In a recent "Plant Man" column, a reader asked for suggestions to rid
his landscape of snakes without having to kill them. One reader
responded with a fascinating (and non-toxic) idea that you'll find in
this week's column, below.
But first, let's look at some recent questions from readers. Remember,
if you have a question or comment, please send it to
firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll do my best to send you a personal
response and possibly include your question in a future column.
QUESTION: "I have two 3 1/2 month old Bradford Pears. They're part of
new construction. About two weeks ago, the leaves started turning
yellow and falling off. It's been consistent ever since. Prior to
that, the leaves were always green. My wife watered the trees one
evening and the next day they started turning yellow. It's been
downhill since. Any ideas? There was about a three week period where
the trees didn't get very much water before my wife watered two weeks
ago. Is it possible that the trees had not gotten enough water, or
that we over watered?
Thanks for your help." - Kevin Sinclair
ANSWER: It is possible either way! Too much or too little water can
cause the problem you describe. If the trees were purchased in
containers or balled and burlapped ("B and B") as is often the case
with larger trees, you might not have been getting enough water to the
roots of the trees where they needed it. Bradford Pears are pretty
tough and as long as you can get water to the roots you should be
fine. Even if the trees drop all their leaves, they may put back out
this next season.
QUESTION: "I planted a Bloodgood maple this year, but the beautiful
deep red leaves are now mostly green with red edges. is it the soil or
drainage or sun?" Joyce Walker
ANSWER: A true Bloodgood needs good exposure to sunlight to have the
deep red foliage you desire. If it is in the sun and it is still green
leaved, then I suggest you should go back to where you purchased the
tree and let them know.
And now to a message I received from reader E. Stewart, regarding
humane ways to discourage snakes from taking up residence on your
"I read the article regarding snakes and have tried many methods since
the snake population around my yard seemed plentiful. I used Snake
Away, which I bought at Lowe's as well as turpentine and both seemed
OK for a time, but this year I simply planted marigolds.
"At the time I just wanted them because they're so pretty to look at
but a friend told me that they are a natural snake repellant and sure
enough I haven't seen a snake in my yard yet this season. And for my
yard that's amazing since last year they would even be on my porch and
I was afraid to go up my steps at night. I put the marigolds in pots
along my walk & porch steps and you can believe next year they'll be
there as soon as possible." - E. Stewart
ANSWER: So marigolds are making the snakes move on and find a new
habitat! That's a new one on me, and I'm passing it on so other
snake-infested readers can decide if marigolds are worth trying.
In fact, I've been reading about the benefits of marigolds in
controlling mosquitoes, another backyard pest. Some contributors to
blogs (Web logs) claim that merely planting marigolds in containers
will reduce the number of skeeters in the backyard, so the suggestion
above might serve a dual purpose! However, Mark M. Green, a
Polytechnic professor in New York, took the idea one step further.
Green and graduate student Jeff Singer chopped up the flowers, boiled
them in a pot and dispensed the resulting solution in small containers
of water - the breeding habitat of Aedes aegypti. Professor Green
said, "the marigold stuff just killed all the mosquito larvae in
Unfortunately the World Health Organization said they thought that
Green's experiment was impractical for controlling malaria-carrying
mosquitoes on a large scale. You can read the entire report at this
web site: http://www.poly.edu/polypress/mosquitoes_and_marigolds.cfm
and I have included a hot link from my web site. Go to
www.landsteward.org and click on the link in this column under "The
Plant Man" heading.
Remember, your comments and questions are always welcome, and your
fellow readers will appreciate your input!
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to email@example.com and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit