QUESTION: "Are you supposed to mow down daylilies and [ornamental]
grasses? If so, should it be done in the fall or in the spring? I
planted blue fescue last year and have not mown down at all yet. I also
planted new grass this spring but I don't remember the name. I have
several daylilies and some are quite old. I have never mowed them."
- Pat Nalty
ANSWER: With regard to the daylilies, you can mow them down anytime
now, if you wish. An alternative would be to dig them up, divide them
and then replant them to increase the coverage. Doing this now would
give them a chance to settle in to their new environment during the
When it comes to grasses, annual grooming is all that is needed,
usually at the end of winter as the new grass is beginning to emerge.
QUESTION: "I recently planted 25 Old Fashioned Lilacs to enhance an
existing hedge after professional removal of some invasive buckthorn.
The lilacs are struggling despite watering, fertilizing when planting,
etc. Is there something I can do to encourage more growth than just a
few leaves at the top of each stem and revive the 6 stems that sprouted
a few leaves initially and now are bare?
"We had unusually hot weather for many weeks which may have been a
factor. I'd appreciate any suggestions you may have." - Lois
ANSWER: The hot weather could indeed be a factor. There is another
possibility. If the buckthorn were very close to the lilac when they
were removed, the lilac could have gone into shock. You might want to
put bone meal around the roots of the lilac to help regenerate a better
root system for the following spring.
Now, here's a comment from a reader concerning an answer I gave
recently concerning ways to deter snakes. The original question
concerned ways to keep snakes away from a camp site and I suggested
COMMENT: "I look forward to reading your articles each week, but was
a bit unsettled by an answer you gave concerning snakes.
"Moth balls are not the best solution to deter snakes from an area.
The snakes are attracted to the area because of the habitat and what it
provides for them. They are either finding shelter or food and the best
way to deter them is eliminating these things. By eliminating brush
piles or dense under story plantings the snakes and their food sources
will not have shelter.
"Moth balls do deter many creatures, but they also poison things
unnecessarily. Mammals are deterred more often then amphibians (highly
sensitive to chemicals) and reptiles.
"I'm not against the use of chemicals, but using them unnecessarily
with ill effects on other creatures, including us, sometimes is not
necessary." - Michelle Migliore
ANSWER: You are correct in your answer and the solution you describe is
certainly a bit more humane and environmentally responsible! I will
pass this along to other readers.
QUESTION: "We are starting to build on our lake lot that is mostly
wooded. When we go in to fill in the lower areas, how much soil can we
add around trees without damaging the tree? Does it depend on the type
of tree? We have oak, basswood and iron wood." - Bill Schroers
ANSWER: In my experience, if you put soil at the base of the tree to a
depth of more than a couple of inches you risk killing them.
A better idea if you need to raise the level of the ground is to build
wells around the trees extending 3 to 4 foot from the trunk and them
add your fill dirt outside the wells. You might want to get a local
tree expert to look at them before you start.
Remember the roots of a tree extend out towards the drip line, perhaps
20 feet or more and a tree gets most of its water and nourishment from
the top 12 inch layer of soil. If you cover that up it can produce dire
The Plant Man is here to help. Send questions about trees, shrubs and
landscaping to email@example.com. For resources and additional
information, or to subscribe to Steve's free weekly e-mailed
newsletter, go to www.landsteward.org