Doug’s mailbag: 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 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.)

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.

Previous mailbags

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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

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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

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Lilies, Brussels sprouts and septoria leaf spot

Garlic harvest, cucumber beetles, spindly tomatoes and more

Bladdernut, fungus gnats, rose black spot and more

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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.”