
A: Roses should be pruned in their dormant period, between leaf drop in the Fall and bud break in the Spring. In our climate roses will die back during the winter leaving a line of demarcation between the green living base and the black dead part of the branch. The pruning cut should be at that level. Fall pruning can be used to lower the plant form to avoid breaking of large branches from the weight of winter snow. Spring pruning can then be as above. Do not prune in the winter. Be sure your pruners are clean and sharp.
Q: What are some good vines to cover an ugly garden fence?
A: There are several that would do well. Wisteria is one. Clematis including the showy jackmanii makes for colorful flowers throughout the Summer. Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) grows well in this area. It can be invasive and so needs to be well pruned. Climbing Honeysuckle (Lonicera henryi) for example also works well. Virginia Creeper ( parthenosis cinquefolia) and Boston Ivy (Parthenosis tricuspidata) are easy to care for. Their flowers are small and undistinguished, but their leaves flame into a brilliant Fall display.
Q: When should I plant my tulips?
A: Tulips should be planted in the Fall for Spring flowering. Late September or early October is a good time in our area.
Q: Why do my tulips either not come up in the Spring or if they do, they do not bloom?
A: There can be several reasons. Following the planting instructions carefully should produce a good show. Bulbs planted too deeply or too shallowly will not flower. Bulbs should be planted about 4"/15cm. deep. Tulips need a cold period to flower, so They should be planted in the Fall. Bulbs may be damaged after planting as well. Many rodents like to eat tulip bulbs. Squirrels will dig them up and voles will tunnel into them underground. Fungal diseases can cause the bulb to rot. To prevent that, handle the bulbs carefully to prevent bruising and dust them with a fungicide such as garden sulphur before planting.
Q: When is a good time to plant peas?
A: Peas are a cool weather vegetable. They germinate and grow best in cool temperatures. Early to mid April is the proper time in our area.
Q: What is hardening off for plants?
A: This refers to the process of accustoming the plant to outdoor conditions after it has been grown indoors. To harden off tomato plants, for example, move the indoor pots outside for increasing hours each day. On the first day leave them out for the morning and then move them to a shaded sheltered area for the rest of the day. Increase the outdoor time a few hours a day during the week ahead. That accustoms the plant to day and night temperatures and to the intensity of the sun. They are then ready to be planted into the ground.
Q: Should I prune my tomatoes?
A: Tomatoes come in two types, Determinate and indeterminate. The determinate varieties produce a single crop and should not be pruned. These include "Roma", "Tiny Tim" and "Floramerica". The indeterminate types continue to flower and set fruit all summer. They need staking. They can become sprawling. To keep them smaller and hence can be more densely planted staking and pruning will help. They will take up less space but also produce less fruit. Letting them sprawl has the advantage of protecting them from drying out and cracking.
Q:What is the best way to avoid tomato blight and wilt?
A: Annual crop rotation will help. These diseases overwinter in the soil and moving the tomato plants to another part of the vegetable garden will prevent that happening. Another good way is to choose disease resistant seed.