Fall garden Q&A: Keeping out pests, pruning trees and lots of lawn care advice

Washington Post Gardening columnist Adrian Higgins answered questions recently in an online chat. Here is an edited excerpt.

Q: What can the home gardener do about clover taking over a lawn? Last year, I fought crabgrass, and this year, it’s clover. Crabgrass was easier to pick out by hand. Any easier, earth-friendly remedies?

A: Clover isn’t so much a weed as a state of mind. If you come to regard it as a desirable component of the lawn, you won’t have to keep fighting it. Yes, there are herbicides that work against it, but it actually feeds nitrogen into the soil, is an important nectar source for pollinators and only gets expansive when the lawn is allowed to thin. Live with it, but push it back by overseeding the lawn.

Q: What is the best time to prune trees (suckers from plum trees and extraneous branches from a Japanese maple in a pot)? And must the cuts be treated with anything after pruning?

A: Most pruning of deciduous plants is best done during winter dormancy, not least because you can see the structure of the tree or shrub much better then. Other good times to prune are after the flush of spring growth and also right after flowering, so that you don’t affect bud set for the following season. One of the worst times for pruning is over the next few weeks, when cutting back could induce fresh new growth that will be susceptible to frost damage. Wound treatments are no longer recommended.

Q: I have about 40 Knock Out roses. Some have branches that look stressed: lighter green leaves and rust-colored spots. What can I do to address this? And on a related note, would this be a good time to fertilize the roses?

A: I have reached a point where I can’t look at another Knock Out rose. If you enjoy this overplanted magenta flowering shrub, more power to you. You might lay a modest top dressing of rose feed to keep its floral cycles going through the fall. This variety is prone to rose rosette disease, spread by mites. Remove infected plants to curtail its spread.

Q: This August, crabgrass has taken over my lawn. What steps can I take now to minimize the problem next year?

A: Crabgrass is a direct result of lawns that are too thin. Thick, lush lawns are your best bet against weed infiltration. Crabgrass is an annual, so you can either spot-treat or simply hoe them now, but you will have to renovate the lawn to address the problem. Count on using a pre-emergent herbicide in early spring with follow-up applications.

Q: I have a 25-by-25-foot community garden plot that I have divided into quarters, and I rotate my beds each year for a four-year rotation. But for a garden that small, is rotation actually beneficial?

A: Rotation is desirable but almost impossible in such a small garden. I would move varieties around as best you can, but if you see

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Caren Rideau Designs a Pattern-Filled Kitchen With Lots of Function

When, after nearly a decade of slowly renovating the rest of their home, a Pacific Palisades, California, family of seven finally faced their kitchen, they turned to their go-to designer, Caren Rideau, founder of the Kitchen Design Group, with a request to rework it into a multifunctional room.

caren rideau
This dramatic Waterstone faucet is one of four in the room.

Meghan Beierle-O’Brien

Well, they had a few more specific requests too. “They wanted a place for coffee, an area for wine. A walk-in pantry. A drop-off zone for the kids. And most important, direct access to the backyard,” says Rideau. “We weren’t adding square footage, so we needed to get a lot into this space.”

Since the family eats and cooks together nearly every night, and mom in particular is an avid pasta maker, Rideau chose a 60-inch BlueStar range “that can handle commercial-size trays,” and added a pot filler so she wouldn’t have to lug heavy vessels back and forth. The island serves as a prep area for making lunches and dividing up the wares from their weekly Costco runs, while three sinks and three dishwashers mean everyone can pitch in on cleanup.


Meghan Beierle-O’Brien


Meghan Beierle-O’Brien

caren rideau kitchen tour
Accordion glass doors retract to increase the family’s hangout space.

Meghan Beierle-O’Brien

A Serene Color Story
Cabinetry from Caren Rideau’s colorful Frida Collection allows white accents like her custom range hood and Circa Lighting pendants to pop. Catania cement tiles from Veranda Tile Design anchor the cooking wall, while brass rails give access to upper storage via a ladder stashed in the adjoining room. Sink: Rohl. Hardware: Emtek. Wine storage: Sub-Zero.

Practicality is key, but plenty of attention was paid to showstopping color and pattern. It didn’t take much convincing to get the clients on board with the tranquil blue palette from Rideau’s Frida line of cabinetry, but the tile was a different story. “They loved it, but wanted to use it in a ‘little way,’ like on a pantry floor,” she says. Instead, she took it from countertop to ceiling. Rideau’s mantra is, “If you love it, you should see it!” And now, the kitchen feels as joyous as its inhabitants.

caren rideau kitchen tour
A larder off the pool area can handle wet feet and dirty dishes. Faucet: Waterstone. Tile: Waterworks. 

Meghan Beierle-O’Brien

caren rideau kitchen tour

Meghan Beierle-O’Brien

caren rideau kitchen tour
Closed storage keeps (most of) the hobby chaos out of sight. 

Meghan Beierle-O’Brien

caren rideau kitchen tour
The “sommelier center” has all the accoutrements for adult nights in. 

Meghan Beierle-O’Brien

Bigger Splash

You can do better than subway tile. Read: detailed mosaics, graphic tiles, or full-surface slabs.


Meghan Beierle-O’Brien

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Lots of sunshine on tap for Labor Day weekend in the Garden State

The Garden State is the place to be this Labor Day holiday weekend as the region is set to experience some awesome weather following a spate of stormy days.

a group of people walking down the street: Beaches and boardwalks along the Jersey Shore are likely to be crowded during the Labor Day weekend, with lots of sunshine in the weather forecast. Pictured here are people walking on the boardwalk in Ocean City, N.J., on July 3.

© Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/Lori M. Nichols | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com/nj.com/T…
Beaches and boardwalks along the Jersey Shore are likely to be crowded during the Labor Day weekend, with lots of sunshine in the weather forecast. Pictured here are people walking on the boardwalk in Ocean City, N.J., on July 3.

Forecasters from the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly on Friday said to expect mostly sunny skies with low humidity and little or no chance of rain through Monday.

“Today will still start off a little muggy and some storms will also be possible this afternoon over Delmarva,” the weather service tweeted Friday morning. “But the weekend into early next week looks quite nice. Dry weather and comfortable temperatures/humidity are expected!”

After some patchy fog Friday morning, the skies will turn mostly sunny with a high around 85 degrees, according to the National Weather Service in Mount Holly.

The weekend looks perfect for outdoor activities, including barbecues and visits to the beach, according to the weather service and other forecasters. They say a dome of high pressure over our region will keep things warm and dry.

Temperatures during the holiday weekend are expected to reach the upper 70s to around 80 degrees, with lows in the upper 60s.

As of now, the next chance for wet weather in the Garden State is Wednesday, when there is a 30 percent chance of showers, according to forecasters.

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Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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