Neil Sperry: Gardener’s Mailbag | Lifestyle

Dear nail: What type of bush is this? It appears the only part that is not browning is the one branch. If this is due to an insect, is there a way to kill it? Will the shrub return to its dark green color? What should I do?

Answer: This is damage caused by spider mites. If you hold a sheet of white paper beneath one of these browning branches and thump the branch against it, you will see hundreds of tiny specks. Many of them will start moving around almost immediately. Those will be the spider mites. The particular spider mite that attacks junipers like yours is active from mid-winter on. Most general-purpose insecticides do list spider mites on their labels. However, you will need to spray more than one time. This is a very serious outbreak, and I am not sure you can save this plant.

Dear Neil: I have a live oak that is 10 or 12 years old. It was damaged in the freeze of 2021. The entire top appears to be dead except for one long branch that seems to be coming back now. Is it likely to recover?

Answer: My guess without seeing it is that it will not be worth saving. This far removed from the cold injuries 15 months ago, it ought to be growing vigorously if it’s going to. If you want to wait three or four more weeks to see if the rest of the tree sends out new leaves, you certainly could do that. However, don’t wait too long. Live oak branches are very heavy, and they can do great damage when they fall.

Dear Neil: We live on a city street where the lots are 60 feet wide. Our neighbors planted a hedge of bamboo approximately 70 feet long beside our 6-foot wooden fence. That puts the bamboo 8 feet from the side wall of our house and 2 feet from the heating/cooling units. The neighbor says it’s a clumping type, not the invasive type of bamboo, but it already seems to be heading our way. What can we do? Can it damage our property and landscape?

Answer: It does not appear to be the ultimately invasive golden bamboo. That’s good for starters. However, I would still keep an eye on it. If you see it starting to encroach, you would be within your rights to ask them to dig a trench on their side of the property line and fill it with some kind of a barrier (concrete corrugated fiberglass panels overlapped, etc.). I’ve never seen anyone successfully stop golden bamboo with even a 36-inch barrier, but it might be easier with this one. Hopefully that will never be necessary. (For the record, you didn’t mention where you are. Many of the clumping bamboos are less winter-hardy than golden bamboo. With online subscriptions, we have readers all over Texas and even beyond.)

Dear Neil: My Japanese boxwood plants were pruned far more severely than I had wanted last fall. Now many of the plants appear to be half dead. Should I prune them more now, or should I just take them out?

Answer: Sometimes shrubs that are pruned heavily take a good while to get started regrowing. I certainly wouldn’t take them out yet. Apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer (the same as you would apply to your lawn) and water them deeply. Give them six or eight weeks to see how they do. Your additional problem this unusual year is that smaller types of nursery stock are in very short supply. Fall would probably be a better time to replace them anyway, if that ends up being necessary.

Dear Neil: I am stumped, as is my local nursery expert. My squash, zucchini and tomatoes all make lots of fruit, but they just don’t grow. The tomatoes don’t ripen on the plants. I have to harvest them and let them ripen indoors. I water and feed all the plants, and I’ve tried new potting soil, but the plants just don’t produce. Do you have any ideas?

Answer: Is it possible that you are growing all of these in pots since you mentioned potting soil? Squash and zucchini get very large. So will tomato plants. You have me wondering if these might be growing in pots that are too small for the types of plants involved. That would cause them to become stunted and their fruit to develop abnormally. It sounds like the plants have gotten too dry between waterings and it does sound like they need more fertilizer on a regular basis. I assume they are in full sun.

Dear Neil: How can I get rid of this weed? It is taking over my yard!

Answer: That’s one of the dayflowers, wandering Jew relatives. You’ll need to use a broadleafed weedkiller (containing 2,4-D) in a pump sprayer, and it will very likely take several applications 3 weeks apart to eliminate it.

Dear Neil: Can you provide your 12-month yard maintenance schedule that includes fertilizer and herbicide applications – when and what products?

Answer: I spent a month writing Chapter 2 of Neil Sperry’s Lone Star Gardening. That’s the perpetual calendar that lists exactly what you’ve requested. As much as I’d like to answer your question here, that version is 48 pages long. It depends on the plants involved (including type of turfgrass), where you are in Texas and many other variables. For the record, the book is available from www.neilsperry.com. It is not in stores.

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