Doug’s mailbag: Early garlic, pencil holly, hydrangeas and tree locations

Posted on: November 3, 2018 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

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 askdoug@535mediallc.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.)

Garlic greens

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.

hydrangea

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.

Previous mailbags

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

More from Everybody Gardens

See also, Garden Road Trip: Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Va.

Follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Shop special Everybody Garden products today!

Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”