Gardening editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.
There are three ways to send in your questions:
- Email email@example.com
- Submit your question on our “Your Garden” section of our site
- Send us a message on Facebook.
(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)
Question 1: Garlic
Harry and Sharon: We are garlic lovers so we hope that it’s not too late to get your advice on this matter. We planted our garlic several weeks ago right before that stretch of hot weather. The garlic sprouted very quickly — probably 8 inches tall and kind of flimsy, but standing tall even in the present chilly weather. In the few times we’ve planted garlic, we don’t remember it getting this tall before winter. Our question is whether we should do anything special because of the height. It is not mulched. Do you suggest mulching? If so, with anything special?
Doug: It’s not uncommon for garlic to sprout, and it won’t harm the bulbs. When things get cold, the greens will die back. It’s always a good idea to have a nice layer of mulch (I use straw) over the bulbs to act like a blanket. Next spring you can harvest the greens sparingly. When the seed head (scape) appears, cut it off so the plant can focus on making bigger bulbs. The garlic is harvested in July when more than 50 percent of the greens turn brown.
Question 2: Pencil holly
Ken: I purchased four pencil hollys (about 4 feet tall) and planted them in half whiskey barrels this spring. They have done very well. Do you think they will make it through the winter in the barrels above ground? They are in an unprotected area with a lot of wind. I could struggle to move them to the east side of the house where they would be protected from some of the wind. What do you think?
Doug: I would want them to be protected somehow. If they are too big to move, a makeshift barrier of burlap around the outside of the shrubs would help if you could figure it out. I would also be concerned about the soil in the whiskey barrel being above ground. If it’s a bad winter, that could do them in. Since they are so big, you could get a few bales of hay to help insulate them. Also make sure the soil is watered until it freezes if rain is scarce.
Question 3: Hydrangea problem
Becky: I need your help, again! This is what all my hydrangea leaves look like! Wah …what’s happening?
Doug: Don’t worry about it. Looks like a fungal issue, which has been very common this year with all the rain. I think the plant will be fine.
Question 4: Tree location
Pat: I live in a ranch-style house. I’m replacing a tree in the front of my house, which is actually the back of my house. I live on a dirt road along a creek, which flows into the Youghiogheny River Lake. I would like to plant it somewhere in the middle of the house, approximately 8 feet from the house. My septic system would be in front of it. My question: Would a coral bark Japanese maple work? Does it require regular pruning? I like the multi-trunks and the beautiful color in winter.
Doug: That sounds like a fine place for the plant. Just know that at maturity it could be 15-25 feet tall and about 15 wide. Be sure there’s room for the plant to grow as it gets older.
Bellflowers, sweet potato vine, deer/garlic and more
Lemon tree, Knockout roses, soil repair and more
Butterfly weed, tomato seeds, rose bushes and more
Roses, Japanese beetles, planting garlic and more
Artillery fungus, heliotropes, crown gall and more
Skunks, pawpaws and a memorial tree
Mushrooms, harlequin bugs, fall planting and more
Beautyberry, nematodes, tomatoes and more
Pokeweed, bug identification and voles/moles
Caterpillars, mystery flower, onions and more
Seeds, leaf gall, bulb sale and more
Praying mantis, tomato issues, crabgrass and shrubs
Dogwood relocation, tomato issues and garlic soup recipe
Canada thistle, compost, bolting parsley and more
Blossom end rot, bees, butterfly weeds and more
Mystery bugs, lavender plants and watermelons
Strawberry plants, cool-weather crops, pumpkins and more
Tomato issues, zucchini struggles, lilacs and more
Hosta seeds, garlic, Alternaria leaf blight and more
Moving a hydrangea, hibiscus and succulents
Lilies, Brussels sprouts and septoria leaf spot
Garlic harvest, cucumber beetles, spindly tomatoes and more
Bladdernut, fungus gnats, rose black spot and more
Poison ivy, black-eyed Susans and container mix
Cucumber beetles, hot pepper plants and planting potatoes
Zebra grass, pale vegetables and yellow nutsedge
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See also, Garden Road Trip: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Va.
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