Gardening Matters with K.C. Fahy-Harvick

Bulletin Board for Gardening Questions

Question: I have 3 yellow knockout rose bushes that I planted 2 springs ago at our leased home and now we are moving. We reside in the Raleigh NC area and weather has turned back to very comfortable for this past week, and will be reaching upwards of 75 for the next few days. I am pondering digging these up to move them with us. We do not close until the end of December and will be slowly moving during the whole month of January. Weather conditions unknown, of course, but certainly more wintery than current conditions. What is the best way to go about this - do I dig them up and replant in a large enough pot, to bring them inside until next spring, or do I create "bare root" stock and go that route. Do I prune them back extensively or wait? They are roughly 10-gal sized!

K.C.: Yes you may dig out your Knock Outs. I would cut them back to around 15-18 inches. If you can manage a container big enough I would dig out with soil ball around the roots and place in the pots. Then they need to be stored cold, either outside or in a cold garage or crawl space. They can freeze. DO NOT bring into the warm house. Then I would keep them stored cold after moving and plant them in spring.

Question: I wanted to grow sunflowers for my son and soon to be daughter-in-law's wedding this coming October. I was hoping to plant them around May 1st or so. I was thinking that the seeds would be protected from frost under the ground? When would you advise? I also had bought a lemon tree last spring and it was doing quite well until recently when all the leaves fell off. Is it dead, or might it come back in the spring? I'm thinking of buying another. Do you have any tips? Can they be successfully grown here in Rochester? I have a 3 season room and it can get lots of sun! Thanks for your help! Kittie

K.C.: Hi Kittie, you can start the sunflowers in the house , and then transplant to outside towards the end of May, and you should still have flowers for the Oct. Wedding, though they will prettiest in September, depending on weather. Worse comes to worse, you can always buy sunflowers around here then. Lemon trees are not in my expertise really, but dropping leaves is normal in a three season room. Keep it watered, and fertilize as soon as you see growth buds forming. I would call Bristols in Victor for better info on lemon trees, they have the best selection of tropicals in this area.

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Question: I saw this Jack-in-the-Pulpit at Chimney Bluffs today and found it very interesting. It appears green etc. as if it were Spring. Any thoughts? - Seth Burgess

K.C.: Hi Seth, that's VERY interesting. the weather this year has caused many unusual plant events. Since Jacks go dormant in the heat of the summer, they then only have the soil temperature to go by. So it rained alot in September, then got sort of cold, then we have this warm November. Once the leaves start to sprout the plant then has day length for signals, and of course, jacks have short days like this in the Spring, so there you have it! A confused Jack!

Question: I live in a condo and I love to feed the birds that fly around outside me home. I love to see them eat and enjoy themselves. My question is this, several times now, three to be exact, the birds fly in to my home to die. I am puzzled as to why. Would you happen to know why? My friend says it is a bad omen but I don't believe that. - T.M.

K.C.: Hi Terri, no bad omens here---the birds are simply confused by the reflections in windows. There are products you can use that are effective for preventing this. Droll Yankee is a company that sells a decal of sorts to put on your windows. It looks like a spider's web. Spiders weave a white center section in their webs to ward off birds from destroying their webs. These decals have that pattern, and it works, I've used them myself.

Question: I'm wondering if it's too late (Sept 17) to plant my bulbs and Dahlias? It's been a very short & busy summer for me and haven't been able to as yet. I live in Northeast of Syracuse, about 45 minutes. Thank You in advance for any help you may be able to give me. - Deb

K.C.: Sorry to say it is too late for Dahlias, they are a tuber that has to be stored in winter in our area. You could try cutting off any growth that may have come on them and store them this winter in a cool dark place, wrap them in a little peat moss (not moist) and newspaper. Do not let them be below 40 degrees. The other bulbs you are talking about---I'm assuming they are also summer bulbs like glads or something, let me know what they are and we can discuss further. Fall is the time to plant tulips and daffodils. So maybe take your gardening energy and time toward that, and enjoy the show in the spring.

Question: When can you trim into shape a holly, right now its got reds berries on it, but its really out of shape. Is this done in the fall or spring?- Karen

K.C.: You can trim your holly bush now, or even wait until closer to christmas if you want the berries to be fresher. Only trim it about 1/3 down or 1/2 being sure to leave planty of leafy branches. Never trim it down to bare areas. If you live in our area I have two classes coming up about winter pruning.

Question: I have three holly bushes along my raised patio. The deer got to them last winter and thinned them a bit, but this past summer the deer hit them hard. The shrubs are bare of leaves all the way down to about 6 inches from the bottom. What's the best way to care for them? Should I cut them back? Replace them completely? - Stephanie

K.C.: I've had this problem with clients' gardens, even though they say holly is deer "resistant". I would let the bushes leaf back out this spring and then cut them back to the leafy parts. You can cut them down,and they will grow back, but needless to cut off parts that might survive. Next time try using a spray product called "Liquid Fence" or Ropel. These sprays really work, and don't wash off in the rain. If I were in a deer area that's
what I would do, rather than have everything destroyed or landscape with the plants on the resistant list only to find out that they aren't. Only plant I know of is Daffodils, nothing will eat them because they are poisonous.

Question: Can you use burned/used coaldust/rubble for decorative use in flower beds as you would rock? - Dawn Martin

K.C.: Everything that I have read about this would indicate that it is NOT a good idea. My best recommendation for mulching is cocoa shells, or composted leaves. I prefer not to use wood mulch because it depletes the soil of nitrogen. The coal by-product would not be anything beneficial, and might be harmful.


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K.C. Fahy-Harvick
240 Sylvan Road
Rochester, NY 14618

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