This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for June 8, 2018. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through August 3, 2018. It can also be found on kutt995.com for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.
Guest Host: Donnie Engelhardt, Assistant Water Resources Director, Little Blue NRD
1.The first caller of the show heard of a chemical that can be used to treat bindweed that started with a Q. What is that product?
A. Quinclorac is the active ingredient in a product called Drive. It is effective at controlling bindweed. However, this product is only labeled for use in lawns and cannot be legally or safely used in landscape beds or vegetable gardens.
He also is having a problem with his peach tree, it didn’t leaf out on the one side. The damage is also seen in some hydrangeas planted nearby. What is causing this?
A. This could be due to herbicide damage. If multiple types of plants in different families, genus’, and species are all affected the same it is often due to herbicide drift. There is nothing that can be done now to fix the problem, leave them to see if they grow out of the damage.
This first caller’s final question is that he has 3 pear trees that he ordered from a mail order catalog and one has not leafed out still. Is it dead?
A. This one that died could have dried out during transport. I would assume by now it would have leafed out if it was still alive. Scrape the bark off some of the smaller branches, if they are green there is still life in the tree, if it is brown, the tree is dead. Also, if the branches bend rather than break they are still alive.
2. A caller is looking to plant some new trees for shade, preferably something fast growing. When should they buy and plant these new trees?
A. Purchase your plant material when you are ready to plant. If the plant has to sit in the pot longer, it can lead to more problems with it drying out. The best times to plant a tree would be either in the spring or fall. At this point, it would be best to wait until fall, like September – later October. Planting now would be difficult to keep the tree watered through the heat/drought of the summer. Fast growth is not always the best option. Fast growing trees are not as strong as the slower growing trees and tend to break more in storms. Slower growing trees can actually put on quite a bit of growth in a few short years if they are kept with a 2-3 inch mulch ring and kept well watered. For good tree choices, view this guide from the Nebraska Forest Service.
3. This caller has Iris’ that have finished blooming, can they be cut back now? They also have some mums that died over the winter, why is that?
A. Once Iris’ and peonies’ have finished blooming for the year, the flower stalk can be cut off at the ground level. However, the leaves need to be left there to build energy in the roots for next spring. Some mums are just not as hardy as believed. Many gardeners struggle with maintaining their mum plants over the winter due to repeated freezing and thawing cycles through the growing season as well as wet, heavy soil or lack or snow cover. Longevity of the plants can be enhanced by planting them in a location that is more protected from north winds, discontinuing fertilization by the end of July to reduce new growth at the end of the season, adding several inches of mulch to the soil around the plants through the winter months, and cutting the plants back in the spring rather than in the fall.
4. Should the blooms of small tomato plants be pinched off?
A. Removing those blossoms until the plants get a little more growth on them will help the plants develop more roots and more shoot growth before pushing so much energy into producing the fruits. Wait until they get a little bigger before allowing those flowers to develop into fruits.
5. A caller has a redbud tree that was planted last year and has not leafed out yet this year. It is, however, producing suckers at the base of the tree. Can those suckers be grown into a new tree? Also, how should trees be fertilized?
A. This could be a winterkill issue. Be sure to purchase redbuds from a local source. Often box stores purchase redbud trees from a Southern source and send them to all stores in the United States. If a tree was started further south than where it will be planted, it will not adjust well to the change in climate from the south to here. The sucker will grow into a new tree. Redbuds will do better with this than some. Often the suckers from a tree may not be as strong as the main tree and will not do as well, but with a redbud it should be fine. Fertilizer is rarely needed for trees in Southeast Nebraska. I would especially avoid fertilizer on a stressed tree, such as this redbud. Fertilizing a stressed tree will lead to further stress.
6. When is the best time to prune suckers from the maple trees and when is the best time to prune the lower branches from a spruce tree so the mower can fit below it?
A. Anytime is a good time to prune suckers from a tree. It is best to just continually prune them off as they form. If you leave them, they take energy from the tree. You can prune spruce trees most anytime of the year. However, if you are just looking to prune them so you can mow under the tree, if you leave them the tree will provide it’s own mulch and the grass will not grow under the high shade of the tree.
7. This caller wants to know what to do with peonies now and if ants are needed for the flowers to open on a peony?
A. At this point with a peony, cut off the stalks of the flowers and leave the leaves there. The leaves should be left to grow and produce energy for the plant so it can come out and flower early next spring. Leaves of peony plants can be removed in the fall when they turn brown and die back naturally. No, ants are not necessary for the buds of peony flowers to open. That is just a myth because ants are commonly found on the flowers, but they just like the sweet nectar.
8. A caller planted mums last year, they looked great through the season. This year only 2 came back. What is wrong with them?
A. Some mums are just not as hardy as believed and they often die due to winterkill. Many gardeners struggle with maintaining their mum plants over the winter due to repeated freezing and thawing cycles through the growing season as well as wet, heavy soil or lack or snow cover. Longevity of the plants can be enhanced by planting them in a location that is more protected from north winds, discontinuing fertilization by the end of July to reduce new growth at the end of the season, adding several inches of mulch to the soil around the plants through the winter months, and cutting the plants back in the spring rather than in the fall.
9. The last caller of the day has peppers planted in a mineral tub that are looking wilted. They are green and growing well but have droopy leaves. What is wrong with them?
A. Through discussion, it was noted that these peppers are planted in a container with soil from the backyard, not potting soil. It would be best to use a soil mix rather than soil from the ground. Potting soil has more nutrients available and is more porous for better plant growth. Adding fertilizer to his plants may help.