One of the many incredibly great things about “The Grumpy Gardener” is that anyone anywhere can ask me a question and they always get a totally correct answer. (Well, except for queries about my lavender boxers. That’s really none of your business.) So let’s get right to answering some of your most pressing gardening questions right now.
Question: We have new ‘Knockout’ roses that are a year old. Can you tell me how and when to prune them? I love your article in the magazine each month! Rachel
Answer: Rachel, it is bright people like you who give me faith in the future of our species. ‘Knockout’ roses, despite their reputation as “no-care plants,” do need pruning from time to time to keep them blooming well and prevent them from getting too big. Cut them back by one-third in early March. They’ll quickly send out new growth that will soon be smothered in flowers. Also remove old flowers through the summer to keep new ones coming on. Wear leather gloves — those thorns could spear a rhino.
Question: When is the correct time to plant an iris root that has been in the fridge all winter? Sam
Answer: Before somebody mistakes it for a ginger root and uses it in Thai food. Go ahead and plant it now.
Question: Here in the midsection of South Carolina, we’ve had two hard freezes. All of my camellia flowers are brown. Should I cut them off or let them fall naturally? Ann
Answer: If you can, remove any brown flowers and rake up any that are on the ground. Old flowers that lay around can lead to a disease called petal blight that causes brown spots on flowers and ruins the show.
Question: We’re going to plant 3-gallon azaleas in sandy soil here in southeast Louisiana. Should we put something like Miracle-Gro potting soil in the ground around them or just put 8-8-8 fertilizer around them after planting? Laura Jane
Answer: I’ll bet those azaleas already have slow-release fertilizer in the pots. So don’t fertilize right away. Dig a nice, big hole for each plant (at least twice as wide as the rootball, but no deeper) and fill in around the roots with a half-and-half mix of excavated soil and Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Garden Soil (not potting soil). After the plants bloom, feed with an organic, acid-forming product like Holly-tone, rather than 8-8-8.
Question: We live in Tennessee and our yard is a mud pit. It is quite shaded too. When is it time to plant grass seed and what type would you suggest? Amy
Answer: I suggest you go with a fine-bladed tall fescue blend that contains at least three different kinds of tall fescue. You can find this at most garden and home centers. Sow 8 pounds per 1,000 square-feet in early spring. Gently rake the soil after you sow to barely cover the seed with soil. Finally, put down a thin layer of straw on top to keep the soil from washing and then water. Keep in mind that no grass likes shade, but tall fescue tolerates it better than most. Removing low tree limbs to let in more sun will help.
Other questions for the one unimpeachable source for horticultural know-how? Just click on “Ask A Question” at the top of this page. How easy is that?