The Plant Man column
for publication week of 01/16/05 - 01/22/05
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
Old newspapers can "smother" wild strawberries!
One of the best things about writing this column is the feedback that
it generates from readers like you.
Recently, I included a question from a reader who was getting
increasingly frustrated by the continued reappearance of wild
strawberries that seemed impossible to eradicate. I asked if any
readers were facing the same problem and if so, what remedies were
they trying. A few days ago I received the following message via
"In response to a previous question regarding wild strawberries, I am
also trying to rid an area of them. I don't want to use chemicals so I
am trying to smother them out by laying down newspaper (3 or 4 sheets
thick, making sure it overlaps) then covering the paper with mulch or
compost. Not only do I hope to kill the wild strawberries (only
because it borders my flower bed) but I am amending the soil at the
same time by adding organic matter. We'll see what happens come
spring!" – Debbie Burgart
Thank you for the idea, Debbie. Please be sure to write again in the
spring and report on your results. Meanwhile, I'll pass on your idea
via this column and my web site in case other readers would like to
try it, too.
With winter upon us, don't forget to refill your bird feeders and
check that the water in your birdbath isn't frozen solid. Birds will
become regular visitors to your backyard once they know you're
providing a reliable source for their food and drinking water.
If you're thinking of putting up your first bird feeder (or adding a
new one) and need some suggestions, drop me an e-mail at
firstname.lastname@example.org Now to some more questions from readers:
QUESTION: "I have three Bradford pears in front of my house, and it
was suggested by a local tree trimmer that I have them trimmed back.
Is this necessary? He was estimating about $400.00 to trim them, and I
don't know if I should get other estimates. One has serious damage
due to straight line winds we had last year." – Karen M.
ANSWER: If the wind has damaged or dramatically altered the shape,
then I do suggest you get some professional help. I should point out
that, under normal circumstances, Bradford pear trees do not need
trimming unless they are beginning to impede the growth of other
plants or perhaps getting close to power lines.
QUESTION: "What do you think of using dormant oil in addition to
Diasiston in the control of insects? The expense of applying the
dormant oil equals the expense of the Diasiston and I wonder if both
treatments are desirable. In other words, is the dormant oil worth the
money?" – John Martinez
ANSWER: The dormant oil smothers the eggs, not allowing them access to
the oxygen they would need for a successful hatch. So yes the oil is
a good thing. Your insecticide kills what has already hatched.
QUESTION: "Steve, a good portion of my yard/lot sits next to a large
sloping hill. Although we moved into our house just over one year ago,
the yard appears to have drainage problems year round, unless the
ground is frozen. The grass is always wet and often drains onto our
sidewalks, leaving mud in its wake. The lawn mower sinks into the
soil, leaving tracks, the dog comes back into the house with muddy
paws, etc. We don't even use our sprinkler system! Our lawn services
has offered to install a french drain to solve the problem. However, I
was wondering if you thought it would be better to try trenching
several paths into the hill, which would feed the run-off to several
storm drains at the base of the hill and edge of our yard?" – Rick
ANSWER: I understand a little about the French drains since we have
them around our home. My wife Cheryl did not want to have a gutter
system on our home so we went with the French drain for a different
Before you go to the expense of a French drain system you may want to
look at some of the new soil conditioner products. Let me know if you
want some information. To answer your question, though, I think the
idea about extra trenching is a good one.
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, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org