Ask the Gardener: Winterberry, termites and zoysia grass

Posted on: January 24, 2020 | 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: Winterberry

Connie: I love the winterberry that is in front of Phipps — a magnificent display of red in the dead of winter! I know there are different varieties, and I’m thinking of planting this in my yard. What advice can you give me about where to plant, how much room do they need, care, etc. I’m making plans to change some things in my backyard.

Doug: That’s quite a show in front of Phipps. Winterberry hollies prefer full sun, and you’ll need both male and female varieties. One male will pollinate five or so females. The males don’t make berries and can be planted out of the way (within 50 feet).

When you are looking for the right female, there will be something on the tag that tells you what male to pair it with. This might seem complicated, but it’s not. If you get them from a nursery, they will walk you though it. The first thing to think about is how big you want the plant to be. There are lots of different cultivars out there for winterberry. ‘Berry Heavy’ gets about six feet tall, ‘Little Goblin’ reaches about three. Take a look at these varieties from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs. They are all available locally in the spring.

Question 2: Termites with mulch?

Kathy: I did something really stupid this week. My neighbor hired a company to cut down trees in his yard, and he chipped them into a dump truck.  The workers told me the trees were healthy. I had the dump truck dump the chips into my front yard. There was about two cubic yards. I spread them along front of my yard along the house. I kept them about two feet from the house brick.

My brother told me that now my house might get termites. That actually happened to my parents when I was growing up. Is there something I can do besides rake up all the wood chips? Is there some chemical I can put down around the house now so I can prevent termites? I feel like a fool. It seemed like such a good deal. Free mulch. Maybe not so free…

Doug: I actually wouldn’t worry that much about it, especially since the wood chips are two feet from the base of the house. Termites are drawn to a cool wet area, like the environment under the wood chips, but they would also be drawn to any other material used as mulch. Keep an eye out just in case, but for the most part, I think you’ll be OK.

Question 3: Zoysia grass

Carol: Any ideas about what we can do to keep the neighbor’s zoysia grass from spreading into my mom’s yard?

Doug: That’s a tough one. If you can install an edging barrier six inches down and two inches above the ground, that would go a long way to stopping the awful invasive. Wish I had a better idea.

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