Ask the Gardener: Skunks, pawpaws and a memorial tree

Posted on: October 2, 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
  • Submit your question on our “Your Garden” section of our site
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(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)

Question 1: Skunks

Patricia: Help! I have a skunk (or skunks ) tearing up my lawn. I have a well and don’t want to use a poison. Many products that I search online have negative reviews. I’d appreciate any help you can give me.

Doug: The skunks are after grubs, so all you need to do is get rid of the grubs. First off, when it gets cold, the problem will be over until the spring. The grubs will move deep. The organic control I recommend are beneficial nematodes, and there’s still time to apply them. Soil temperatures need to be 50 degrees or higher. You should be able to find them locally; in fact I saw them 50 percent off at Best Feeds near Millvale if you’re local.

They are also available from Arbico Organics. The nematodes hunt down the grubs safely and are safe for you, the well and the environment in genera.

Question 2: Pawpaws

Lynn: I have two pawpaw seedlings that I want to plant in the spring. They are little, and I don’t think they will survive the winter outside, although they sprouted in the pot outside and have been out all year. I have not been coddling them. I usually “use” part of my vegetable garden for things that I should really get in the ground somewhere. I did that in the past with two silver maple tree seedlings. Do you think I could safely put them there and surround them with straw & some wire fencing as a blanket. I hate to sacrifice a pawpaw if there is a better chance of survival inside.

Doug: I would put them in the ground right now. Pawpaw trees are tough and would be happier getting established outdoors. The thing about pawpaw trees is that they form a long tap root, which makes them hard to move. Once they are in the garden, that’s where they want to stay. They will eventually be 20 feet tall and at least 10 feet wide, so think about that when figuring out where they should go.

Question 3: Memorial tree

Kelly: I’m hoping you can help me. My father passed away last week, and I want to plant a memorial tree in his honor. I want something that is hardy and useful. He didn’t like evergreens. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for your time.

Doug: Hi Kelly, sorry for your loss. You really have to be careful when choosing a memorial tree. Regardless of how carefully they are sited, sometimes trees don’t respond. As long as you understand that, I would go with something bulletproof like a sugar maple. They provide shade and have amazing fall color. Another one off the beaten path would be black gum. It has amazing fall color, too. A smaller tree would be serviceberry. It’s an early spring bloomer, and birds love the berries. Hope that helps.

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