Ask the Gardener: Moving rosemary, tree wall, thinning veggies and more

Posted on: October 18, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Everybody Gardens 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.)


Question 1: Moving rosemary indoors

Jim: I have two large very health rosemary plants in pots outside of my house. I would like to bring them in for the winter. Is there a spray I can safely use on them to kill the small insects on them before bringing the rosemary indoors?

Doug: First you have to make sure if there are any insects hitchhiking on the plants so what I like to do is bring them in to a staging area after it gets cold. In my house that’s a sun porch. If it’s something like tropical hibiscus, I would be worried, but not so much for rosemary.

If you see anything on the plant, I would recommend using an organic control called horticultural oil. It works by smothering the insect so you have to make sure it makes contact with the bug. It’s a safe way to deal with the pests.

Question 2: Wall of trees

Frank: I want to build a wall of trees to buffer the sound made by an air conditioner chiller unit on a local school property site. Could you recommend the fastest growing evergreen that I could purchase for such a project? I’ve heard Leyland cypress is a fast grower? Also, the trees purchased would have to be 7-10 feet tall (or taller) right now to help mitigate the noise produced by the chiller. I’m 73 years old and don’t have time to plant something that will work 20 years from now!

Doug: Assuming you have deer, Leyland cypress would be a good choice. Tall junipers would work. Cedars and hemlocks would also be something to look at.

If the deer aren’t a problem, then arborvitae would be a great choice as a quick growing evergreen. Whatever you choose, this is the perfect time to plant trees.


Question 3: Thinning

Marci: To thin or not thin? That is my question. Looks like I might be getting some bugs too. Any suggestions?

Doug: Thinning those greens will help if you want full-sized plants. Use the thinnings in a salad or nibble on them raw. You could leave them be, just cut them at the base when they get a little bigger, then they should come back. You might even get three harvests out of the planting. Think about leaving one bed as is and thinning another to see how it works for you.

Question 4: Garlic

Carla: What is the best garlic to grow in western Pennsylvania and where can I find it?

Doug: Two of my favorites are ‘Music’ and ‘German White.’ They will be easy to find at a local nursery. If they don’t have those varieties, pick up whatever they have. I grow a bunch of different varieties and they all work well.

Plant the cloves this month, three inches down and six apart in good soil amended with compost. Cover the bed with a nice layer of straw; it will act as a blanket over the winter.

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