Get answers to your garden questions

April 17, 2008

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith, horticulture agent with the Douglas County Extension Office, will answer your garden questions during a chat at 2 p.m. Thursday. Whether it's what to plant or how to tend to your lawn or garden, Smith can fill you in.


Hi, everyone. I'm Christy Little, your chat moderator today. Joining us is Jennifer Smith, Garden Calendar columnist and Douglas County Extension AgentHorticulture for K-State Research & Extension. We're going to start a little early because there are so many questions, and Jennifer will try to answer as many as she can. Welcome, Jennifer.

Jennifer Smith:

Hi everyone!


I have a question about ornamental trees. We live just outside Lawrence city limits in a somewhat rural area. We have lost two ornamental trees in our garden.. one a Japanese Maple (shaded by an overhead deck), and the other, I believe was a Weeping Mulberry (in the afternoon sun). I was wondering if you could suggest any hardy ornamenal trees that might work for us. The one under the deck can't get too tall!

Jennifer Smith:

Some small trees that grow really well in this area are Redbud and Serviceberry. The serviceberry may not handle afternoon sun well, but the redbud should be okay. You might also consider using a large shrub like viburnum.


I have a manly Fescue yard. If I want to fertilize now, what is the best type of fertilizer to use?

Jennifer Smith:

It would be better to wait to fertilize your yard - the grass won't take up many of the nutrients now, so most of them will just wash away. If your lawn is irrigated, you can use a slow-release fertilizer in May. The best time to fertilize is September - using a high nitrogen fertilizer, and again in November with the same thing.


Is it true that one may add used coffee grounds to flower beds for nutrition and nitrogen? If so, can the coffee grounds be added over mulched areas (and watered-in), or do they need to be mixed in the soil? Thanks in advance!

Jennifer Smith:

I think the coffee grounds would only contain a very small amount of nitrogen. They would be better added to a compost pile. If you don't compost, mix them into the soil.


I mail-order purchased some rasberry plants earlier this spring, and due to travel and weather, I had to wait a week to plant them. I followed the directions to the tee, and have been watering and fertilizing them. But, I see nothing happening, only 3 sticks coming from the ground. About a week ago, I clipped the stick, and inside was green. Are they going to grow? Am I just being impatient? Do you have any advice to help me help them?

Jennifer Smith:

Actually, clipping the end of the stick was a good thing. We usually recommend pruning the tip off of small raspberry and blackberry canes to stimulate growth along the cane. While I can't guarantee that they'll grow, the cool weather is probably slowing them down. Hopefully they are growing roots right now and will put shoots out in the next few weeks.


How many hours a day of sunlight do tomatoes need to thrive and is morning or afternoon sun better, assuming they're well watered.

Jennifer Smith:

I don't know how many hours they need off the top of my head, but the more, the better. More sunlight will produce more fruit. Afternoon sun is typically more intense, so if you have to choose, it will provide more benefit to the plants.


Hi Ms. Smith -

My wife and I are budding gardeners (pun intended), and last year had the worst experience ever! We have rather limited space at our home, so we decided to grow a space-saving "bush tomato" plant. After caring for and waiting for just the right time to pick our large, ripening was stolen, by a doggone squirrel! So, any advice on keeping those thieves away? We love our tomatoes, and we don't grow them for squirrels! THANKS!

Jennifer Smith:

I heard of lots of problems with squirrels last year! They were looking for water, not food, but supplying a water source for them didn't seem to help. A cage or fence is probably the only thing to efficiently keep the critters away.


I'm thinking of trying eggplants for the first time this year. I want to grow them from transplants. Can I put them out when I put out my tomatoes, or should I wait a bit longer? Any tips for ensuring good results?

Jennifer Smith:

I plant my eggplants when I plant my tomatoes, although I wait until the first week of May to do either. The important thing is that there is no danger of frost when they are planted.
Flea beetles love eggplants and will eat hundreds of holes in the leaves, stressing the plant. Sometimes it can keep the plant from producing. Keep an eye out for the beetles and check out control options.


I have a lilac, peony, and a mock orange all in the same general location in my yard. I chose varieties that were described as "highly fragrant" yet none of them have any scent. I have tried to research the reason for it, but I haven't found any answers. Do you have any ideas?

Jennifer Smith:

It must be the varieties. Plant varieties are like siblings, and are usually selected for one or two specific traits. So, while many varieties of each of these plants have fragrant flowers, not all of them do. There is a lof of variation in peony especially. Some of the newer lilac varieties like 'Miss Kim' don't smell like the older varieties.


What kind of material makes the best mulch for a vegetable garden? I've heard hay or straw work well, but if you get the wrong kind it can contain too many weed seeds. Whatever material you recommend, where would I get it?

Jennifer Smith:

I like prairie hay if you can find it - I usually watch the classified ads it. Straw is good too, but look for straw that is listed as "clean" or weathered. Clean means that it shouldn't contain seeds, and weathered means that it has sat outside long enough that the seeds won't grow any more. When I can't find prairie hay, I purchase straw in the fall and let the bales sit outside (on top of my garden) all winter.


Hi, I live out in the country. I put out plants from the cabage family a few weeks ago, then one day they were all eaten. I don't know what happened. I replanted the other day and this time put tin cans around them. So far they are there. What could have happened? Rabbits, deer??? The plants were not pulled out, but they were clearly eaten about an inch above the ground with the stem still there. Are there things I should to to prevent this in the future? (Like a rubber snake or something?) I should add that I didn't see any cut worms and very few grub worms, and since ALL the plants were gone, I figured that must be the case that it was an animal predator and not an insect.

Jennifer Smith:

You are right, it is most likely rabbits or deer. The best way to control them is with a fence. There are several repellants available that can help some, but they have to be re-applied every time it rains.


I seem to have an abundance of purple flowering, I think weeds, in my yard. They are accompanied by a low growing light green weed (someone told me these might be chickweeds). What are these and how do I get rid of them?

Jennifer Smith:

The purple flowering plants are most likely henbit and the lighter green weed could very well be henbit. I have seen a lot of these 2 lately. They will go away as soon as it warms up but will be back next spring. You can use a post-emergent broadleaf selective herbicide now or a pre-emergent broadleaf selective herbicide next fall.


Can I grow vegetables this year from seeds I took out of last year's fruit? In particular, last year I grew some 'Giant Marconi' bell peppers and thought they were great. I kept a bunch of seeds and hope I can grow plants from them this year. Will I succeed or is this effort doomed? I've heard both from friends/neighbors.

Jennifer Smith:

They may grow plants, but they will not be just like the ones you grew last year. Most of our favorite fruits and veggies are made from crossing 2 less desirable plants. If you really want the same thing you had last year, you'll have to purchase plants or seeds.


Well, everyone, we're out of time for today. Thanks, Jennifer, for coming in to chat with our readers. Sounds like everyone is ready for gardening season!

Jennifer Smith:

Thanks everyone! You can also submit garden questions to the Master Gardener Garden Hotline, M-F 1-4 pm at 843-7058 or e-mail any time.


George_Braziller 10 years, 1 month ago

Well THAT was helpful. Did you even read the question? I said that the varieties I chose were specifically described as "fragrant."-------------------------------------------------------------------------------Jennifer Smith: It must be the varieties. Plant varieties are like siblings, and are usually selected for one or two specific traits. So, while many varieties of each of these plants have fragrant flowers, not all of them do. There is a lof of variation in peony especially. Some of the newer lilac varieties like 'Miss Kim' don't smell like the older varieties.

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