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Selecting a Maple for full sun

    Date Posted: Wed, Feb 28 - 1:05 am

    Question

  • Hello! I have a little planting area in my front yard that gets sun pretty much all day long. I wanted to plant a Japanese maple there but I know they don't all enjoy full sun. Are there any that would do okay in that situation? Also, I would prefer one that doesn't get too big. Thank you! Heather Maury
  • Answer

  • A few things to think about when you are selecting a tree for this space are if the tree is being planted near sidewalks or a driveway, what your soil conditions are like, the amount of sun or shade it will get, and also remember to look up for power lines. Red maples are generally faster growers and are also native to our area, but they may have shallower root systems. Japanese maples tend to be slower growing but are not native. Sugar maples are also an option but you would want to be sure to select heat tolerant varieties for the Richmond area. Another alternative is Yellowwood. They have nice big leaves, beautiful form and flowers, tolerate the heat and don't get too big. The University of Illinois Extension has a great tree selector tool that you may also find useful: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/treeselector/search.cfm Good luck!

Crape Myrtle Bark Scale

    Date Posted: Wed, Feb 28 - 12:46 am

    Question

  • Other than digging up and destroying crape myrtles what is the next best solution for crape Myrtle scale?
  • Answer

  • A systemic insecticide in the spring is the recommended treatment for Crape Myrtle Bark Scale (CMBS) . A soil drench of imidacloprid or dinotefuran is recommended when crape myrtles begin to leaf out in the spring, usually around April. Personally, I've had success with Bonide products and find them to be available at many local garden shops. Bonide has an annual tree and shrub product that has an active ingredient of imidacloprid. (Other insecticide recommendations from the extension office are available here: https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/456/456-017/456-017.html) If you decided to go with an insecticidal soap spray, just be sure to refrain from applying it when pollinators or other beneficial insects such as ladybird beetles are present on the trees. If you would really prefer to stay away from insecticides, another control option is to lightly scrub the main trunks of crape myrtles with soapy water made with mild dish detergent and a stiff-bristled brush to kill and remove CMBS. This also removes some of the sooty mold and the loose exfoliating bark that shelters CMBS, exposing the scales to any spray treatments that may be applied. And finally, its important to check and be sure your control methods are working. To assess if a control treatment was effective or not: check for live CMBS by running a fingernail over the scales and looking for a pinkish-red fluid. Dead scales will be dry, but their white bodies may persist on the trunk and branches of crape myrtle until they weather off. Good luck!!

Building Healthy Soil

    Date Posted: Fri, Feb 16 - 12:58 pm

    Question

  • Hi, I seem to have very low yield and success with my gardens that we planted the past few years. I was wondering if it might have to do with soil quality etc. Is there anyone I can turn to for a consultation? Free or paid? I'd love to just get some expert opinions on the best way to improve my yield and overall success.
  • Answer

  • This is frustrating for a gardener for sure! Now is a great time of year to do a soil test to see how your soil needs to be amended before planting season. We are in the process of getting more soil test kits from the extension office and will have them out in the libraries again soon. Once these are back, I'd recommending picking one up to test the soil in your garden. The information you will get from this will guide you on what your soil is lacking so that you can focus on adding that back in. The plants will take nutrients from the soil each year and it is important that we are building the soil back up. Chesterfield County Master Gardeners has an upcoming workshop on March 9th about feeding the soil: https://anc.apm.activecommunities.com/chesterfieldparksrec/activity/search/detail/20270?onlineSiteId=7&locale=en-US This is a great opportunity to get information that will set you up for success and will also allow you the chance to ask questions that are pertinent to your garden. We also have many wonderful garden shops (Cross Creek, Sneeds, Stranges, Colesville, Great Big Green House) in the area with very knowledgable people on their teams. They are always willing to help guide you in store and some offer services to come out and consult on your property. Happy gardening! Hoping this year will be an abundant year for you!

Soil test kits

    Date Posted: Sun, Feb 11 - 11:50 pm

    Question

  • Just called ahead about soil test kits and the librarian says they’re out and the other branches are out of them as well. When might be in stock again?
  • Answer

  • Thank you so much for letting us know that the library branches are all out of soil test kits. We definitely want to be sure they are restocked ahead of spring planting season! We will be working with the extension office and hope to have the branches restocked by the end of this week.

Crepe Myrtle Bark Scale

    Date Posted: Thu, Feb 08 - 3:03 am

    Question

  • Hello! Would you be able to recommend the best product for treating a severe case of Crepe Myrtle Bark Scale? The tree is about 5 years old and has been very healthy until last year when it got the scale. I have heard that it is best to treat with a systemic insecticide in the spring but there are a lot of products out there and the prices very quite a bit. Also if there is a better way to treat than an insecticide please let me know! Also a lot of the products recommend a treatment based on the trunk size if the crepe myrtle has multiple trunks do I add all the trunks up or should I treat based on a single trunk size? Thank you so much !
  • Answer

  • These are great questions about Crepe Myrtle Bark Scale CMBS). I had to do a little bit of research myself to figure out how to best give you some guidance. A systemic insecticide in the spring does seem to be the recommended treatment. A soil drench of imidacloprid or dinotefuran is recommended when crape myrtles begin to leaf out in the spring, usually around April. Personally, I've had success with Bonide products and find them to be available at many local garden shops. Bonide has an annual tree and shrub product that has an active ingredient of imidacloprid. (Other insecticide recommendations from the extension office are available here: https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/456/456-017/456-017.html) If you decided to go with an insecticidal soap spray, just be sure to refrain from applying it when pollinators or other beneficial insects such as ladybird beetles are present on the trees. Here are some guidelines for measuring the circumference of the tree trunk: 1. If it appears that a tree actually represents two or more trees that have their trunks pressing together, we measure the largest trunk. 2. If it appears that the tree tree is a single tree that splits below 4.5 feet, we measure at the narrowest point between the split and the ground. 3. If it appears that the tree tree is a single tree that splits above 4.5 feet, we measure the trunk at 4.5 feet. If you would really prefer to stay away from insecticides, another control option is to lightly scrub the main trunks of crape myrtles with soapy water made with mild dish detergent and a stiff-bristled brush to kill and remove CMBS. This also removes some of the sooty mold and the loose exfoliating bark that shelters CMBS, exposing the scales to any spray treatments that may be applied. And finally, its important to check and be sure your control methods are working. To asses if a control treatment was effective or not: check for live CMBS by running a fingernail over the scales and looking for a pinkish-red fluid. Dead scales will be dry, but their white bodies may persist on the trunk and branches of crape myrtle until they weather off.

Native Dogwood and Holly

    Date Posted: Sat, Jan 27 - 3:05 am

    Question

  • Two questions about native plants: are red twig dogwoods native to VA? I have seen dogwoods with red twigs in the woods, but never like the ones you see around cities or in people's yards like "arctic fire" with the really red branches. Besides the nativeness of red twig, do they need a lot of sun or can they do well in partial shade? Also, is holly native to the eastern us or is it naturalized nowadays and brought over by the colonists? Thanks, Neal
  • Answer

  • Hi Neal! Great questions, I'll do my best to answer them. What most people refer to as "arctic fire" I think is the red-osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera Michaux). The nativity of this species in Virginia is questionable. It was historically reported to grow along the Potomac River in Fairfax Co., but supporting specimens currently appear to be lacking. It tends to do best in full sun to part shade with moist, rich soil. In nature, it is most often found growing in wet swampy areas. The silky dogwood (Cornus amomum P. Mill.) has a red/purple twig and is native to our area. American Holly (Ilex opaca Aiton var. opaca) is native to our area! It is common in the Coastal Plain and Piedmont areas but infrequent in the mountains. The digital Atlas of Virginia Flora is a great resource for checking what is native to our area: https://vaplantatlas.org/index.php?do=start&search=Search

Soil test kits

    Date Posted: Thu, Dec 28 - 3:33 pm

    Question

  • Hello! I live in Richmond and would like to get a soil test done. Are there any free programs like the one for Henrico County residents?
  • Answer

  • Most of the Richmond Public library branches should have soil test kits in stock. You can call ahead or stop by to ask for one. If you need any more information about getting good samples the Virginia Cooperative Extension has a great resource here: https://www.soiltest.vt.edu/content/dam/soiltest_vt_edu/PDF/urban-sampling.pdf Happy gardening!

Japanese Spirea

    Date Posted: Tue, Oct 10 - 5:24 pm

    Question

  • My japanese spirea has large dead sections that I just trimmed back. I don't see any bigs. Any ideas? And should this be cut way back in fall?
  • Answer

  • Maintenance pruning for spirea can be done anytime of year and damaged or dead branches should be removed as you see them. When removing these branches, be sure to prune back to a point where the branch is still healthy, or back to the ground if the damage occurs throughout the length of the branch. An overall pruning can be done in late winter, just before new leaves begin to appear. Dwarf varieties (which typically grow 1-3ft tall) can be cut back to 4-6" above the ground. Taller growing varieties can be cut back to 10-12" above the ground. Without more information, it is difficult to say what might be causing the dead sections on your plants. These plants do not require a lot of water, and typically do well on rain water alone unless there is an extreme period of drought. You could monitor your soil to be sure it is draining well and not staying too soggy and moist which could lead to disease issues. One thing to keep in mind about Japanese spirea is that it is a non-native invasive plant. It has small seeds that can last for years in the soil making it very difficult to control. Once Japanese spirea is established outside of its intended areas, it can quickly crowd out native species. Unfortunately, the best control method is to remove existing plants. There is a native spirea that could be considered as a replacement: white meadowsweet (Spiraea alba). I hope this information helps you! Happy gardening!

Maples for Urban Landscaping?

    Date Posted: Thu, Sep 28 - 12:43 pm

    Question

  • I need to replace a diseased Dogwood. I was thinking of a Maple tree but I am concerned of the root system. There are so many varieties of Maple, I don’t know where to start. The new tree would be giving shade to a front porch and two Hydrangeas. Can you give some guidance?
  • Answer

  • This is a great question. Generally, maples are known to have shallower root systems, but it can depend a lot on the soil conditions. A few things to think about when you are selecting a tree for this space are if the tree is being planted near sidewalks or a driveway, what your soil conditions are like, the amount of sun or shade it will get, and also to look up for power lines. Red maples are generally faster growers and are also native to our area, but they may have shallower root systems. Japanese maples tend to be slower growing but are not native. Sugar maples are also an option but you would want to be sure to select heat tolerant varieties for the Richmond area. Another alternative is Yellowwood. They have nice big leaves, beautiful form and flowers, tolerate the heat and don't get too big. The University of Illinois Extension has a great tree selector tool that you may also find useful: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/treeselector/search.cfm Good luck!

Stunted vegetable garden

    Date Posted: Sat, Aug 12 - 6:55 pm

    Question

  • My vegetable garden has been stunted in its growth this summer and I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do differently. I think we may have some Red Thread in the yard.
  • Answer

  • I think many local vegetable gardens have experienced some stunting this year. The prolonged cooler weather we had at the beginning of the summer seemed to have a big impact on plants that were put in the ground in late April and May. In addition, we have had several periods with very little rain to help keep gardens watered which has also been having an impact. Before planting next year, its a good idea to do a soil test to see where your soil could use some support. Soil tests are available through the master gardeners at your local library. You can use these results to ensure you are planting in a robust healthy soil that is ready to provide a good home to your plants. Also, if you aren't already doing this, I would suggest fertilizing your garden with an organic fertilizer. Organic fertilizers slowly release nutrients giving a steady supply of food to your plants without disrupting the work of earthworms and other beneficial organisms. Follow the recommendations on the label for frequency of fertilizing. I'm not aware of nor have I been able to find any literature on red thread having an impact on anything other than turf grass. I'm not sure if you mentioned that in correlation with your concerns about your vegetable garden or as a separate concern. However, if you were looking for recommendations to deal with the red thread as well, fungicides are not usually advised for red thread control on residential turf for various reasons. The disease is largely cosmetic. Unless environmental conditions that promote disease development persist for extended periods, the turf will recover — usually with no lasting effects of infection. Good luck and happy gardening!