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Ed Hume Answers Your Gardening Questions

Ed Hume cannot answer all of the garden questions he receives, but questions of general interest will be answered here every month.  Email your questions to HumeSeeds@aol.com.  Please note: we do not accept attachments.

Before submitting a question, be sure to check the index of previous questions and answers or search our site using key words.  Many questions have already been answered here on the site.

Other April Links

Controlling Horsetails

. I have a whole yard full of "Horsetails"except where the grass grows. My husband and I have just finished building our house in Everett, Washington and would like to start planting our yard with trees, bushes and other plants and we have been told that the horse tail have roots that go down 40 ft and is really difficult to get rid of. We were told that something called Crossbow is the only thing that will work and that we should spray everything but the grass with this a few times and that we have to wait for 4 months before we cab start planting. Since we are very eager to plant ASAP, I was wondering if there isn't anything else that can be done that is less harmful to the earth and other plants?

Here at the Seed Company (Kent, WA) we have used a product called 'Finale' with excellent results. It only lasts six weeks and only controls green plant parts, so confine the application to the foliage of the horsetails. Keep it off the grass, and desirable plants. In other words, read and follow label instructions.

Moving Clematis & Iris

We have put much time and care into a lovely side garden of Iris and Clematis. They are currently two years old. We recently found out the basement needs repiar and workers need to dig the area up for concrete repair. I want to know what is the best way to transplant these two flowers in April. Is it possible? What do I need to do. These flowers are very special to me as my grandmother gave them to me before she passed on. Could you help me?

This is not a good time to transplant 'Clematis', but you can try by wetting the soil around them, then take a soil root ball with the plants. The 'Iris' should be easier to move, however, move both on a cool day, and take as much soil as possible with both. You can spray the foliage of the plants with either 'Wilt-pruf' or 'Cloud Cover' and that will help retain moisture in the plants and lessen transplanting shock.

Pruning Magnolias

I have two magnolia "trees" in front of my house that are so big (about 15 feet tall) that they are ruining my tiny front yard. I am considering cutting them down, but that may not be the best solution. Is it possible to prune them considerably, like down to 10 feet tall, and have them survive? Can they be kept nice looking with such drastic pruning?

That is pretty severe pruning and is apt to encourage fast leggy growth. However, you could do it gradually, over a period of two or three years. One possible solution would be to cut back 1/3 of the growth, to the height desired this year, then cut back another 1/3 next year and the final 1/3 the following year. Then over the three year period you would have the overall height where you want it.

Wisteria Vines From Cuttings

I was wondering if you can get a clipping from the wisteria vine and get it to root in the dirt? If not this way how can I get it started?

Yes, they are quite easy to start from a cutting or they will often even start in water. Make the cutting only about 12 inches long. Dip it in rotting hormone (Rootone), then right into the soil. This would be a good time to take a cutting.

Old Bean Seeds

I bought some pole green bean seeds awhile back and didn't use them. They are dated 1996. Are they still good to use or do seeds have an expiration date?

Every year that they are unused their germination rate will drop. Peas, beans and corn tend to drop only a bit each year (some others {lettuce, onions, delphiniums, etc.} will drop almost completely in just one year). It is worth a try with your 1996 beans, just plant them a little thicker than you normally would and remove any extras.

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