Garden Questions

This is the place to ask your garden question. I will do my best to give you a quick reply.

Best, Don

23 Responses to Garden Questions

  1. Mark Tillman says:

    Hi, Don. Hope you are doing well! I found this blog thru a FB posting on Red Currant Jelly 🙂 that my brother Mike posted. I love currants! Anyway, we have a ground hog (hog is the right term here) that is chowing down on our broad leafed vegetable plants, munching on the leaves and the produce. What can we do to discourage the critter? We live in Northern Virginia. BTW, the fella is not too shy as he scampers around on our deck, too. Sallie has ruled out using a rifle 😦 Help!

    • Don Statham says:

      Hi Mark,
      Welcome to “Rooting For Ideas”-Thanks for your question. Borrow a dog!
      My Small female dog is always killing them and ending up at the Vet.
      Our dogs pretty much keep the deer, possum, skunk, (woodchucks- what we cal them, )at bay.

      Michael Pollan wrote a very fine essay in one of his books- probably “Second Nature”- about this very problem-
      He may have resorted to a gun! I have heard of people making concoctions of hot pepper flakes & spreading it around the area they visit.
      Has it dug a hole in your garden- if so sprinkle some chile pepper down the hole.
      One more thing might be a solution for Sally is buy a “Have a heart Trap” – I call them “Have a Heart-attack traps” I find the release mechanism practically has your hands in the traps. But I have used them for squirrels and a Raccoon once!

      best, Don

  2. Barbara Hill says:

    Don, I just posted a question on your High Summer entry, but will repost it here. What do I do about ants that have made my one clump of catmint their home. The catmint borders my tomato plants and is next to salvia (I think it’s salvia). The ants took up residence three years ago and I decimated the ant hill last year. By the end of last summer and again this year, the hill is as big as ever. The catmint is alive, but it is much shorter than it should be. I have lots of new catmint plants coming up around it, but they will be stunted, too. Because the ants do such a good job of aerating the soil, it doesn’t hold much water and the plants get dried out quickly, despite nearly daily watering of the garden and its border flowers. Any suggestions? Should I just leave it be and give the catmint over to the ants?

    • Don Statham says:

      Hi Barb
      I have a few rules when it comes to critters. Nothing allowed in my home (squirrels, mice, etc.) A few spiders are ok at least they eat the other insects. If I had ants near my vegetable garden or in my perennial garden then I would seriously consider getting rid of them. I have a mound of ants near an old farm wall. They don’t bother anyone so they are allowed to keep their home. It’s a tough question how do we coexist with all of these living things. Not sure about the site, but if they have been three years and its not bothering you that much then I would just let them be. Maybe move the catmint. If it really bothers you then you might want a professional to come in!

      • Barbara Hill says:

        The ants aren’t a nuisance until I try to weed the garden or that patch of the bordering flowerbed. I would move the catmint, but then I will be left with a bare anthill in the middle of a flowerbed. I’ll leave it this year and probably move it next when I am back in New York full time. Thanks, Barb

  3. Per says:

    Don – our New Dawn roses are thriving! Planted just 4 weeks ago – these came as little mail order plants in 3″ pots – and are already over two feet tall. Planted along the fence each rose is placed in front of a post; some are behaving perfectly and some are heading off on their own direction. Is it time to start training these up the posts? Thanks, Per

    • Don Statham says:

      Per- You still have time before you need to tie up the canes. I would wait until they are about 3-4′ feet long. Always leave room for the canes to grow when you tie them to a post or trellis. Otherwise the string or wire will choke the canes.

  4. Per says:

    Is it time to start talking about planting bulbs? The nursery in Montclair expects to get them in stock in the next couple of weeks. For the last few falls I’ve been putting in daffodils here-and-there and am seeing a nice yellow show in unexpected places each spring. One question is what kinds to plant to extend the bulb flowering season later into the spring. Another is how to keep the squirrels from eating them this winter. Thanks, Per

  5. Don Statham says:

    We should really do a sort of plan- or talk on the phone. I like to use daffodils in the wilder parts of the garden- under trees, where you have long grass, etc. Near the house, I prefer tulips, grape hyacinth, crocus, etc. By planting the early smaller bulbs and the mid & later flowering tulips and daffodils you extend the season. I have a hillside of daffodils and I planted early, middle and late daffodils extending the season to about 6 weeks of blooming daffodils.
    Also in the wilder areas under deciduous trees you can start a snow drop collection. I will be posting an article about that here in January. I will post for now that article on daffodils for you to read! Best Don

  6. Per Lofving says:

    Hi Don – With spring approaching we have started to get out in the garden to prepare new beds, rake up areas in the lawn for reseeding, and work on winter pruning chores. Over just the past few weeks I had a relatively new bow rake break off at the handle, a hand pruner dissolve into pieces, a spade bend into a pretzel. Now I’ll admit that each of these tools was purchased on sale at Home Depot… and yes, I’ve learned my lesson about getting what you pay for. So, now that I’m ready to invest in some better quality tools, what do you recommend? And which tools are most useful? The winter-into-spring list of garden chores includes: pruning overgrown lilacs, rhododendrons, and kalimas; preparing areas of compacted soil for reseeding; digging out new beds; removing some “volunteer” maples; raking last fall’s leaves out of the ivy/vinca. Thanks, Per

    • Don Statham says:

      Hey Per,
      You want good hand forged garden tools. There are several good companies:

      Felco # 2 pruners with replacement blades
      Felco hand saw
      Hand forged trowel, shovel, & transplant shovel
      Vermont wheel barrel _ if you don’t own one yet.
      Good leaf rake.
      That will get you started… Best Don

  7. Sara McLanahan Edlin says:

    Don, I’m a friend of Martha and Per’s and have a garden outside my building in NYC. It’s shady and windy – odd combination. I struggle to keep things alive. But my muscari are gorgeous right now. I’m loving the violets I see in Riverside Park, and wondering where I can buy some for my beds. Any ideas?

    • Don Statham says:

      Hi Sara,

      When I gardened in NYC I found Violets growing everywhere! I am sure the ones in Riverside park were not planted but just escaped from another area. I have them coming up in all areas of my garden in upstate NY. Last Year I transplanted them out of the borders and under a shady tree seat. I have to say they did very well being transplanted. I have never seen them for sale because they are so invasive. Couldn’t you quietly take a piece and transplant it to your garden? They will spread in no time!

  8. Sara McLanahan Edlin says:

    That is exactly what I will do! I might pinch a couple of ‘marsh marigolds’ which are also dazzling right now. I don’t know if i have the name right – a friend called them that – they have a cheery yellow flower on a low mound of starchy medium green leaves. I think the completely disappear when they are done blooming.
    I would love some advice on my beds, particularly one on the northwest corner that gets beaten by wind. Do you do ‘walk throughs’?

    • Don Statham says:

      Yes they are called Marsh Marigolds another invasive plant and no one would mind you taking a little piece. I have a consulting fee and would be glad to do a walk through next time I am visiting NYC. I tend to come down more in the fall.
      Best, Don

  9. Per Lofving says:

    Despite the late winter snowfall we are having today in Montclair, the weekend is forecast for 50s and sunny. It looks like gardening will begin! Lots of chores are obvious: raking leaves from the beds, pruning, and general clean-up. It would be great to hear your thoughts about where to start and what you are doing as the winter ends and spring begins.

    • Don Statham says:

      Hey Per,
      We got about 9″ of snow last night- even though it might be in the mid 40’s here this weekend I usual do not get out into the garden until April. There will be a lot of clean-up as there are many down tree limbs. I usually clean the beds, add some composted horse manure & mulch in the spring. Then I think about planting.

  10. Per Lofving says:

    Spring at last! Sunny and mid-50s. Trees beginning to bud. Leaf blowers blasting away (well, we are in the suburbs…). Perennials are beginning to appear among last year’s tangle of grey dry stems (catmint, peonies, st. john’s wort, etc.). Do you prune out last year’s growth (It all looks dead.), then add manure. and finally mulch? Also – is it time to feed roses? Lilacs? Per

    • Don Statham says:

      Lucky you Per- I still have fields of snow though it’s melting. You can cut back all perennials now. I usually apply a top dressing of composted manure over beds and then mulch. If you have dehydrated manure you can feed roses and any other plants you feel need it. Lilacs like sweet soil- I usually apply a few small trough of wood ash around the base of plant in winter or now is fine. Best Don

      • Per Lofving says:

        Thanks Don! One more question: We planted two Kousa Dogwoods last fall – they are just starting to bud. Anything we should be thinking about for their spring care?

      • Don Statham says:

        Only worries with new trees is making sure that in the first couple of years they get watered during drought periods!

  11. Monica E. Fulfer says:

    Hi Don. I have a Dwarf Arctic Blue Willow. It is ten years old and, as of this year, it has grown to be at least 15′ tall. When it was initially planted, it was put only two feet from our house. Are we going to have problems? Should I replant it, or will it be okay where it is? I love this plant and would hate to lose it. Thank you, Monica

    • Don Statham says:

      Hi Monica, You can trim arctic willows. I have a friend who has a hedge of them and she coppiced them a few years ago and they all came back from a hard pruning. I think you could keep it the shape you want. I don’ think transplanting it is a good idea. You might want to bring it back a few feet at a time so that you still can enjoy it. I would prune back once your last frost is over and maybe before it leafs out. A few years ago I seriously cut down a rosemary willow and it’s coming back. That’s the beauty of willows. They grow quickly and are resilient. Good Luck.

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