Garden Questions of the Month: August 2008

Last month I put together a post based on search engine hits in the form of a question to The Home Garden and I thought I'd do the same for August. I picked out several questions that I thought were either interesting or important and hopefully both!

August Garden Questions

Q. How do you get rid of aphids on a spirea?
A. I've had the same problem and I can definitely tell you aphids and spirea don't mix! There are three good ways to do it without using dangerous chemicals. The first is to use a strong blast of water from the hose to knock those awful aphids away. The second method is to use an insecticidal soap to deliver the killing dose to the insect infestation. The third method is to get lady bugs to do the work for you. You can purchase ladybugs through the mail and release them in your garden. The larval state of the lady beetle looks like a little alligator and are extremely hungry! Both the water hose and insecticidal soap may require multiple treatments.

Q. How do you get bees out of the garden to pick vegetables?
A. You don't! I would recommend working around the bees since they are working for you. Those bees you are anxiously avoiding are busy pollinating your garden. Harvest in the evening when the bees have gone to bed and you can completely avoid them. I've found that the only bees that bother me when I'm in the garden are the bumblebees. They are more aggressive and territorial than honey bees. Honey bees will just mind their own business as long as you mind yours.

Q. When should you prune a Japanese dappled willow (Salix integra)?
A. Most people recommend pruning willows in the early spring to encourage lots of the red tipped dappled foliage but if you need to prune it at other times it should be OK. Just prune during the growing season well before the frosts to avoid triggering new growth that will get damaged by cold weather. Or prune in the dormant season before fresh new spring growth begins. Use the buds as a guide, if they are starting to emerge it's probably a good time to prune! Of course dead growth can be pruned off anytime. Extra tips: always make your pruning cut so you leave a vertically slanted cut on the branch. That will help prevent water from resting on the branch and causing rot. Also consider using the cut ends to make more willows through propagation!

Off the wall and in the garden:

Q. How did my Japanese dappled willow dry out?
A. It could be not enough water, but that's just a hunch! Seriously willows need a good deal of water to keep them flourishing. I'm in the same boat right now as I have been lax in watering our dappled willows. Several of them have brown leaves and seem to be dying back to the main stem of the plant. All you need to do is clip back the darkening, dead and dying stems to the live growth and resume watering. I don't think you can over water a willow but you definitely can under water one.

Q. What do you do with large tomato crops?
A. What a good problem to have! After you've eaten your fill of BLT's and tomato sandwiches and after you've made and frozen enough tomato sauce to last you through the winter, consider donating some of your crop to a food pantry. I'm sure they would appreciate any extra food that comes their way.

Q. How do you make an origami zinnia?
A. I have no clue! My last experience with origami was many years ago. My younger brother liked to practice that ancient art of folding paper but I don't remember him ever making a zinnia from it. Although I do remember plenty of cranes!