Ask the Gardener: Poison ivy, black-eyed Susans and container mix

Posted on: June 22, 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.

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

Poison ivy intertwined with a rhododendron

Question 1: Poison ivy

Julia K.: This yellow blooming ‘Hong Kong’ Rhododendron was a Mother’s Day gift to my Mom in 1989. And when her home was sold in 2006, the following spring the new owner cut the plant down to the soil line and kept the poison ivy.

Is there a safe way to remove the poison ivy shrub (yeah, shrub) that has grown along with a yellow Hong Kong Rhododendron? Both are intertwined and about 4-5 feet tall. As a friend, I don’t dare as the ER has seen my reaction to the plant.

Doug: Get someone who is not as allergic to cut it at the ground. That will do the trick. Be careful please!

Rudbeckia leaf spots on a black-eyed Susan plant.

Question 2: Black-eyed Susans

Christine M.: Anybody know why my black-eyed Susans leaves get these brown spots every year?? And the flower never develops properly….. very small petals.

Doug: Black-eyed Susans are prone to Rudbeckia leaf spot. I would recommend treating with Serenade (You can get it here.). It’s an organic fungicide. If you plant again, try brown-eyed susans (Rudbeckia triloba). They aren’t bothered by the disease. Next year start treating before you see signs of the disease.

Swiss chard growing in a container filled with Pitt Moss Plentiful.

Question 3: Potting mix

Rose W.: What mixture are you using in your containers? I have a few to plan to so I can grow some of the seeds I won.

Doug: I’m using Pitt Moss Plentiful, an organic potting mix. I like it. It’s very different though, using two-thirds less water and has a unique texture. But I’ve had good luck with it.

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