Ask the Gardener: Leaf size, no-light plants and grubs

Posted on: December 13, 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
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  • Send us a message on Facebook.

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

Question 1: Leaf size

Constance: I value your expertise and hope you can tell me about this amazing oak leaf I found while walking through Oakland near the sidewalk of Heinz Chapel going toward the museum. More interesting than the size was the fact that there were no other leaves like it around! I walked all around and through the grassy lawn, but the others were of normal size. It’s a pin oak, I was told, but I can’t believe that a tree will only produce one leaf of this size! I polyurethaned it so I can keep it for my fall decor next year. Please advise.

Doug: I consulted with Dick Till, a certified arborist for The Davey Tree Expert Company. He confirms that the leaf is from a pin oak and says the huge size of the leaf is a genetic fluke. That’s why you only saw one leaf.

Question 2: No-light plants

Daniel: Are there any plants to grow in a basement without a grow light? What are your thoughts about reusing old orchid potting soil?

Doug: The only plants I can think of that would not need light would be mushrooms. Do you have a big window down in the basement or are we talking standard basement window light? Most indoor plants need at least some nice window light, and most vegetables and annual bedding plants benefit from additional artificial light sources.

The orchid potting soil could be used again. I’ve got a lot of friends who use old potting soil in the garden to grow the next crop of potatoes or to fill a container and grow them, too.

Question 3: Watering trees & grubs

(Note: This question arrived before the recent winter weather.)

Dan: I took your advice and got two pear trees 50 percent off and planted them. It’s supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow. Should I still water them in? My yard is under water as it is with a lot of clay soil. Also I noticed a lot of grubs while I was digging. What organic controls do you recommend to take care of them and when do you apply it?

Doug: I always water the day of planting. If we get a good rain, that will be enough to get them started.

You don’t have to worry about the grubs until the spring. Every garden/yard has grubs. Unless they are causing problems, it’s not a concern. My favorite organic control for them is beneficial nematodes. They are applied when the soil temperatures are 50 degrees or higher. These organisms will hunt out and kill the grubs specifically, but won’t bother the good bugs.

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