Protect your landscape from unwanted critters this winter


Winter’s upcoming arrival means lots of hungry herbivores laying waste to your landscape. Mike McGrath discusses how to best protect your plants from deer, rabbits, voles and other vandals.

Question of the Week

“In the Spring I planted two Pinky Winky ‘hydrangeas in “standard” form, meaning there’s a four-foot-high trunk before they branch out. The trunks are about two inches in diameter and the nursery told me to be sure to protect the bark from deer over the winter. What kind of protection would be safe to wrap around my Pinky Winky trunks?”

Gail in Traverse City, Michigan

Learn how to protect your plants against pests in the winter »

Highlights from show for November 22, 2014:

Reclaiming your elderberry bush

Ken from Reading, PA is trying to grow an elderberry bush from a graft of a plant he’s had for about 3 years. He’s allowed it to flourish up to 20 feet high, which has become unmanageable for him. Mike assures Ken he can, “remove all the suckers coming up from the base of the plant this winter”, and to “remove a third of the plant” every year for the next 3 years to keep at at a manageable height. Mike also throws in a tip about not mangling it with pruners too much for the best fruit will sprout from the old wood, and by doing this, he will obtain rich, bountiful harvests. These plants always do best when pruned during the Winter.

How to get rid of bed bugs

In San Antonio, TX, Sandy’s apartment has been infested with bed bugs for the last three months and she would like to get rid of them. Mike suggests performing a heavy duty vacuuming process and informs her that bed bugs do not live in your bed, but in the floor and in cracks they live in. However, they crawl up in one’s bed and attack and retreat to their original location. Mike recommends filling up small containers such as cat food cans or margarine tubs with soapy water or vegetable oil, and place the bed post in them to catch these pests before they reach the bed. It is said to be tremendously effective, says Mike and will free Sandy of these bugs.

What to do for your Yew

Clifford from Medford, NJ is curious as to why his Yew bushes, he’s had for 20 years, have not been doing well. He says new growth begins to die and the green needles have been turning yellow, beginning at the tips, and working its way up to the wood which triggers the whole needle to die and eventually the whole branch. Mikes advice to Clifford would be to get rid of the wood mulch, and put an inch of compost all around the plants for that can help amend the PH of the soil. For the Winter, Mike urges, pruning the branches severely at the end of the season of beginning of Spring. In addition, Clifford can cut them back about a third over the next 3 years to restore them.

Improving the health of your burning bush

Amy in Upper Bucks County, PA has a burning bush that has only gained about a quarter of its leaves back after the Winter season, she wishes for her bush to be fully covered in leaves, as it was prior to last Winter. Mike encourages Amy to mulch the plant when it re-grows in the Spring, with an inch of compost and remove the grass that is around, or on the trunk of the bush. If she follows the procedures Mike has provided for her, the bush will get healthy again and she will be able to regain what she lost last Winter.

Harvesting your cinnamon tree

Jerry in Cambridge City, IN is worried about killing a cinnamon tree if he took some bark off of it to make cinnamon with it. Mike enlightens Jerry that cinnamon trees are cut down as if they are cutting them for timber, and the bark is stripped and processed and harvested. In a few years, the tree will be re-grown and it’s then possible that the new growth will provide better cinnamon due to the tree being younger, and fresher. Therefore, the same tree will provide the same bark over, and over again.

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