Answers to Questions about Garden Maintenance Answers to Questions about Garden Maintenance

Q. I accidentally sprayed OFF on my plants instead of the other insect control. Will the OFF mosquito repellent hurt my plants?

A. Do not spray any bug repellant on plants, grass or even small trees - it will kill quickly. These products are to be sprayed on humans, not plants.

Q. A nasty hailstorm came through my neighborhood and just obliterated my garden, trees, bushes, roses and perennials. This is my first experience with this and the plants on the exterior of my house. In many cases, the leaves were stripped from the plants and only the stems are left standing. Anyway, I am not sure what I should do. Should they be trimmed back? Or should I just clean up the mess and let them regenerate on their own? Or maybe feed them?

A. Just clean up the mess, trim any broken branches, and wait to see how all of it recovers. In the meantime, keep things watered. Generally, a plant can regenerate a fresh set of leaves without too much trouble. Vegetable plants with injuries might be watched to keep track of any developing infestations taking advantage of injuries to the plants.

Q. I recently noticed small pieces of the leaves on my Bougainvilleas being eaten away. Unable to see what was eating them, I went to my local master gardener for help. He told me to spray them with Malithion in the late evening so as not to burn the leaves. Well I followed his advice, and now, two weeks, later my beautiful Bougainvilleas look awful. Leaves are falling off and the ones that are left look pitiful. Please someone tell me what to do to save my plants.

A. The best thing you can do is water do not feed until the toxins have flushed from the plants system. Soon you should see small leaves and they will grow until full-sized. Buy a small bottle of seaweed liquid and use half the dose in your water. Kelp has a cleansing action for the root system.

Q. Is it safe to add shredded paper to my compost bin? I'm wondering if the inks and dyes are safe to decompose?

A. It would constitute part of the brown component generally represented by shredded leaves. The kaolin content in slick pages may take a bit longer to decompose. Skip the slick pages, for that reason. Inks are generally organically based nowadays.

Q. My builder has stripped off the topsoil and left me with Tennessee rock hard clay. I have over seeded, fertilized and watered. I have been told to aerate and add lime. Is this the right thing to do?

A. There are many theories about how to deal with clay. Some suggest adding sand, peat moss or gypsum. You might want to check with your Local County Agent or Agriculture Extension to see what they recommend. There is a list of links to State County Extensions at the top of the Lawns Forum. Hopefully, it will help you find one close to you.

Q. I'd like to plant some seed, and all the guides say to till 4-6 inches down. But I would like an alternative to purchasing a tiller for at least $200 or continually renting one. Can anyone recommend the best way to till without a motorized tiller?

A. You could use a garden fork to turn the soil over and break it up, or a Mantis type tiller would do the trick as well. We use a Stihl brand small tiller at work (it is Stihl's answer to the Mantis) - four 'pic' tine blade assemblies that cover about 12 inches per pass. The unit is only about 20 lbs., so no trailer is required to transport it. The most important thing is to make sure the gas and oil mix (two cycle oil) is right so you won't burn out the engine or be spewing a lot of smoke. I've personally used it to break up heavy clay to a depth of 6 inches with very little effort. You have to let the unit grab the soil and then pull it back towards you to do the actual tilling, but its light weight and small size make the job quite manageable.

Q. I'm thinking of buying a big bag of Bermuda seed and planting some Bermuda seed now, and the rest in spring. I was just wondering if seed bought now would decrease in quality if I decided to wait and plant it in spring.

A. Store it in a cool, dry place and you will not lose much at all. Be aware that mice and rats will get to it if it's not in a container of some sort.

Q. I was wondering if anyone had any general seeding tips across the board that apply to many different types of plants in different climates.

A. In general, the soil is worked to the appropriate degree and left smoothly raked. The seeds are placed into the soil to the proper depth, depending upon the seed, and covered. Seeds are watered as needed. The soil needs to be the temperature appropriate for the seed being planted.

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