Master Gardener – Answers

Master Gardener

Virtual Help Desk

Get help straight from two Master Gardeners

Newly Answered Questions

Have a question? Submit your question above, search our database of gardening know-how or browse our list of newly answered questions.

First | 1 2 3 4 | Last

Fall Planting

    Date Posted: Thu, Sep 23 - 6:46 pm


  • We are looking for advice on planning for the front of the house as we just took out a bunch of old bushes. I saw where Chesterfield, Hanover and Henrico have a master gardener that comes to your house. Is there anyone who can help us out in Richmond? Thanks, Andrea
  • Answer

  • Good afternoon, and thanks for your question! At this time, we are not providing onsite garden consultations due to the pandemic, but I would be happy to provide some advice over the phone. We can talk about your space size where you'd like to do your planting, direction orientation (i.e. north facing, or other), plant type preferences, and other details that would help me provide some recommendations and advice on planting. If you'd like to take this approach, feel free to email me at and I'll respond and we can set a time to discuss over the phone. Thanks again for your question, and I hope to hear from you!

Recyling Plants

    Date Posted: Wed, Sep 15 - 12:39 am


  • Hello, Where can I recycle live plants in good condition?
  • Answer

  • Hello there, What a good question, thanks for bringing this to our attention! I reached out to some other master gardeners and we've come up with a few options. The first one would be to post your available plants on Facebook Marketplace (I realize that not everyone is on FB so this may not work), a second option might be Craigslist, a third is Lewis Ginter-they will take plant donations but I believe it will depend on what plants you have available. I would also encourage you to ask your neighbors, some neighborhoods have informal plant swaps and that would be a great way to find a new home for your plants and maybe meet some new neighbors. Your question got us all thinking about ways to organize plant exchanges, so stay tuned for new developments. I hope your generosity is duly rewarded!

Transplanting an English boxwood

    Date Posted: Mon, Sep 13 - 6:56 pm


  • Instructions for moving English boxwood
  • Answer

  • Hello there, This is the right time to be thinking about moving plants though I wouldn't actually move it until we hit a spell of cooler weather. I happened upon a useful link that describes the process better than I could. The link is from the magazine Southern Living and includes photos. It looks like a good guide. Best of luck.

Schip laurel

    Date Posted: Mon, Sep 13 - 6:48 pm


  • This is a response to the question about Schip laurel. Assuming poor drainage isn't the issue, you can drop off a sample at the Henrico Cooperative Extension off at 8600 Dixon Powers Drive. This is how the agent described the sample material to submit. 'We need what we call the good, bad and ugly. We don’t want just a dead portion. We want the sample to include the transition from bad to good.' You could also check out this link below from the University of Md. that lists several problems that might occur with a Schip laurel planting. Good luck!
  • Answer

  • Answer is in the preceding question format.

Sckip Laurel wilting and drooping

    Date Posted: Tue, Sep 07 - 4:11 pm


  • I have some skip laurels that are wilting and drooping. There are two large shrubs in the midst of 30 total. One that is really bad is between two that are perfectly healthy. These were planted about 13 years ago. I lost one last year. That was a new plantings. This one is old and the surrounding shrubs are fine. I’d like to get a sample sent to a lab to test for a bacterial or fungal infection and or have someone come out to take a look I’m happy to take pictures and send it please let me know you can call me at 415-417-9997 that is my cell phone or email is fine too thanks look forward to your response.
  • Answer

  • Hello there, Sorry to hear this. This plant is generally without problems as you know. I've reached out to an extension agent to get the process of getting your sample to the clinic in the works. It may take a little longer than usual since Richmond is without an agent at the moment. I've reached out to Henrico. If you don't see a posting here with that information in several days, please send me another email as a check in. Thanks for your patience. I hope we can get you the answer you need.

Master plan-ADA compliant gardens

    Date Posted: Sun, Sep 05 - 9:31 pm


  • Hello, I am moving from London to Richmond. While I have won awards for garden design, now, I am a handicapped senior. I want a parterre, which is ADA compliant, and am looking for a master gardener to help create. Whole property is 4 acres, 2 lawn, full sun. Where would I find master gardeners around Richmond who know best plants/roses/ilex for the region. Also, any other ADA gardens? Thank you.
  • Answer

  • Hello there and welcome to Richmond! Your project sounds intriguing though outside of the work typically done by Master Gardeners in Richmond. It seems you are looking for a master plan of your new property to include hardscape and gardens for a 4 acre property. Master Gardeners work to educate and work with the public on community projects. You may want to check in with the Virginia Society of Landscape Their website will connect you with designers and there are lots of photos from various designers to aid in making a choice. I can't say I know of any ADA compliant gardens myself but I have reached out to another organization to see if they have information that would be useful for you. I will let you know what I find. In the meantime it would be helpful to research the zone you will be living in to see if the plants you have in mind will thrive in your new landscape. The zones for Richmond are 6b to 7a. And sometimes micro-climates provide a situation for plants outside these zones. Please send me another message as a check in so I will be able to give you an update. Allow some time for the other organization to get back to me. Best of luck with this project, It's very exciting!


    Date Posted: Fri, Aug 27 - 3:36 pm


  • 1) I have rampant overgrowth of wisteria, as well as more limited poison oak in an area covered by pine straw, ornamentals on perimeter of area, but worst parts are distant from these bushes. 2) Also widespread seeding from a mimosa (since cut down, but too late) throughout the front lawn. I'm averse to using Round-Up, and wonder if you can offer solutions and guidance. Many thanks! Catherine Davis
  • Answer

  • Hello there, There's a lot do here. The wisteria should probably be dug up and put in the trash. They are rampant vines. I have seen some people do an excellent job of training them and keeping them in bounds. It all depends on your maintenance tolerance. If they are left to run wild they will climb trees and kill them over time. The poison oak (which I think is actually native but no one actually wants it in their yard) should probably be smothered. I understand you not wanting to using Round-up or a similar product, I wouldn't use it either. If they are young and small plants depriving them of sunlight, water and nutrients will over time kill them off. It could take several months but doing it now with this hot weather will help the soil heat up to kill the plants. Tarps, cardboard, plastic sheeting, these should all work. This process works best in sunny sites, you didn't mention the exposure. I've also had success using straight white vinegar on any plants that survive and re-sprout. And of course, be sure to wear protective clothing, head to foot, any time you are working with poison oak or ivy and put the clothes in your waster with hot water when you're done. As far as the mimosa seedlings, I can only imagine hand pulling them. I don't know the area in question but using vinegar in your lawn will damage the grass and I'm sure you don't want that. Hand pulling is one of the most effective methods to use when possible because you can often get the root of the plant out. Having a good thick ground cover is the best bet for keeping out all those unwanted plants. If there's a vacancy, they'll occupy it!! Best of luck Catherine!!

Squash Vine Borers

    Date Posted: Tue, Aug 24 - 1:57 am


  • Hi there! Thank you so much for doing this! I have a couple questions on squash vine borers, which have been a HUGE issue in my garden this year. I have been surgically removing the larvae from my curcurbit vines every few days for over two months now (along the way losing both of my zucchini plants and one patty pan squash plant; now I have one patty pan and 4 pumpkin plants remaining). My questions are: How much longer should I expect new larvae to bore into my plants? And is there anything I can do next season to organically prevent these pests (or perhaps control them in a less laborious fashion!)?
  • Answer

  • Hello! Thank you for your question. It sounds like you have had a challenging season with this difficult pest. Your surgical removal of the larvae is one part of the solution, and it sounds like you have mastered that particular process. There are other things you can do as well. To answer your first question, it is important to understand the lifecycle of the squash vine borer. Eggs will first appear in our area in May, will hatch in early summer, and then the larvae will bore into the squash stem to feed for up to 4 weeks. When the larvae are mature at 4-6 weeks, they will leave the vine and the dig 1-2 inches in the soil to pupate. In our climate, we can sometimes have 2 generations of larvae in a season. So unfortunately, once infested, this pest can present a problem for most of the growing season. In addition to the surgical removal process of the larvae in the stems, you can also use an organically approved insecticide such as Spinosad or Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Apply the product on the leaf stems and the main stem of the plant - do not spray the flowers. Apply one of these insecticides once per week during the growing season. It will kill the borer's eggs and larvae quickly. Again, these are organically approved products, and we recommend staying away from any synthetic, non-organic insecticides. Another method for prevention early in the season is to cover the young plants with a floating row cover until flowering occurs. The row cover will keep out the insect in the critical early part of the season, and will still allow sun, water, and air to get to the plant. Once flowering begins, remove the cover to ensure pollination is not disrupted. If or when you do have an infected vine(s), seal them in a plastic bag before the larvae pupate. This will break the lifecycle of the squash vine borer. And finally, the other important practice is to till under all crop debris after harvest, which also disrupts larvae in the soil, and prevents buildup of the squash borer population. Implementation of these practices should minimize the need for constant surgical removal of the larvae, and yield healthier plants and better crop. Good luck, and please reach out with any other questions!

Squash Bug Control

    Date Posted: Sun, Aug 22 - 3:10 pm


  • I have been having a hard year with squash bugs taking over my zucchini plants. I am wondering if you have any tips on how to prepare the soil this winter to decrease their activity next season. Thank you!
  • Answer

  • Good morning! Thank you for your question. You are certainly a step ahead in that you have identified the pest, and have probably read about effective means to control and hopefully rid many of the insects during the growing season. Nevertheless, they are difficult to eradicate. You are smart to be thinking about ways to overwinter the garden to minimize the problem next spring. Do you use mulch around your zucchini plants? Mulches give adult squash bugs a place to overwinter, and you want to remove that mulch if you have used it. Straw is a better alternative to use around these plants in the growing season. As fall/winter approaches, you want to be sure and clean your garden of old vines, crop, and leaf debris where adult bugs will hide over the winter. Squash bugs will rarely survive cold winters without places to hide. However, Richmond has been known to have very mild winters, and you surely don't want to give these bugs a place to hide. Once you have removed all debris (and mulch, if you have it), till the soil. This also helps eliminate the pests. If you have the room in your garden (which most city properties do not), it is also helpful to rotate your crops year to year to keep down insect population. But the best thing to do is completely clear the garden of all debris for the winter, and till the soil. One tip for next spring/summer, is to place boards or old shingles on the ground next to the garden (especially at night time). Squash bugs love to hide under these, and they make excellent traps for collecting the bugs in the morning, and then placing the bugs in a bucket of soapy water. And of course, regular inspection during the early growing season to collect these bugs from your plants helps as well. But definitely follow the guidelines for garden cleanup and tilling to properly overwinter, and that will certainly get you off to a clean start in the spring!

Sod died-alternative

    Date Posted: Wed, Aug 18 - 2:07 pm


  • We have a very small 200sf area in the front of the house that was previously sod. That grass has died this summer (we think from a fungus) and we are thinking about doing something lower maintenance like a moss. Any recommendations or thoughts on that? The yard is am sun, north east facing, good drainage. Thanks!
  • Answer

  • Hello there! Since your sod failed it would be worthwhile to have your soil tested. You can request a soil testing kit from the local extension office-the phone number for Richmond City is (804) 786-4150. You can check this link for the process: Also ask about the whether the demise of your sod was most likely due to incorrect ph or a fungus. Once you've established your soil's ph (whether it's an alkaline or acidic soil) you'll be able to make informed decisions about what plants to use. If you want to use moss, you'll need soil on the acidic side-5.5. I've included a link about mosses in lawns and how to grow a moss garden. Skip to the section entitled "Moss Gardens" for pertinent information. Here's the link: You'll have to judge how much sun your space receives and whether or not that might be too much for mosses. In lieu of mosses, there are many alternative ground covers. I mentioned a number of them in the post Dog proof ground covers. Often a combination of them can be very pleasing and generally low maintenance. The addition of shrubs with some good mulch can also add interest with minimal upkeep. Enjoy the project!