The Magic Garden

The grass is always taller in someone else's backyard


Can I leave my pampas grass uncut through the winter? It is about 10 feet tall.
Lois, Taylorville, IL

Cortaderia argentea is always a pretty grass in the winter. Cutting it back makes it spread laterally. Your plants will have more seeds, if left to stand. This means that you will have a shelter and a feeder for the birds. If the Pampas Grass is near water, it can reach 15-20 ft. tall. It is not necessary to cut it back.

My rhododendron that is about 6x6 turning brown this winter. What could it be?
Doris, Pena, IL

You should dig out some soil near the root. If the soil contains grubs, you can remedy this with a grubicide. Unfortunately, pathogens that would ordinarily be killed by frosts, have survived in many areas. Twig blight and wilt are common maladies of rhododendron and holly. Snap a branch off and see if there is any black streaks inside the branch. Twig blight is treatable with plenty of well rotted mulch and well drained soil. If you see brown streaks inside the bark, you plant has wilt. This causal fungus can be treated with Bordeaux Mix spray. The soil should be covered with the powder. Remove all infected branches with wilt. You will have to remove all infected plants to keep the disease from spreading at the end of year.

What is a good way to keep out grass and weeds in my perennial beds?
Linda, Taylorville, IL

Early and often cultivation is the best way. Putting cornstarch down at this time is an effective organic approach. Preem is another organic powder that works well. Synthetic compounds are also effective but some will inhibit growth of shallow rooted trees.

We have a critter under one of our shrubs. What is the best way to remove it?
Ann, Preston, CT

Hav-A-Hart traps are the best and most effective means to capture critters large and small. You will need a larger trap for wood chucks. You can usually determine the size ofd true critter by the size of the opening of the hole. All critters cannot resist peanut butter on a graham cracker. You need not play FM music. Check with your municipality regarding regulations for transporting these unwanted visitors.

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