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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.

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Ridding the Lawn of Moss, Permanently

Our front lawn is fairly small with tall trees. We have extensive moss in the lawn, mostly moss in fact. If we get rid of the moss and plant more grass, won't we still have the moss problem because of the shade?

Yes, moss grows because of one (or more ) of four reasons; shade, acid soil, lack of fertilizer (the trees may be using it up), or clay or hardpan soil. Whatever is causing the moss to grow, must be corrected in order to keep it under control. If you have multiple problems, correcting some of them (and leaving the trees in place) should reduce your moss problem.

Reseeding the lawn after using a fertilizer/moss killer will help fill in the bare spots where the moss was flourishing. If you can establish a thick, lush stand of turf, it will help conceal the remaining moss (even if it does grow). If you cannot see it, who cares?

What to Grow Under Evergreens

I have a large flower bed in my backyard that should be perfect for plants and shrubs. It faces a southerly exposure. The problem is that a very large evergreen tree is next to one end of the bed and nothing under this tree will grow. I trimmed the branches back to give light to this bed. At the other end of the bed I have shrubs that grow well, but they are away from the tree. Are there any plants that I can grow under or around this tree? Someone said that the plants are being poisoned from the tree. Is this correct?

Native plants like Mahonia (Oregon Grape) or Salal would be good choices for that location. Rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias and several other plants should do OK if you give them a little special care. I have had excellent results using such plants, but you must feed them via the foliage with a liquid fertilizer. They will also require a little extra watering attention.

I doubt that the needles or foliage is poisoning the soil. Heavy needle drop can, however, smother small plants below, so it may be necessary to clean up any needles/foliage that fall on the ground.

Pests Eating Bulbs

My Daffodils and Irises are eaten by bugs or slugs, or something while they are still in bud form. Please tell me what I should do? I have tried slug bait without any success.  

I am sure glad you mentioned that you had used the slug bait. Because I had the same trouble with my bulbs, but I found the culprit was slugs. Since slugs were not the problem in your case, the most likely pests would be cutworms or budworms. A good quality Rose type insecticide should help control them. Apply according to label instructions.

Pruning Pines

Can a Mugho pine be pruned back to shape? This one is about 14 years old and has never been shaped or pruned. It is growing out too far and not a bit pretty.

Yes, and this is a good time to prune. Most professionals prune the pines in March, April or May just as the new candle growth is developing. Prune back to just above a point where the plant has previously started a new year's growth.

Rhododendron Blooms

My husband gave me a Rhododendron for Mother's Day about five years ago. He planted it in the front yard, after Mother's Day and the darn thing has never bloomed again. What are we doing wrong? The plant was in full bloom when he gave it to me.

Rhododendrons fail to bloom when they are planted too deeply or are planted in a spot where it is too dark. Often they are planted at the correct depth, but then because of their weight, the plants settle too deeply into the soft planting soil. Another problem is that the plants are sometimes mulched too deeply with bark or sawdust. The top of the root ball must be level with the soil surface. The tiny feeder roots must be exposed just a little. The other reason mention is darkness. If a plant is in a spot with deep shade, the plant doesn't get enough light. If the shade is being caused by overhanging tree branches, simply remove a few of them to open-up the spot to

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