Ask the Gardener: Lawn damage, daffodils, ground cover and more

Posted on: May 14, 2019 | 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.

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(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)

lawn damage

Question 1: Lawn damage

Stephanie: I have a new problem. My grass looks like it has been aerated. I know the squirrels bury nuts, but this is too many holes. Is it possible that it’s the promised cicadas? I haven’t noticed any new tunnels or nymphs. I am really stumped! Your advice would be much appreciated.

Doug: That looks like skunk or opossum damage. They hunt for grubs this time of the year when they are close to the surface of the lawn. Just like the moles, they are feeding on grubs. The organic control is beneficial nematodes, which are available at good garden centers.

Question 2: Daffodils

Donna: I have a problem with my daffodils. When first planted, they flowered but three years later, I just get leaves. When they are done blooming I feed them with bone meal and cut the dead flowers off. What am I doing wrong? And when should I put my hummingbird feeder out?

Doug: The first question is do the flowers have full sun? Many varieties need that to rebloom every year. I do grow lots of daffodils on the edge of woodlands, but some can’t handle any shade. When daffodils get crowded, they will stop blooming too, but that shouldn’t happen after only three years. This is the time to move or split them. You could dig the whole clump and see how it looks. If need be, gently tease the bulbs apart and replant the biggest bulbs in good soil.

It’s time to put out the hummingbird feeder. Be sure to keep it clean, changing the feed weekly. Otherwise the birds could be adversely affected.

Question 3: Ground cover plant

Dolores: I have an area in back of our condo, approx 20-25 feet long and 4-5 feet wide, then beyond that is a hillside full of brush. I am interested in putting a ground cover that spreads easily in that area. The area is on a slant which is not easy to do much else with. I would like the ground cover to be scented, flowering, and/or pretty. Will you give us a few suggestions?

Doug: This is going to be a big project, something you probably already know. Here are a few ideas for ground covers, so see if there’s anything you like: Ajuga, creeping thyme, creeping phlox, pachysandra, Pachysandra terminalis ‘Variegata,’ sweet woodruff, vinca and liriope. My concern is the size of the area. It’s going to need a lot of plants, and the biggest problem is going to be dealing with weeds that will want to grow between the plants. When planting the ground cover starts, I would surround them with a thick layer of newspaper (seven-10 layers) and then add mulch. You’ll have to be vigilant about weeds for the first few years.

cherry tree

Question 4: Cherry tree

Bridget: I had the dead branches cut off my cherry tree. It still gets leaves and cherries. Is there anything I can do to save it? It seems that ants were eating it.

Doug: From the picture, it does not look great. I would advise getting a certified arborist to come take a look. They will come for free and can access the tree with much better accuracy than I could from seeing the picture. It’s something that an expert should see in person. I’ve used Davey Tree for 30 years and have never been disappointed.

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