Is it a good time to prune hearty fuchsia? Ask an expert

It’s the time of year. The gardens are awake and you have questions. For answers, check out Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension Teachers and Master Gardeners respond to questions within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, simply go to OSU Extension Website, enter it and include the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. What is your?

Q: I have a hardy fuchsia in the ground, ‘Queen Esther’. It is just beginning to green on March 27. How much can I cut brown stems?

Also, I have three potted hanging fuchsias that have overwintered well and are beginning to show green at their base. How much, maximum, can I reduce? – Multnomah County

A: For your hardy fuchsias, when new shoots appear on old woody shoots, prune them back to about 6 inches. Also prune weak and dead shoots. When the new growth is about 2 inches long, begin feeding the plant a weak solution of 20-20-20 fertilizer to the rooting area, but not against the stem.

For potted plants, prune branches to the edge of the pot or no more than 6 inches and remove any spindly growth. Cut just above a node where a leaf bud has been or above a branch. – Rhonda Frick-Wright, OSU Expansion Master Gardener

Q: I grew snow peas in a large grow bag last summer. After doing well for the first two months, they were attacked by mites during the heat wave and the plant never really recovered. I emptied the soil from the bag but was wondering if it was safe to reuse the bag this season or is there a chance the mites survived the winter in the empty bag?

Also, any tips for dealing with dust mites if they appear this year? – Deschutes County

A: If you have cleaned your bags following the manufacturer’s instructions, you should be fine. If you want extra protection, soak them for 20 minutes in a solution of 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide to 1 liter of water. Rinse thoroughly. As for keeping them at bay, I enclose an excellent article from the University of Minnesota Extension that explains the life cycle of spider mites and the different commands you can use.

You really need to stay in control because they can multiply quickly. Plus, dust mites love hot, dry summers, so if this summer is like your last, be prepared! – Cristi Jones, OSU Expansion Master Gardener

What causes these brown spots in a lawn?OSU Extension Service

Q: Can you identify the problem I seem to have in my lawn? This area is sunny until about 3 p.m. This is a new problem. – Multnomah County

A: It’s a bit of a strange situation. The only possibilities at this time of year include warm season grass going dormant, fungal disease, grubs, a soil problem, or some type of fertilizer or chemical application that has damaged the lawn. If it was a chemical application, like a herbicide, the dead grass would have been susceptible to the herbicide where the other grass was not (it’s possible).

If it is warm season grass that has gone dormant, you would have noticed a similar thing last winter (although it may be a much smaller area).

It doesn’t look like leatherjacket damage because leatherjackets thin the grass, they don’t brown a lawn like yours. But there are other grubs that could cause this that aren’t common in Oregon. It is possible that it is a fungal disease, but fungal diseases do not usually kill all the leaves. There is more leaf browning or yellowing and the plants survive.

For a soil problem to exist, something should have been spilled on the front lawn and not have killed the grass at the time. This seems unlikely and more likely to cause a problem in the summer.

My recommendation would be to hire a dethatcher in mid-April and heavily dethatch the brown areas in several directions so you can see the ground (not all the grass needs to be removed). If you’re up to it, you can do it by hand, using a steel tine garden rake.

Once the stubble is finished, seed with a grass species of your choice (probably perennial ryegrass). Roll the area or step on the seed to make sure it has good contact with the soil. Lightly sprinkle peat moss on top in a thin layer to cover the seed.

Finally, if it is not going to rain, lightly water the area once or twice a day (once in the morning and once in the afternoon) to keep the seed moist for 7 to 10 days until the seed germinates. After the seed sprouts, fertilize your entire lawn at 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. – Brian McDonald, OSU Extension Turf Expert

ask a specialist

What eats these garden departures?OSU Extension Service

Q: I have started growing spinach, green onion and carrot seeds in an outdoor garden. Something eats the leaves from the seedlings to the stems, first on the spinach then on the carrots. They didn’t touch nearby scallion sprouts or peas growing elsewhere in the garden. The seedlings had their initial two leaves eaten down to the stem, but have since started to sprout new leaves from their centers, so I’m guessing that didn’t kill them thankfully.

They were eaten for several days. New ones would sprout, and the next morning they would be eaten down to the stems again. We have tried to put fences around them and netting over the fence, but it continues. What could be causing this and what can I do to protect the seedlings? The cages are certainly not small enough to keep mice or voles out, although we have a number of neighborhood cats around. – County of Marion

A: From your photos, it looks like you have a rodent rather than an insect. For rodents, traps work best.

Just for future reference, if you think you have flying insects, consider using a floating blanket or very fine mesh fabric. Seal the edges with stones or soil.

For slugs/snails, there are products with iron phosphate (a natural ingredient), which can be sprinkled around your plants. It should be used regularly. Homemade traps also work quite well. – Lynne Marie Sullivan, OSU Expansion Master Gardener

Q: I have read that eucalyptus and/or snow gum trees inhibit the growth of other plants planted nearby. They do this by drawing lots of moisture and nutrients from the soil. The question I have is what is the safe distance to plant other perennials and shrubs to my eucalyptus? And would simply adding fertilizer or compost to nearby plants solve the problem?

I have blueberry bushes planted nearby and want them to produce well as they have in previous years. – Washington County

A: It is true that eucalyptus roots are very good at absorbing moisture, as well as nutrients, from the soil. But blueberries need plenty of water — that is, moist but not soggy soil — to grow and produce abundant fruit. Thus, eucalyptus and blueberries will not be very beneficial neighbors. I suspect the minimum distance eucalyptus and blueberries should be separated is at least a foot or two beyond the drip line of the mature eucalyptus. – Jean Natter, OSU Extension Master Gardener diagnostician

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