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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Difference Between Pruning and Trimming Of the Garden

One of the important tasks of garden maintenance is pruning and trimming of trees. While many of us use these terms interchangeably, there are a few differences that define these actions. Although both involve cutting away foliage and branches of trees and shrubs, the reasons for doing so can be different. Read on to understand the difference between pruning and trimming.

What is pruning?

The term pruning is mostly used in relation to cutting off branches, twigs, buds and sometimes even roots of trees. Dead branches or diseased portions of a plant are pruned to protect the plant and prevent the disease from spreading. Quite often, the utility companies prune the branches growing in the direction of electrical wires. You may have to prune large branches that are overhanging the swimming pool or growing over the roof to prevent them from damaging life and property.

Pruning is done with the help of shears – these are of two types, namely, hand shears and lopping shears. Hand shears are small sized shears that can be used with one hand to cut small branches, twigs and foliage. Lopping shears or loppers have a set of foot-long handles to ease the cutting of higher and thicker branches. Thick tree trunks are pruned with the help of electric tree saws.

What is trimming?

Trimming of trees is generally done to shape the plants to a certain design. Often, gardeners talk about 'trimming' the hedges where they mean clipping the hedge to a certain shape like box-shape or a mound. This process improves the beauty of the plant and promotes a healthy growth. A well-trimmed hedge adds to your yard's appeal.

Plants and shrubbery is trimmed with the help of hedge trimmers. Electric hedge trimmers do an excellent job of shaping your hedges to perfection. A variety of these tools are available with different features. If you're into the lawn care business or maintaining your own garden, these are essential tools to invest in.

Topiary or the art of trimming trees and shrubs for aesthetic purposes is a science in itself. If you're looking to improve the appearance of your garden, get an expert to do the job. Not only will your garden look beautiful, it would also increase the value of your property.

For the folks who are overwhelmed with these aspects of gardening, it is a good idea to get help with pruning and trimming of the garden trees. The service becomes essential if you have a huge overgrown tree that needs cutting back or your garden is ravaged by a storm.

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Enjoy Mild June Days While Planting & Pruning in the Garden

Longer daylight hours and typically cool June weather means this month is the ideal time to plant, prune and make changes in the yard.

Plant Perennials for Summer Flowers: Pick up several of these easy-care perennials are at your local nursery and plant them in June: Spanish lavender, Echinacea, salvia, yarrow and California native iris. All love summer heat and full sun and once planted, they'll continue to bloom through most of fall.

Annuals Add Summer Color Too: Some flowers only bloom in summer and then they're gone for the year. For great splashes of summer color, add these plants to your garden: wax begonias, zinnias, nasturtiums, petunias, marigolds and snapdragons. Because they are temporary, all require little or no maintenance.

Add Succulents To Your Landscape: Succulents provide an interesting contrast to typical garden plants and shrubs. True to their desert origin, they require little watering. Easy-to-care-for succulents include jade plants, blue senecio and agave and aloe varieties. Don't forget colorful and interestingly shaped cactus.

Start A Container Garden: For those without a lot of space for an in-ground flower garden, container gardens provide a beautiful alternative. Start with a well-draining large pot and the right soil. The larger the pot, the less chance your plants will dry out. Place a coffee filter under the drain hole so only water, not soil, runs out. Use an organic potting soil mix especially designed for containers. Just about any flower will work well in a container. Choose flowers based on how much sunlight the container location will receive.

Revamp Your Landscape: While the weather is still mild, now is the time to remove poor performing plants or shrubs. Consider reducing or removing your lawn. Replace your current landscape with native, drought-tolerant plants and ornamental rocks. There are plenty of do-it-your-self plans and design ideas available online.

Check Your Irrigation System: Since you will be watering more in the coming months, check your irrigation system for any line breaks. A drip irrigation system makes the best use of water since water is applied slowly allowing it to reach deep into even the most densely packed soil. A drip system is also more efficient than an overhead spray system because there is no evaporation or runoff.

Protect Fruit From Birds: If birds feast on the fruit in your trees, place bird netting on the top of trees or add brightly colored streamers in the branches to keep the birds away.

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