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  1. Peter - I am interested in installing some sort of water feature on my deck. I have a space that i had prepared to support a 6x7 hot tub, but have since decided that i will probably not use the tub enough to justify the expense. Hence, i am interested in filling the space with plants and a fountain or waterfall-type feature to make that area pretty. any suggestions? are there free-standing pools manufactured so i dont have to cut a hole in the deck?? I am open to suggestions. Thank you for your comments. melissa
  2. I have a problem with chipmunks and squirrels eating the seeds of sunflowers before they get a chance to sprout and grow. Any suggestions for deterring the critters from getting the seeds before they have a chance to sprout? Thanks, Sue
  3. What is the solution for spider mites on Alberta Spruce and other Evergreens?
  4. How do I get rid of gnats in my office plants
  5. We just had a patio installed in our yard. This has sparked the motivation to put in pretty plants to spruce up our very bland yard. Any suggestions on what types of shrubs or flowers would thrive in this area? We do have pine trees, and a high pH level in our yard.
  6. I am attempting to get rid of lichen that is growing on a corrugated fiberglass overhang (extends about 10' off the edge of the roof). There is a tree nearby with branches that extend over the overhang that also has lichen growing on it. What is the appropriate herbicide/fungicide to get rid of the lichen?
  7. Every year I buy mums and every year they die on me. I love the way they look, but I don't have the touch to keep them. I spend too much money and then I'm mad at myself. Is there something else that is hardy and can go in the ground for fall and look nice?
  8. What plants will work best in an elementary classroom? One whole side of my room has windows, facing east. Also, school rooms have extreme variation of temperatures during the school year. Thanks
  9. I have a woodchuck under my deck. I have tried a Havahart trap with no success. I put out carrots, lettuce and tomatoes. Can you recommend a type of woodchuck lure that would help lead my little fella into the trap? Thanks!
  10. I wish to transplant a ferm called Osmunda Cinnamonea. It is currently smushed in a corner of the house in the shade. Whiteflower Farm (from whom I bought it) says it takes full sun to part sun. The American Horticultural Society book for the NE says it takes full shade to part sun. Which is it? If it can take full to part sun, I have many spots where it can be showcased. Does it transplant well? Thanks - Kris
  11. How do I winterize my tropicana plants (they are in two big containers). Please help!!
  12. How do you get rid of sumac once & for all? I got a rash from it this summer & it was worse than any poison ivy I've ever had. Thanks. Carol
  13. I purchased our hibiscus from you this summer. It is still blooming. I have been bringing in and out of garage for a few weeks. Should we now put in basement and do we prune back? water?How much light?
  14. My rhoderdandron does not have any blooms in the summer, why not and what is it lacking?
  15. Amaryllis-- Actually, I have had my amaryllis (4) for many years. During the year i water them only occassionally. I've been cutting the green leaves back. Is that how you take care of them? I get flowers every year. Sometimes not as big as the ones in the stores. Also, Should i separate the bulbs in the pots? I missed the amazing amaryllis. Thanks.
  16. I have a mandevilla plant in a pot on my deck. My friend tells me to just put it in my basement for the winter and it will rebloom next year. Is this true? How do I take care of it during the winter.
  17. Hello there my roomates mother had a outdoor fern hanging basket that we took in for the winter months. Its starting to look a little sad. Or droopy. One leave is also turning brown. I give it water in begining I was doing it every other day and now do it every day. It is by a windwow which I open the blinds for it to get sun. I want to try to keep it alive all winter what can I do. Thanks for your help.
  18. Hi Peter, I recently bought a tiny evergreen plant from the Saratoga Hewitt's store. It looks like a ground cover as it has many 'rootlings' reaching for the soil. What is it? Care info? Lost 1/2 of it after watering. Did I drown it? Was fantastic. Thanks a bunch! Robin
  19. I have a garden with river bed rock over weed protection fabric with various plants/shrubs. Do you have any ideas on how to stop weeds from growing between the rocks? I've tried vinegar, roundup, weeding and nothing helps.
  20. Hi Someone told me that he does not mix fertilizer such as miracle grow or any other to fertilize his perennial gardens, all he does is in the early spring before the snow melts he sprinkles 5-10-5 all over the areas of the beds.. Is this safe??? Is there another alternative if not to mixing all those buckets of miracle grow.. Thanks
  21. is there any kind of pelletized weed killer to put on a stone driveway
  22. What can I do to keep my neighbor's chickens from digging up my flower beds without putting up fencing?
  23. Every year my clematis come back and bloom but then start to turn brown and the leaves fall off. Usually from the bottom up. The top of the plants stay the longest. What can I do? Thanks.
  24. I wanted to plant Myrtle ground cover on a hilly area in the front of my yard, but will the road salt kill it in the winter or prohibit growth for the following year?
  25. Hi, I'd like to know which evergreen vines I can plant that will produce a fairly good screen affect, grow rapidly and produce berries for my lovely backyard birds. I'd like to have evergreen varieties so I'll have the leaves all winter. Zone 5 please. I will also mix some annual vines as well. Any suggestions? Much appreciated! Thanks, Sue
  26. This is my second question. First, Hello Peter! I didn't realize that it was YOU who would be responding to my question. I read your column weekly and I'm hooked on all your advise, thanks, you're a wonder! Now...we have moved into my Grandmother's home and I'm thrilled to work in her gardens that have been long forgotten. Her Whisteria vine has grown massive, at least 50 feet up the trees and the trunks are enormous! It flowers way up in the tree tops, beautiful lavender/bluish flowers (thought it was lilac) but I'd like to cut it down and start over so I can train it properly and save the trees from being strangled. Will it flower if I cut it down or will I have to wait 15 years? I also found it's seeds all over the lawn, can I plant them? How long before it flowers? 15 years? As I read online? What should I do? Thanks Peter, for the help! Sue
  27. hello peter, i have a hill in the back of the yard that is hard to mow every year . i would like to put some type of plant garden with little maintanace if any that will grow every year any help you could give me? im not much of a gardner so all the info you give me will be helpfull. if you have any pic ideas please send thank you ed
  28. i have about 4 tomato plants. that have leaves at the botom that are turning ayellowish color. what does that mean?
  29. My husband and I have an old wire fence and would like to grow vines on it to help with the privacy from our neighbors. Can you tell me what is the fastest growing, sturdy and privacy vine to grow on it? Thank you
  30. Peter, HELP! We have red spider mites everywhere! We have a stone patio with walls and pillars the length of the back of the house (faces SE direction). The tiny red mites have spread to the siding of the house and over the patio furniture, and are even crawling on the patio door frame. They try to come into the living area if we leave the patio door open with the screen for fresh air and breeze. What do you recommend we use to get rid of these annoying insescts?



  1. Peter - I am interested in installing some sort of water feature on my deck. I have a space that i had prepared to support a 6x7 hot tub, but have since decided that i will probably not use the tub enough to justify the expense. Hence, i am interested in filling the space with plants and a fountain or waterfall-type feature to make that area pretty. any suggestions? are there free-standing pools manufactured so i dont have to cut a hole in the deck?? I am open to suggestions. Thank you for your comments. melissa
    Melissa, I have only dabbled in water gardening. I once made an in ground pond in a dug holw with a flexible rubbe liner. The other was a free standing water feature made from two whisky 3 whiskey barrel halves. One sat on the ground and one was inverted on the ground behind the first. The third barrel sat on top of the inverted barrel. The top barrel had a plastic liner with a spout molded into ti that directed the water into the lower barrel that also had a plastic liner. The pump lifted the water to the upper barrel where it cascaded down the spout back to the lower barrel. Something like this could be done on your deck for an easy water feature. We also carry new plastic whiskey barrel halves that will be less expensive that the wood version with liner that I used. For anything larger than that you'll need to build a strong-walled enclosure for the pond. Water is heavy and will need a super strong enclosure and the deck needs to be well supported. A pond above ground will also freeze solid over winter and expand. This will kill any fish in the pond and may force the enclosure apart. Our Clifton Park store stocks some pumps and liners but you might also contact a local pond store to see what else is available...Eddies Aquarium come to mind for instance. http://www.eddiesaqua.com/content/ponds-water-gardens-4.cfm?killnav=1
    Category: Other
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  2. I have a problem with chipmunks and squirrels eating the seeds of sunflowers before they get a chance to sprout and grow. Any suggestions for deterring the critters from getting the seeds before they have a chance to sprout? Thanks, Sue
    Sue, I think everybody who has ever planted sunflowers seeds has had the problem of chipmunks, squirrels and crows eating the seeds before they sprout. There are repellents you could spray on the area to discourage the critters but there's another approach that I prefer. After the seeds are planted, cover the row or area with germinating fabric (aka floating row cover). This light fabric will protect the seed and trap heat and allow water to pass through so the seeds will sprout as quickly as possible. Once the plants are growing, the critters lose interest and you can remove the fabric. If you have some cheesecloth or burlap that could be used as well. The next problem will be when the new seeds form on the sunflower's flowers at the end of summer. All our critter friends will come right back and eat those seeds before they ripen. Once again your fabric comes to the rescue. Wrap those sunflower heads with the floating row cover or other light cloth and that will keep the chippies and birds from getting at them. You might need a ladder if you gew the larger sunflower types. Germinating fabric/floating row cover fabric is available at Hewitt's under the name 'Grass Fast". You can reuse it from year to year and is also very handy when you want to protect plants from late spring or early fall frosts.
    Category: Other
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  3. What is the solution for spider mites on Alberta Spruce and other Evergreens?
    The answer that came first tomind was a spray of horticultural oil but I checked the label (always read the label) and find that it can damage the needles when sprayed on evergreens. I'd recommend a spray of Spinosad which is relatively new to the arsenal of insect killers. Here's a link to more on Spinosad...very interesting stuff! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spinosad At Hewitt's we sell it in a product called 'Captain Jack's Dead Bug'. It is a very safe biologically produced spray that gardeners (especially organic gardeners) should know about.
    Category: Other
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  4. How do I get rid of gnats in my office plants
    The soil gnats in your houseplants are feeding on a fungus that is growing in the soil. The fungus is feeding on rotting plant material in the soil. The rotting material in the soil is, no doubt, dead rotting roots. The reason you have dead rotting roots in the soil of your office plants is because (like most folks) you're over estimating the amount of water your plants need. Since you mention that they are 'office plants' I'll assume that there are saucers under them to keep the water frow ruining the carpet and floors. It is also a good bet that they get extra water on friday to 'get them through the weekend'. The plants would rather there were no saucers so excess water can drain away. You should never leave any of your office plants standing in a saucer of water for more than a few minutes. There's no need to give them extra water if you are going to leave them for the weekend or even a week. . . Step one is to stop watering your plants so much. Plants need far less water than most folks realize. You need to know that plants exchange gasses (breathe) with thier root system as well as their leaves. When the soil is totally saturated (standing in a saucer full of water), the plant is drowning much like we would. You will drown about 1/3 to 1/2 of the root system of most houseplants simply by leaving them standing in a saucer of water overnight. Once those roots drown, they are dead forever (and now the fungus has a reason to take hold). A better tactic for watering houseplants is to wait until they are so dry that they are beginning to wilt and then soak them. If water then fills the saucer, wait 10 minutes and then remove any water that remains in the saucer so you won't drown the plant. A plants roots can get very dry without dying and, when rehydrated, will pop back to life. In other words, you can drown a plant in less than 24 hours but to kill it with dryness will take a couple of weeks to a couple of months depending on the plant. Think of it this way: You could survive a lot longer without a drink of water than you could underwater without any air to breathe. Since you already have the gnats, you'll need to drench the soil with insecticidal soap (which you can get at Hewitts of course) and repeat after a week or so. That, coupled with your new plan for not overwatering should do the trick. If they persist you'll need to kill the fungus with a drench of fungicide like Captan. I would hold off on that though to see if your insecticidal soap/new watering habit works. In extreme cases, the plant may need to be repotted after removing all the old soil from the root system. Since this is shocking to the plant, it is a tatic of last resort.
    Category: Other
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  5. We just had a patio installed in our yard. This has sparked the motivation to put in pretty plants to spruce up our very bland yard. Any suggestions on what types of shrubs or flowers would thrive in this area? We do have pine trees, and a high pH level in our yard.
    This question doesn't quite give me enough information to make specific plant suggestions. My best suggestion wouldbe to observe the area noting soil type, orientation (NSEW) and how many hours of direct sun does the area get each day. Draw a little overhead view of the are noting which direction is north etc. Bring your map to Hewitts and then look around the nursery for plants you like and the nurseryperson will be able to make informed suggestions for you.
    Category: Other
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  6. I am attempting to get rid of lichen that is growing on a corrugated fiberglass overhang (extends about 10' off the edge of the roof). There is a tree nearby with branches that extend over the overhang that also has lichen growing on it. What is the appropriate herbicide/fungicide to get rid of the lichen?
    Thanks for your question Roberta. The product you are looking for is a spray of potassium based soap. You can find it at Hewitt's under the name of Safers Moss & Algae Killer. Although lichen isn't mentioned in the name of the product, it will do the job. It comes in a easy-to-use hose end sprayer so you won't have to do any mixing. Here's a web address that you can use to find out all about it: . . . http://www.saferbrand.com/store/garden-care/5324
    Category: Other
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  7. Every year I buy mums and every year they die on me. I love the way they look, but I don't have the touch to keep them. I spend too much money and then I'm mad at myself. Is there something else that is hardy and can go in the ground for fall and look nice?
    Thanks for your question Linda. First let's tackle the question why your mums aren't making it through the winter. First, make sure you are buying 'Winter Hardy Mums' There are lots of mums out there these days and the ones you might pick up at the grocery store may not be varieties that are hardy this far north. Go to a real garden center like Hewitts and get your mums there. Even hardy mums want to get into the ground as soon as possible after purchase. Many folks like to leave their mums in the pots for display and then pop then in the ground at the last second before the ground freezes in the fall. This doesn't give the mum much time to get some roots into its new location and makes it much harder for them to winter over well. Once the flowers have finished, they should be cut off (leave the leaves) to prevent the mum from wasting energy producing seed. If you remove the flowers, that energy will be used to grow roots instead. To get your mums to be low and bushy the following growing season you'll need to pinch it a couple of times to get it to branch out and look more like it did when you bought it. There is a fact sheet you can pick up at Hewitts that describes this procedure in detail. As far as a substitute for mums I'd suggest hardy asters. Unlike the mum which comes from China, asters are native to North American and there are varieties that grow wild in this area. Fancier cultivated asters have larger blooms that the wild varieties but are just as hardy. You can find a selection of asters at Hewitts along with the mums. It is a personal preference but I prefer asters and have some in my flowerbeds. Give asters a try, I think you'll enjoy them too.
    Category: Other
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  8. What plants will work best in an elementary classroom? One whole side of my room has windows, facing east. Also, school rooms have extreme variation of temperatures during the school year. Thanks
    Thanks for your question Bonnie, Your east facing classroom will get a half day of sun at the best. This means that you'll need to limit your choices to low light plants. Couple that with the wide swings in temperature that classrooms have and you'll need to only consider durable low light houseplants. African Violets for instance have been crossed off the list. I have some suggestions for a few that should have no trouble with your conditions. Heart-Leaf Philodendron. It is a vining plant most often seen grown in a hanging basket. Your light conditions will suit it. Pothos, A variegated vine that somewhat resembles the well-known heart shaped philodendron except that the leaves are variegated for a splotchy yellow/green look. Asparagus Fern. The foliage does indeed resemble the wispy, feathery foliage of the asparagus we grow in our garden. Also mostly grown in a hanging basket. Peace Lily. Peace lily is will known as the champ of low light conditions. In your setting, low humidity might be an issue so it will enjoy regular misting. Spathipphyllum (another name for the Peace Lily) is one of the most popular house plants due to it's ability to thrive just about anywhere as long as it is a low light setting. In fact you'll need to make sure that it is not in direct sunlight in your classroom. Aloe Vera. The healing plant Aloe Vera should also do well. Make sure it gets as much of that morning sun as possible. The gel inside the leaves is great for treating burns and other skin rashes and cuts. These are just a few that come to mind but you should do a search on the internet for 'low light plants' to see if there are others that appeal to you. One note though, in your setting you'll need to make sure that you keep the plants very much on the dry side especially in the winter. Plants only need enough water to replenish what is lost to evaporation. For low light plants the need is very small. During the winter, the days are so short and the room will be so cool at night and on weekends that it will be especially important to keep them on the dry side. It will be tempting to give them "little extra water for the weekend". Try to avoid this. Plant can tolerate dryness much better than wet conditions. The plant might get wilty from dryness but, once watered< the dry roots and wilty leaves can bounce back much more quickly than if they have been drowned. Think of it this way You could survive much longer without any water to drink than you could underwater without any air to breathe. Peter Bowden
    Category: Other
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  9. I have a woodchuck under my deck. I have tried a Havahart trap with no success. I put out carrots, lettuce and tomatoes. Can you recommend a type of woodchuck lure that would help lead my little fella into the trap? Thanks!
    The problem with catching woodchucksthis time of year is that there is so much food out in the world for them that it is hard to tempt them into that trap. If it has been eating something in your garden then that would be the first to try as bait. They tend to prefer food that can be found close to the ground since that is where they forage. Tomatoes and various melons will tempt them and I've heard that they have a preference for broccoli. Make sure that the bait is kept fresh so you might want to try different vegetables or even flowers every day. If all else fails the I'd also try peanut butter. Keep at it and you'll find something that will tempt it into your trap.
    Category: Other
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  10. I wish to transplant a ferm called Osmunda Cinnamonea. It is currently smushed in a corner of the house in the shade. Whiteflower Farm (from whom I bought it) says it takes full sun to part sun. The American Horticultural Society book for the NE says it takes full shade to part sun. Which is it? If it can take full to part sun, I have many spots where it can be showcased. Does it transplant well? Thanks - Kris
    Kris, I'll come down on the side of the American Horticultural Society on this one...shade to part sun. The sun to avoid with Cinnamon Fern (or any fern) is the hot, infrared afternoon sun. I can see this large fern easily handling a half day of morning sun since early light is much cooler and ultraviolet than afternoon sun. The sunnier the location, the more water it will need. It is likely taht the fern will get larger more quickly in a shadier location. It should do fine with the transplanting but wait until it is dormant before you attempt to move it. As early in spring as you can dig the soil after it thaws would be the best time to transplant it. Give it some room since as you're probably aware this is a large fern that cab reach 4' in height at maturity. Thanks for your question Peter Bowden
    Category: Other
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  11. How do I winterize my tropicana plants (they are in two big containers). Please help!!
    Kathleen, Thanks for your question. Your tropicanna plants are a very colorful type of Canna. Cannas can be grown in containers or planted in the ground. They are NOT however, winter hardy. That means that they will need to be dug up and stored inside over winter. This is actually quite simple. Enjoy your canna as long as you can. Just water it but don't feed it anymore. This will let it slow down with the season. Once the first frost kills the foliage, lift the tubers from the pot and cut off the dead leaves right down to the tuber. Brush off any excess soil with a wisk broom...don't spray it with water to clean them...just brush them off lightly. Leave them out on some newspaper to let them dry out so the cut has a chance to scab over. Then place the tubers into a paper bag (don't use plastic bags..you want the bulbs to 'breathe'). Now you need to find a nice cool place to put the bulbs for the winter. They want to be cool but they don't want to freeze. The coolest part on an unheated basement would work. When winter starts to wind down, you can get your cannas going for the next season. In early April, plant the tubers into some smaller pots at the same depth you found them at when you dug them out. You can use smaller pots to get them started to save on space. Once they're potted, water them in thoroughly to let them know it's time to grow again. Just keep them very lightly moist so they don't drown and rot. Place them in the sunniest window you have. No need to feed them yet. In mid-May you can transplant them back into the larger pot and start light feedings with a good soluble food like Jack's Classic. Late in May move them to a bright but shaded area so they can get used to a little sun. Gradually move them to sunnier and sunnier places until they are acclimated and you're good to go for another season...have fun!
    Category: Other
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  12. How do you get rid of sumac once & for all? I got a rash from it this summer & it was worse than any poison ivy I've ever had. Thanks. Carol
    Thanks for your question Carol, I'm sorry to hear of your run-in with poison sumac. Just to set the record straight...the sumac are most familiar with is staghorn sumac. This is the sumac we see all along the roadside...it is turning bright red now as we enter autumn. Poison Sumac is actually very uncommon but does grow in this area...usually in damp areas especially near streams, rivers and ponds although it can show up[ just about anywhere. Like the harmless staghorn sumac, poison sumac is a small, woody tree. Here's a site that illustrates the difference. http://www.poison-sumac.org/ To kill sumac of any kind, I'd suggest a product from Bonide called Stump out Stump and Vine Killer. With great care and wearing gloves, cut the sumac and then use the brush applicator that is attached to the cap to liberally coat the fresh cut with the product. That should do it. As always follow the direction on the label and don't get it on any desirable plants...this stuff will kill them (roots and all) as well.
    Category: Other
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  13. I purchased our hibiscus from you this summer. It is still blooming. I have been bringing in and out of garage for a few weeks. Should we now put in basement and do we prune back? water?How much light?
    "I purchased our hibiscus from you this summer. It is still blooming. I have been bringing in and out of garage for a few weeks. Should we now put in basement and do we prune back? water?How much light?" Yes, it is time for your tropical hibiscus to come inside for the winter. Rather than sending it to the basement for the winter, it would be better to find it as bright a window as you can find for it even if it is in a very cool room. I'd prune it back about 25%. No matter how bright the window, your hibiscus is going to get way less light that it does outside in summer. Water it very sparingly and don't feed it at all. It will lose leaves and won't flower much if at all. It will go into a semi dormant stage and will require little care other than very light watering. Sometime in March, it will push out some new growth in response to the lengthening days. You can respond to that with a little extra watering and very light feeding (1/4 strength food like Jack's Classic or Miracle-Gro) every 4th or 5th watering. As it grows new leaves you can gradually increase the water but never so much that the soil stays moist for more than a few days. In late May, it should be warm enough to put it back outside. At first it will want to go in a shady area as it gets used to increased sunlight. Let it spend a week in a shady area then a week in a brighter area and so on until it is back in the sunny spot where it wants to spend the summer.
    Category: Other
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  14. My rhoderdandron does not have any blooms in the summer, why not and what is it lacking?
    Rhododendrons only flower once per season. There are a few things that could be preventing yours from flowering. If it is recently planted (within the last 5 years) it may not be well-established enough to flower yet. Plants like rhododendron won't flower until they have energy to spare...flowering takes a massive amount of energy. To help it get established more quickly I recommend mixing bone meal (phosphorus) into the planting hole. The phosphorus in bone meal stimulates root growth and flower production...both things we want from a new rhododendron. Spring feeding is a must for better flowering (or any flowering in your case). Instead of using an evergreen food like Holly-Tone try Flower-Tone instead. Flower-Tone is a granular food that also will provide phosphorus to help stimulate flowering. To get the Flower-Tone to the roots where it's needed you should pound holes about 10" deep in a circle out away from the trunk of the rhodo and full those hole halfway with Flower-Tone. You can use a hammer and pipe to pound the feeding holes. Don't feed now but in the spring as soon as the ground thaws. Rhododendron make the buts for next year this year so, if there are no buds on your Rhodo now then there will be no flowers in spring. If a Rhodo is planted where there is a lot of drying winter wind (say on the west or north side of the house) they will need a windbreak made of stakes and burlap or, better yet, move then to the east side of the house out of the prevailing winter wind.
    Category: Other
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  15. Amaryllis-- Actually, I have had my amaryllis (4) for many years. During the year i water them only occassionally. I've been cutting the green leaves back. Is that how you take care of them? I get flowers every year. Sometimes not as big as the ones in the stores. Also, Should i separate the bulbs in the pots? I missed the amazing amaryllis. Thanks.
    It sounds as though you are doing well with your amaryllis. I'd suggest that you not cut off green leaves since they are gathering sunlight and converting it into food that gets stored in the bulb. They are like solar collectors and should be left to grow until they start to turn yellow on their own. Amaryllis love to be potbound and can spend a few years in the same pot. If you have some that have doubled, you could unpot it and gently break the bulbs apart. I'd wait until the dormant period (late summer) to do this rather than when they are actively growing. Peter Bowden
    Category: Other
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  16. I have a mandevilla plant in a pot on my deck. My friend tells me to just put it in my basement for the winter and it will rebloom next year. Is this true? How do I take care of it during the winter.
    Thanks for you question Mary, Mandevilla is a tropical plant as you know. It will probably survive (at least the stems should) if youput it in the basement over winter. The leaveswill all fall off of course. Certainly it would be happier if you can find room near a bright window for it to spend the winter. It will still lose lots of leaves but not all. It won't need much water either and no plant food. Sometime in Late February or early March you'll notice that it has started to put out some new shoots in response to the gradually lengthening days. You could then start giving it some plant foo at 1/4 strength to get it going again. By early June it should have lots of new growth and be ready to go outside for the summer. Bring it to a shady location for a week or so so it can get used to the increase in light and gradually move it to brighter and brighter places until it is acclimated. I just noticed that you said it is in a pot on your deck. If that is the case then it has probably already frozen and is already dead. If that is the case then it is not going to come back no matter what you do. Peter Bowden
    Category: Other
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  17. Hello there my roomates mother had a outdoor fern hanging basket that we took in for the winter months. Its starting to look a little sad. Or droopy. One leave is also turning brown. I give it water in begining I was doing it every other day and now do it every day. It is by a windwow which I open the blinds for it to get sun. I want to try to keep it alive all winter what can I do. Thanks for your help.
    Yikes!!! stop watering so much! The biggest problem houseplants have is with their caregiver's overwatering. Remember, lower light plants like ferns use very little water. In most cases they'll only need to be watered anywhere from once a week to once a month. Always check the soil by poking your finger into the soil a couple of inches before you water. If you even think it feels moist wait a few more days and check again. Never leave plants standing in water for more than a few minutes or they will drown. Drowned roots are dead forever and the leaves of the plant will whither in a few days to a few weeks after the roots have been drowned. It is actually better to let the plant get a little limp or wilty before you water to avoid overwatering. Your fern does enjoy high humidity so get a mister bottle and feel free to mist as often as you wish. That will be much better than water every day. Thanks for your question, Peter Bowden
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  18. Hi Peter, I recently bought a tiny evergreen plant from the Saratoga Hewitt's store. It looks like a ground cover as it has many 'rootlings' reaching for the soil. What is it? Care info? Lost 1/2 of it after watering. Did I drown it? Was fantastic. Thanks a bunch! Robin
    I'll have to guess that you bought one of the 'Frosty Ferns" that we had for sale in December. It is also known as 'selaginella kraussiana variegatus' and has more in common with ferns than evergreens. Your "Frosty Fern" will like medium light with no direct sunlight and loves high humidity and soil that is lightly moist all the time. This means that you'll need to water frequently but lightly. If you have you pot in a saucer make sure that you never let the plants stand in water for more than a few minutes....soggy soil is not the same as lightly moist...if you have done this then you may indeed have drowned your fern. High humidity is difficult in the winter since our homes tend to be dry; especially if you have forced air heat. Misting your fern a couple of times a day can help with the humidity so a spray bottle should be kept handy. Peter B.
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  19. I have a garden with river bed rock over weed protection fabric with various plants/shrubs. Do you have any ideas on how to stop weeds from growing between the rocks? I've tried vinegar, roundup, weeding and nothing helps.
    Thanks for the question, Weed fabric does a great job stopping perennial weeds that come up from a root system. What it can't do is stop weed seeds like dandelions and others from sprouting and growing on top of the weed fabric. Certainly vinegar, roundup and weeding will eliminate the weeds that you see but there is an endless supply of weed seeds that end up sprouting later. I'd suggest that you start using a corn gluten weed preventer. Corn gluten is a natural product that prevents weeds from germinating or sprouting. It becomes more effective with consecutive applications as long as you don't disturb the surface of the soil. At Hewitt's we sell corn gluten in a product called Espoma Lawn food and weed preventer. Here's a link: http://www.espoma.com/p_consumer/lawn_org_weed.html It can be used on the lawn to prevent weeds but is also suggested for use in flowerbeds. Remember, repeated applications increase the effectiveness. Remember also that these weed preventers won't kill weeds that are actively growing. You'll still need to spray or pull them. Once you've gotten the area weeded though the corn gluten stops any more weeds from sprouting. There is also a weed preventer called Preen that is a chemical that works the same way but doesn't have the cumulative that corn gluten has so it need to be applied more often. Have fun, Peter Bowden
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  20. Hi Someone told me that he does not mix fertilizer such as miracle grow or any other to fertilize his perennial gardens, all he does is in the early spring before the snow melts he sprinkles 5-10-5 all over the areas of the beds.. Is this safe??? Is there another alternative if not to mixing all those buckets of miracle grow.. Thanks
    Thanks for your question. I reserve the use of miracle gro for my annuals and for container plantings. Miracle gro is fast acting but goes away quickly. You need to use it every couple of weeks. I agree with your friend about using a granular food although I don't use 5-10-5 since it is a quickly released food (although it lasts longer than M-Gro) and, being a chemical fertilizer, it can burn the leaves or even the roots if applied too heavily. I prefer gentler, longer lasting foods like Espoma's Flower-Tone. I also like to get the food into the soil near the plants rather than broadcasting to food all over the surface. On the surface, the food ends up benefiting any weeds as much or more than your garden plants. Phosphorus especially has a hard time percolating into the soil so it needs to be blended into the soil to benefit the plants and to prevent runoff into streams and other waterways. Here's a link to a video where I demonstrate how I feed my gardens in spring. http://ourgarden.freedomblogging.com/2010/04/23/feeding-our-grass-plants-and-trees/481/ Thanks, Peter Bowden
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  21. is there any kind of pelletized weed killer to put on a stone driveway
    There is no granule or pelletized product for this, only liquids. Kleen-up and Round-up are both sprays that will kill anything that it gets sprayed on be it weeds, grass or your prized rose so great care must be taken and never spray on a rainy day. Any seeds that blow into the area will sprout and grow. Then there's Bonide's Total Vegetation that kills everything and stays in the soil preventing any plant growth for up to a year. This product gets put on with a watering can as a soil drench. The directions for this must be read and followed to the letter since, if it leeches beyond the area of application it can kill trees and other large plants if it comes in contact with their roots. Use this product with great caution.
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  22. What can I do to keep my neighbor's chickens from digging up my flower beds without putting up fencing?
    There is no good answer except a fence although it would seem that that should be your neighbor's responsibility, not yours.
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  23. Every year my clematis come back and bloom but then start to turn brown and the leaves fall off. Usually from the bottom up. The top of the plants stay the longest. What can I do? Thanks.
    What you describe is 'clematis wilt', a fungal disease. The disease spores winter over on the old vines but doesn't affect the root system. Make sure you remove all the old vine from the trellis and put it in the garbage (not your compost bin or brush pile) to get it out of your yard. Start spraying every 10 days with Bonide's Sulfur Plant Fungicide. Sulfur spray is a preventative fungicide so you need to use it before you see the symptoms. Other than when you're spraying on the sulfur spray, you should never spray your clematis (or any garden plant for that matter) with water since wet leaves are the perfect place for fungal disease to take hold. If the disease shows up in spite of your efforts with the sulfur spray, cut the clematis right to the ground. This will force it to regrow from the roots which are immune to the disease. Continue to use the sulfur spray as a preventative as the clematis reestablishes itself. Large flowering clematis are more likely to catch the wilt than smaller flowered varieties.
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  24. I wanted to plant Myrtle ground cover on a hilly area in the front of my yard, but will the road salt kill it in the winter or prohibit growth for the following year?
    A bit of salt won't harm myrtle but if it is right next to the road and the plowed snow piles up on it all winter, it will likely not make it. Here's a site that lists salt tolerant many od which we'll have later in spring. Make sure that the plant you choose is hardy in zone 5 or lower for our area. http://www.bloomindesigns.com/category/wholesale_2public.salt_tolerant/
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  25. Hi, I'd like to know which evergreen vines I can plant that will produce a fairly good screen affect, grow rapidly and produce berries for my lovely backyard birds. I'd like to have evergreen varieties so I'll have the leaves all winter. Zone 5 please. I will also mix some annual vines as well. Any suggestions? Much appreciated! Thanks, Sue
    I'm not aware of any evergreen vines that produce berries for birds. In fact there are few evergreen vines that can survive our winters. I think the best you can hope for is growing cardinal vines to attract hummingbirds. There is also Moonflower vine, a member of themorrning glory family that blooms at night and can attrach nocturnal moths like the giabt Luna Moth. Sorry I cn't help but there nothing for zone 5 that will fulfill your need.
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  26. This is my second question. First, Hello Peter! I didn't realize that it was YOU who would be responding to my question. I read your column weekly and I'm hooked on all your advise, thanks, you're a wonder! Now...we have moved into my Grandmother's home and I'm thrilled to work in her gardens that have been long forgotten. Her Whisteria vine has grown massive, at least 50 feet up the trees and the trunks are enormous! It flowers way up in the tree tops, beautiful lavender/bluish flowers (thought it was lilac) but I'd like to cut it down and start over so I can train it properly and save the trees from being strangled. Will it flower if I cut it down or will I have to wait 15 years? I also found it's seeds all over the lawn, can I plant them? How long before it flowers? 15 years? As I read online? What should I do? Thanks Peter, for the help! Sue
    Wow, that is one out of control wisteria. I'd suggest cutting it back right away to about 4'. This will force it to regrow from the roots so you can save the trees and retrain the wisteria to a more managable size. This is severe pruning and the wisteria won't flower this year and it may take 3 or 4 years to rebloom. Since the root system is well established it won't take 15 years to rebloom. I have no direct experience growing wisteria from seed but here's a tutorial: http://www.ehow.com/how_2214274_grow-wisteria-seeds.html This will be a long, slow process and it will likely be 15 years before you see a flower from a wisteria started from seed. Peter Bowden
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  27. hello peter, i have a hill in the back of the yard that is hard to mow every year . i would like to put some type of plant garden with little maintanace if any that will grow every year any help you could give me? im not much of a gardner so all the info you give me will be helpfull. if you have any pic ideas please send thank you ed
    You could grow a ground cover like myrtle on the hill but that will require killing the grass off with Roundup spray before you plant the myrtle. Then you'll need to keep the weeds at bay while the myrtle grows in. Whatever you plant there will be a project while it gets established which may take a few years. It may be less labor to continue mowing the area.
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  28. i have about 4 tomato plants. that have leaves at the botom that are turning ayellowish color. what does that mean?
    It isn't uncommon for the first leaves on a tomato to turn yellow and fall off as the upper plants takes over and starts to shade the base of the plant. If the new growth looks OK without spotting and such then all is probably well. The best way to avoid fungal diseases on your tomatoes is to keeps them as dry and warm as possible. This means watering only when necessary and especially keeping the water off the leaves as much as possible. NEVER SPRAY YOUR PLANTS WITH WATER! It is bad enough that the rain wets the leaves but you shouldn't add to the problem by spray watering. Get a watering wand so you can direct the water into the soil at the base of the plant without getting the leaves and flowers wet
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  29. My husband and I have an old wire fence and would like to grow vines on it to help with the privacy from our neighbors. Can you tell me what is the fastest growing, sturdy and privacy vine to grow on it? Thank you
    A trumpet vine will do the trick. They grow fast but make sure the fence is strong enough to support it. Trumpet vine will provide quick privace and the flowers will attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Yes, we sell trumpet vines.
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  30. Peter, HELP! We have red spider mites everywhere! We have a stone patio with walls and pillars the length of the back of the house (faces SE direction). The tiny red mites have spread to the siding of the house and over the patio furniture, and are even crawling on the patio door frame. They try to come into the living area if we leave the patio door open with the screen for fresh air and breeze. What do you recommend we use to get rid of these annoying insescts?
    The good news is that this will be a temporary situation. It sounds to me like you have clover mites invading the area probably coming from the lawn. They enjoy all the dampness and it sounds like you have a population explosion this year. You can get Bonide Eight in the disposable hose end sprayer to spray the stone patio but make sure to test it on a small area of paint before spraying large painted surfaces to make sure it won't damage the paint. If they get inside you'll want to vacuum them up since they can stain is squashed. They will subside within a week or so even if you don't spray. This may happen every few years or so. Here's a link to more information. http://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/clovermites312.shtml
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