Can you tell me your golden rule of pruning flowering plants again? I always get that confused. Sure! As a general rule of thumb, for the interest of the flower, prune spring flowering trees and shrubs after they finish flowering (yes, there are exceptions to the rule, including fruit trees); they flower on last year’s growth. If the plants flower in the summer (after June 1), go ahead and prune those plants in the spring; they flower on new growth. If you are not concerned about the flowers on spring flowering plants, they can be pruned early spring before they leaf out.

When can I move my houseplants back outside? -When the weather becomes more consistent staying in the upper 60’, 70 and higher day and night. And be sure to acclimate them to being back outside – shady protected spot for several days, then semi sun, then sun. Otherwise they will scorch from the sun and turn white! See it happen all the time.

I have some lower limbs that need to go on a silver maple. Will it hurt to trim it now? -Nope. You may see it bleed a bit, but that will stop. DO NOT use tree paint or tree wound dressing on the cuts. And be sure to leave the branch collar when making the final cut. That’s the raised area on the trunk where the branch extends out. That raised area (collar) is responsible for sealing the wound.

I’ve been told to not put citrus and onions in my compost pile because it would repel the earthworms. Have you heard this before? -There are plenty of mixed opinions about this, and I can see the concern, especially in smaller compost piles. But for larger compost piles, and if the onions / citrus are cut up into smaller pieces, to break down quicker, I think you’ll be just fine – and so will the worms. (Same goes for smaller piles if used in moderation.) And if you feel it repels your worms, simply don’t throw onions and citrus in the pile. By the way, if you’d like a really easy way to grind up those citrus peels, onions, and other kitchen scraps headed to the compost pile or worm tubes, take a look at the Green Cycler. Unique kitchen appliance that chops and stores your kitchen until the bin fills, then take it outside and dump into the compost pile, worm tubes, compost pockets, etc. I have one, and my daughter / 3 year old grandson have one and Kellen loves turning the handle and grinding the kitchen waste. 

I haven’t planted my onions or potatoes due to the soils being cold and wet. Am I too late? -Heck no! Just be ready to plant when the soil dries enough to plant. But do not push it! Make sure the soil is not too wet for tilling or digging in – trying to till or plant before the soils dry properly can spell disaster for the soil and the plants. And yes, both can be grown in containers if you’d like.

I’d love to grow blueberries but I understand our soils aren’t the best for blueberries. Can I grow them in containers? -Yes, yes you can! An 18-24 inch container works great. And you can grow any of the blueberries in pots. But look at ‘TopHat’, ‘Peach Sorbet’, ‘Jelly Bean’, which are dwarf blueberries, mid summer produces, nice plants, 24-30 inches high and wide (or smaller), and grow great in containers. Add plenty of peat, pine fines, and soil sulfur to get the pH of the potting soil down to 5 or lower.

I’d love to get my kids growing a few things this year – maybe something that they can eat. Suggestions? -Container gardening is a great way to get kids involved with gardening. Give them their own container and let them plant their own garden. Herbs are really easy to grow. But look at everbearing strawberries. You can grow them in hanging baskets or regular pots, and they will flower and fruit all summer so the kids see and have something to eat all summer long. Potatoes in a pot, patio tomatoes, cucumbers, all the greens – so many things that kids would enjoy can be grown in containers. Ps. Roberta Paolo planted Raspberry Shortcake in the kids education garden because its dwarf and thornless – perfect for the kids!

I noticed these swollen black lumps on the branches of my cherry tree. What is it and what can I do for the tree? -This is called Black Knot; an airborne disease that only affects plants in the Prunus genus, namely cherries and plums, fruiting and ornamental. The infected area eventually girdles the branch and it dies. If you notice one or two of these knots on the branches, prune them out about 6-12 inches below the knot and burn or destroy those pieces. Fungicidal sprays (Fungonil and Mancozeb) can be tried (spray every 10-14 days as buds break and open – for about 4-5 sprays), but aren’t always that effective in helping control it. If your tree is covered with it, I’d suggest you cut it down.

I’m seeing a blue green fungus growing on the bark of my trees. What is it and how do I get rid of it? -It’s called Lichens, and is an unusual combination of algae and fungus growing together on top of the tree bark. Very natural and not a health threat to the tree – just leave it be. By the way, if you really wanted to do something about it because it really bugs you, spray it with ‘Wet and Forget’. (Natorp’s Outlet now sells ‘Wet and Forget’ and ’30 Seconds’ Cleaner!)


My Endless Summer hydrangeas are now leafing out down low, and I see some dead branches and tips. How do I prune them? -Fortunately, the Endless Summer series of hydrangeas flower on old and new growth, but we want to save as much of the old growth as we can. So remove old flower heads, dead branches or dead and weakened branch tips, clipping them off just above a bud. Go back as far as needed to get rid of all dead wood. Feel free to feed them with a general garden food or Holly Tone, and let them grow and flower.