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Ask-a-Gardener: Your Gardening Questions Answered

By Melody Rose (melodyJuly 7, 2012
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Gardening is both art and science, with some luck and skill thrown in for good measure. A big part of what attracts people to Dave's Garden has always been our forums, where gardeners ask and answer questions for one another. Occasionally we come across a question that we find particularly interesting or intriguing. We hope you find these questions (and answers, penned by our admins and writers) helpful as you grow your gardening knowledge!

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Question 1#

Imageibk1122asks:  Good afternoon, I would like to ask what to do with Japanese beetles. I am spraying with all kind of products, they don't eat my leaves but they go and eat the new flowers. The biggest problem are hibiscus, canna, crepe myrtle and roses. In one day a whole flower is eaten by one beetle. I can't spray every new bud. I used to just have them on roses last year, but this year they ate everything. I don't have any invasion of many, here are always 4-6 and it is enough to do a huge damage. Please, is there any help?

Terry answers: Japanese beetles take their toll on our ornamental plants.  Unfortunately, many of the sprays that will kill them will also kill the "good guys"  - the bees and butterflies pollinating our flowers.  And as you've discovered, sometimes the sprays miss their mark.

I've had good success with systemic products.  I've used two Bayer products - one is a liquid "3-in-1" that you dilute with water and pour around the perimeter of your plants.  It is primarily for roses but will work with other ornamentals.  I also used a granular "2-in-1" product intended to be added to the planting holes or scratched in around existing plants as soon as you see a problem erupting. Both of the Bayer products contain a fertilizer as well, an the 3-in-1 contains a fungicide (very helpful when dealing with roses as they are prone to blackspot.)
Sawfly larvae did a number on my Knockout roses earlier this year, but a liquid systemic from my local landscape supply company took care of the problem - it took 3-4 weeks, but they are completely re-leafed out and looking great.

Additionally, the best, safest and fastest control is hand-removal.  Half-fill a bucket with soapy water (the soap is a surfactant and keeps the bugs from being able to crawl out.) Put on a pair of gloves, unless you lke touching bugs, and pick them off and drop them in their watery grave.  You may have to repeat this several times over several days to get the population under control.
Check the labels before using any pesticide but most of the systemics are designed to target specific insect pests, which can help us all keep the pollinator population thriving, even while doing in our pest-y enemies.

Question #2

Imagevirgoman 45 asks: I live in Kentucky and now the area has a water restriction due to the hot weather and drought. So no more watering until further notice.  I have spent so much money on my garden this year, so I can fill the freezer up and also canning. I don't want to lose everyone thing to the drought. My question is...Can I use dish water and water from the washer after washing clothes to water what I can in the garden. I use nothing but Dawn for the dishes and All detergent in the washer ?? Every little bit of water will help..Thanks

Melody answers: As a fellow Kentuckian going through the same thing, I feel your pain. The water you are wanting to use is called 'gray water' and gardeners have been using it to conserve available moisture for years. Yes, you can use it. My Grandmother used her dish water on her flowers all the time. She was from the generation that had to draw their water from a well, so she made sure that every drop was put to good use. Use containers in your sinks for collecting washing and rinsing water. Put a tub shaped container in your shower to catch shower water. Any cooking water that is poured off is useful. (pasta water or veggie water) Make sure you have containers at your downspouts to catch the gutter water in the event of a thunderstorm. If you can route your washing machine water to a barrel, then by all means, do so. Water your plants at the roots and carefully pour it right at the base of the plant. There is no need in watering anything that isn't totally necessary. You may not have a huge harvest, and your gardens might not be prize winners this year, but you'll save your plants.

Question #3

ImageClimbingOnion asks: I just purchased 3 large (approx. 16 gal.) high-density resin pots in an attempt to transfer a couple of palms from broken clay pots that weigh a million pounds. My goal is to make these guys a little more easy on my back when weather warrants that I engage in the "shuffle all the plants" game. The pots are larger than the plants need so I will have quit a bit of space that I prefer not to back fill will rock or soil.
Anyhow this brings me to two issues.
1) I once saw someone use old water bottles (w/caps on) to take up space in the bottom of a planter. I am trying to go for something like that, "outside the box". Styrofoam blocks or peanuts? Any ideas? 2) Considering I live in the desert I don't have to worry about freezing temps too often. Do you think that filling the bottom voids of the planter with an alternative material like water bottles (or whatever other suggestions I get) will make the plants more or less vulnerable to damage during cold weather? In other words will I have to shuffle more often...in which case it might worth just using gravel ;-)

carrielamont answers: We've spoken above about how filling a container with anything other than the growing medium reduces the amount of nutrients available to the plant.  Whether you put gravel or empty plastic bottles in, you are REDUCING the soil, water, oxygen and fertilizer that are there for your plant when it needs them most. When it (or they) get stressed, the roots will reach down another half inch and find another few drops of water--or a plastic bottle? The choice is yours.

Usually, the bigger the pot full of potting medium, the better the plant(s) will survive cold temperatures. There are lots of techniques described in DG articles for creating warmer micro-climates around your plants. And how about casters or wheels under the planter? Good luck

Melody adds: I have first-hand experiencwith this one...I've got two, 20-gallong pots that I filled the bottom with plastic water bottles and put landscape fabric over that to hold the soil...Now, they constantly need water and are so top heavy that they blow over with the smallest wind gust. I have lantanas in them that get pulled into the garage for December and January This winter when everything goes dormant, I'm going to operate and put them back the way they should be. The image is of one of my planters after a sudden wind gust.

Question #4

Imagemomof4andcounting asks:  What type of fruit trees should I plant in zone 7? Hello! My thought lead me to peach, apple, cherry and lemon trees!! I have no idea which brand i should plant :(  I live near weatherford OK and I am so confused with all of the varieties of Peach trees. I love to bake, and want to learn how to can them. I have a bit of a sweet tooth. I have a large area to plant but would like maybe dwarf trees so they  are easy to pick? also something that won't get sick easily. Thank you!

sallyg answers: I have to love your enthusiasm! It sounds like you have a blank slate and are ready to fill it with beautiful edible things. Your question is fairly broad though. Peaches, apples and cherries, and lemons all have some similar needs. Generally speaking, fruit trees require fairly dedicated insect and disease control, and regular annual pruning, to produce the amount and quality of fruit that we see in the market. Then, between the three categories, there are a few different angles; peach trees may have pests that don't bother lemons and vice versa.

Fortunately for both of us, Oklahoma State University has a wonderful publication, "Home Fruit Planting Guide."

It will help you with planning your orchard, and give recommendations of which varieties are suitable in your part of the country. (Readers from other parts of the country can learn a lot from this publication, but should look closer to home for recommended varieties to plant, and for special considerations that may not apply to OK growers.) Still excited? I encourage you to delve deeper into the pruning and spraying needs of tree fruits. You seem very interested in peaches. Let me refer you to my article "Give Peach a Chance?". You don't have to read the article (although I like to think you'd find it entertaining) but do click on the links at the end for resources that detail the pruning and spraying recommendations for peaches. If those do not deter you, then go for it! Find resources for the care of other fruits, as they will differ a bit.

If the complicated spraying and pruning needed by tree fruits seems too daunting, think small fruits. That's a catchall term for things like strawberries and blackberries. These are generally more carefree than tree fruits, less prone to insect and disease and needing minimal pruning. Good luck!

Question #5

Imagemikeman13 wrote: So, I have a Majesty Palm that a took off my sisters hands because she couldn't seem to keep it alive. All of the plants I own are of the tropical (palm or cactus nature). So after a while of bringing the plant back to health it was having issues with root rot because when my sister planted she just assumed it was like any plant and would be fine in regular soil sitting at the bottom of a planter. So from there I decided to repot it in the same pot that it was in because it didn't appear to be having issues with size. I put some gravel in the bottom to allow the water to run past that and out the holes and also planted it with "Citrus, Palm, and Cactus" quick draining soil.

And this is where I ran into the issue, now that I've re-potted it the very upper most part of the roots are showing and I'm concerned this will have adverse affects on the plant. Here are a few pictures, let me know what you all think.
I want this plant to continue to grow.

adinamiti answers: Mike, your palm needs a bigger pot, otherwise is doing fine. Remember to keep the roots safe, they are very sensitive to repotting.

palmbob adds:  I would strongly recommend repotting it yet again in a deeper pot (several inches deeper, if not even up to a 1 foot deeper.  Roots like to grow deep.  Bury all visible roots if possible, though plants will often tolerate some root exposure... but 'tolerate' is not what we want. Water well- this plant likes to be watered, particularly when living outdoors... indoor cultivation of this species is tricky as it has extremely high need for bright light, which is very hard to provide indoors.  Also likes high humidity, though tolerates lower humidity better than many other palms. 

Question #6

Imagerfv56 asks: This outdoor areca palm was kept in a shed during the winter and all leaves turned brown and fell off. The base of the plant is still green. What should I do to save it?

palmbob answers: It not an areca palm first of all... looks more like a Phoenix roebellenii (Phoenix date palm, or palms)... as for whether they can they be saved... time will tell is all. Most likely it is dead... but give it a year and keep it warm in the winter, and a new leaf my yet emerge.. will look terrible for at least another year, but it may eventually grow out of it.  Personally, I think these palms are so cheap, the wait is not worth it, and replacement is the way to go.

 

Remember, if you have a gardening question that you would like to suggest for this feature, post it here.
Our writers and admins will handpick a few of your questions and answer them in an upcoming Ask-a-Gardener, one of our Saturday morning features. Other questions may be moved to one of our other forums so your fellow members can help you
.


  About Melody Rose  
Melody RoseI come from a long line of Kentuckians who love the Good Earth. I love to learn about every living thing, and love to share what I've learned. Photography is one of my passions, and all of the images in my articles are my own, except where credited.

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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
Blue Petunias Mom7 1 18 Jul 10, 2012 11:51 AM
Zone? Annie_Rooney 1 16 Jul 10, 2012 11:44 AM
Plants that kill Japanese beetles justdigin 1 26 Jul 9, 2012 2:20 PM
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