If neighborhood cats or other critters are digging in your flower
beds, try this neat tip from reader Nancy Jones:
"I have tried something I read about to help keep the neighbors' seven
cats out of my side flower garden where the soil is loose and rich
with peat moss and they love that for their personal bathroom. "I go
to an apartment complex near my house and gather up laundry baskets of
pine cones and then spread them around in my garden. This seems to
work. "I have noticed the fecal matter problem has disappeared since I
started doing this. Of course, it will need a little renewal of the
pine cones, but they seem to last and last. "I should say that I don't
put them down really thick. I just sort of sprinkle them around the
plants. The reason this is supposed to work is because the cats don't
like the feeling on their little paws. I have done this for about ten
years and it works for me!"
QUESTION: "My husband & I planted a Bradford pear tree in our front
yard when we built our house six years ago. We don't have a sprinkler
system and the yard gets direct sun most of the day. The tree has not
grown much in this six year period. Our next door neighbor planted the
same type of tree after ours and theirs is huge.
"We planted two autumn maples two years ago and they are not growing
either. We are concerned that we did not dig the holes wide enough and
that the roots are not spreading as they should. What do you think? If
the holes are not wide enough, can we dig around the trees to widen
the holes?" - Sheri Brooks
ANSWER: Maples are slow growing trees, so don't count on a lot of
activity (at least noticeable activity) with them for awhile.
Regarding the Bradford Pear, if it is producing any growth at all,
then what you are seeing may be the plant's natural growth rate. Is
the tree beginning to bloom in early spring, followed by normal
leafing out? If it is, then it has settled into a slower growing
All factors would be based on the environment, which will include
maintenance, unless you have noticed any health issues with the tree.
Although it is difficult not to make comparisons with your neighbor's
tree, plants are living things just like people and will grow and
develop at their own rate. I wouldn't recommend digging around the
tree's root system as you suggest because you are likely to cut off
growth that the tree has made over the past 6 years.
If you believe that there is a problem with the plant, you can contact
your local Conservation District Office (also known as NRCS) which
will be listed in your local phone directory under your state's
department of agriculture.
QUESTION: "I have an amateur greenhouse and want to start some seeds.
Every time I have started seeds in the past they come up spindly and I
still don't know what I need to do to correct this.
"I have panoramic light, air circulation and regulated heat, as well
as good humidity. All my plants I winter in the greenhouse thrive in
these conditions. Thanks for any info!" - Bonnie Meador
ANSWER: When seeds are allowed to sprout and grow too fast they become
spindly. Once the seeds have sprouted they need to be "tempered" by
placing them into a less desirable environment. In your case you could
try cutting back on the water and reduce the humidity by taking the
extra hothouse-type screen off the top. The environment in the rest of
the greenhouse works for your developed plants but is not good for
your new sprouts once they come up. It just sounds as if you are
babying them too much after they emerge. Just cut back some on the
water and nutrients until they begin to fatten up.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to firstname.lastname@example.org and for resources and
additional information, or to subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed
newsletter, visit www.landsteward.org