Remove dead leaves to prevent mold on groundcover

QUESTION: "I planted pachysandra two years ago under heavy shade trees. It is doing so-so. I now have a lot of leaves and I would like to clean up the area with a blower. Should I cover the plants with leaves for the winter or blow away the leaves? The plants are about 8 inches high." - Sam Crow
ANSWER: Although pachysandra loves organic soil, I would still blow the leaves away and (if necessary) apply an aged compost mix around the base of the plants. Dry leaves that are chopped up make a great mulch to put around plants and in compost. However, fallen leaves that are in shady areas, and usually moist, often mold and become a haven for bugs as well.
The plants should be sturdy enough to take the blowing or you might rake the leaves carefully into the open and then blow them away.
It can take a good 2-3 years for a groundcover to establish itself. If winterburn occurs on your pachysandra, you can rejuvenate it with a mowing, using the mower's highest setting, in early spring only. A good fertilizer would be in the range of 12-4-8.
My wife, Cheryl, fielded the following question that was a follow-up to a previous column.
QUESTION: "I read an article in your newsletter that suggested Epsom salts for crape myrtle. Did you also say that Epsom salts were good to get lilac to bloom? I may have gotten confused!" - Laura Fraser
ANSWER: Epsom salts is good for not only crape myrtles, but other trees, shrubs, roses, perennials, and vegetables. Due to erosion and lack of topsoil in many areas, many nutrients are lost. The Epsom salts add sulfur and magnesium back into the soil for the plants.
Use about 1/2 cup of salts per gallon of water over five or so of the plants every 4-6 weeks. It doesn't hurt even when leaves are on the plants for it to hit them, as it will just absorb it through the leaves.
Previously in this column, I included a Q&A about insects that looked like ladybugs but in fact were not. Here, again, is that Q&A, followed by a recent comment from another reader. QUESTION: "I was reading your suggestion to keep wasp away, and I was wondering if you have any for ladybugs. Yes, I know ladybugs are a good thing but you know what they say about too much of a good thing. Everyone that has a place near a wooded area is having problems with these bugs. They can work their way around weatherstripping on doors and windows and never go away once inside your home. HELP!" - Don
ANSWER: We have the same problem. The critters that you are referring to probably are not "real" ladybugs, but migrating bugs that really become a problem at one time of the year. We have sprayed with a lot of different things but nothing seems to work for us either. The only thing I can tell you is they bite and your only defense is a fly swatter. I will post your question on www.landsteward.org and maybe someone else will have a solution.
And someone did!
COMMENT: I am responding to the query about how to control an infestation of ladybugs in the house. When we moved into our current house about three years ago, there were a lot of these insects inside the home. They would congregate in clumps around the windows and door frames, especially in the fall when the weather changes. We found a simply solution: We vacuumed them up with our household vacuum. Now, three years later, they are no longer a problem. Every now and then I will see one or two bugs, but the infestation is history. - Cassandra Niemczyk
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs and landscaping to snipped-for-privacy@landsteward.org and for resources and additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org
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The leaves would be great for the soil.
If you could get some composted leaves you might top dress over the pac. Would help your tree.
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Sincerely,
John A. Keslick, Jr.
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