when variegation reverts, killing goutweed, cucumber wilt, black knot fungus: q&a with ken druse

IS IT TIME to take in the houseplants? That’s just one of the things I compared notes with Ken Druse on during the September session of our monthly Urgent Garden Question feature. Among the other topics we covered: Why do variegated plants sometimes revert to all green? How can we tackle insidious weeds like goutweed? What causes cucumber vines to get crispy and collapse, and what about those black swollen galls on some fruit-tree branches known as black knot fungus?

Ken, an award-winning garden photographer and author of more books than I can count, including “The New Shade Garden” and “Making More Plants,” produced his own “Real Dirt” podcast for 10 years, all available on KenDruse dot com (and still available on iTunes, too).

Read along as you listen to the Sept. 4, 2107 edition of my public-radio show and podcast using the player below. You can subscribe to all future editions on iTunes or Stitcher (and browse my archive of podcasts here). Want to just browse past Q&A shows with Ken and me? They’re at this link.

the september urgent garden question q&a


when to take in the houseplants?


Q. So I’ll get right to the point: I’m thinking about those houseplants, because I’ve had nights in the high 40s most of the last week, and 40 or 41F is forecast tomorrow. I’m like, “I don’t want to do this.” Have you done yours yet?

Bromeliads, clivia and elephant ear in my mudroom for winter.

Ken. Have I done mine yet? [Laughter.] They say you’re supposed to bring your houseplants in when the indoor temperature is the same as they outdoor temperature. Well, that passed—I think the heat went on once. They say you’re supposed to bring them in before the heat goes on inside, and every year I think, “I’m gonna do it; I’m gonna do it by September 15.”

And then I find myself throwing a bed sheet over the indoor plants because the frost warning has come.

Q. You have that bed sheet too, huh? That special bed sheet—I have one in my mudroom closet [Laughter.]

Ken. [Laughter.]

Q. The ideal thing would be to like stage them, move them not from outside to inside but first put them maybe under the overhang of your porch, or in your garage a little while. To let them go slowly into the drier indoor environment.

Ken. And that’s better anyway because when you bring them inside you can arrange them, instead of, “Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.”

Q. [Laughter.] Incoming!

Ken. And then you’d also get a chance to examine them, and make sure you’re not bringing any hitchhikers in.

Q. Oh, dear.

A. I try to keep them off the ground because the worms—oh, worms!—get into the pots and that’s the worst thing.

Q. I know.

Ken. If you think there’s something like that in your pot, what I do is I’ll put the pot into a bucket of water for half a day or something. It overwaters it, but that will drive away a lot of things. Then leave sit out on the porch for a couple of days. This year I swear, I’m going to do it on time—which means soon, very soon.

Q. I know where you’ll be tonight. [Laughter.]

Ken. And there’s another thing: to not repot them.

Q. I think spring for that; I don’t want to do that now.

Ken. Unless it’s a plant that dries out like almost every day and you have no choice. Otherwise try to wait. And don’t feed them until March.

Q. No, no, no.

Ken. You know, one of the popular houseplant potting mixes has fertilizer in it—I won’t mention names.

Q. No names, please.

Ken. And it burns them, or forces growth when they’re trying to sleep. It can kill them.

Q. So we’ve both answered the question: No, we haven’t done it with our houseplants, but we’re thinking about it.

why do some variegated plants turn green?

Q. I have a question from Lucinda on Facebook, who asks:

“What should be a gardener’s approach when a variegated cultivar starts to lose its variegation?” She specifically noticed this with some of her variegated hostas [above], and then, “the variegated Brunnera I loved, also became all green.”

Should she prune away those non-variegated leaves, or is this happening at a more fundamental level. Is there any hope?

Ken. I grow a lot of Brunnera because it’s one of the best plants for dry shade, and we’re always looking for something for dry shade.

Q. Yes. [Other tough plants Margaret uses in dry shade.]

Ken. But I’ll get some kind of fancy one like ‘Looking Glass’ or ‘Jack Frost’ or there’s a new one out called ‘Alexander’s Great’ that’s just beautiful. Some of them are so silvery and a lot of them have silver splashes on the leaves. And I find that after a very short time—a couple of years—that they all look alike.

Q. [Laughter.]

Ken. They’re mostly green, and have a little bit of silver. I think what it is that they’re not really reverting but they are self-sowing.

Q. Yes.

Ken. They’re having a little bit of naughtiness, and new plants come up, and they look like they are just where the old plant was. And especially the really fancy ones don’t seem to stick around.

Q. I’ve read that from like ‘Jack Frost’ forward—the newer cultivars—that they are supposed to be more reliably stable. Some of the earlier ones were not. But then there’s the question that you just brought up of seedlings. Sometimes the plant you bought was propagated by tissue culture, and should be identical to its hopefully stable parent, yes? But if it was a seedling it might not be so stable.

Ken. I think if I got a fancy one this time, I would grow it away from the other ones, in isolation in a place where I can keep my eye on it.

Q. Oh, poor lonely Brunnera!

phoots from Terra Nova NurseryKen. Well, maybe I’ll buy three. [Laughter.] And I’ll watch out for seedlings.

For me they’re so wonderful and durable and do what I need them to do, so it’s OK.

Q. I’m going to look up ‘Looking Glass’ and ‘Alexander’s Great’ because I don’t know those and I’m not a big Brunnera grower, but maybe I will be.  So what’s next on our list to tackle? [Above, left to right: Photos of ‘Looking Glass’ and ‘Alexander’s Great’ from plant breeder and wholesaler Terra Nova Nursery.]

step 1: how to identify pests and weeds

Ken. We’re talking about things people have asked you, so I’m going to put you on the spot. What’s the most often-asked questions besides about tomatoes?

Q. And besides, “Why didn’t my hydrangea bloom after I pruned it?” [Laughter.]

Ken. Oh, I just got that this week.

Q. I know; endless. But that’s OK, because it’s a good question. It’s interesting that you ask, because I was just thinking about this the other day, how a lot of the questions I get are “ready, shoot, aim” kinds of things—where someone says, “I have this, and I am doing this about it.” But what the first “this” is, is a misidentification of the pest or the weed—jumping to conclusions.

They’re looking to me to affirm it, or offer an alternate thing to do, but they already have diagnosed it and that’s where they’ve gone wrong.

An example the other day came from someone named Pat, and she said that the leaves and flowers on two kinds of her Clematis “have been eaten in their entirety by fireflies,” and this happens around August.

Ken. Wow, that’s unique.

Q. And I said to myself, “Margaret…”

Ken. [Laughter.]

Q. I knew that our common Eastern firefly [Photinus pyralis]—I knew she was in the East, too—is carnivorous, so it doesn’t eat plants, right? And so I thought: here’s another example of assuming something because it kind of looks like something you have seen before.

I had another one the other day that was the wild cucumber vine with the frothy white flowers, and not fleece flower or fleece vine—you know what I mean. Things that sort of look alike but they are not the same, and if you want to tackle one or the other it might be a different tactic.

So I said to Pat that I think it’s a blister beetle, and in fact there is a Clematis blister beetle and it behaves in the way she was describing. It’s a similar-looking thing, and how did I figure that out? Because I have Arthur Evans’s field guide to beetles because I’m a field-guide freak. With all my field guides, I can look up any kind of bug, and I love doing that. What about you? What do you use when you’re trying to suss out what something is?

Ken. Talking about that I also thought about something else that people do, about the “ready, shoot…” They think, “If one-third of this chemical…”

Q. Don’t say it!

Ken. “…in the water is OK, then three times as much will be three times as good.”

Q. Will kill it really dead.

Ken. We won’t have to get into that right now.

I find myself in spring, looking at things that are like 6 inches tall and I think, “Is that a plant?” By that I mean is it something I want? It’s right next to something I planted. “Is this something I planted? Is it a weed?”

I’ve been doing this for a really long time, and unless it’s something that I recognize and it turns out to be lettuce or something, some wild lettuce, I’m going to take my field guide out with me, “Weeds of the Northeast.” I don’t know if there are ones for other parts of the country, but a wonderful thing about this book is that it shows you the seedlings when they come up.

Q. I forget his name who wrote that; who the author is.

Ken. Richard Uva, Richard Neal—several people.

Q. That’s been around a long time, and it’s still in the bookstore near me; it still sells that one. If people want to go wider, throughout all of North America, maybe two years ago came “The Weeds of North America.” The authors are Dickinson and Royer, from the University of Chicago Press, and that also has all the seedlings but is in a wider geographic area.

And I think that’s a great point, because a lot of times out tactical approach should start with getting rid of the right seedlings before they are 7 feet tall. [Laughter.]

And with bugs, by the way, I’ll always mention every show that I love BugGuide.net for keying out bugs, and they’ll also help you. So invest in some field guides, I think.

how to get rid of goutweed

Q. I have another listener question for you, Ken, from someone who wrote:

“I want you to know that I almost hung up my trowel in frustration after years of battling the invasive, pervasive, sneaking, impervious to my tweaking goutweed (Aegopodium podagraria).” She wonders if we have any tactical advice besides go hide under the bed with a box of cookies. [Laughter.] Which could be one of the ways to deal with it.

Have you tackled it?

Variegated goutweed and flowerKen. Yes, a little bit of variegated goutweed [above], which isn’t as bad as the solid green, hitchhiked into the garden with another plant from somewhere. Oh my gosh. You can still buy it in the nurseries if you’re insane, and that along with chameleon plant [Houttuynia cordata]…

Q. Uh!

Ken. …are two things I think should be banned everywhere.

Q. Did you say that word: chameleon plant? I have a war to do this weekend; it’s horrible.

Ken. I have a friend who had goutweed, and she tried to get rid of it for many years, and she said, “I’m going to will it to my grandchildren, because it will outlive me.” And she finally moved.

Q. [Laughter.]

Ken. Extreme. It’s a deciduous groundcover, and don’t ever fall for it.

Q. It’s rhizomatous. Its underground structure is very tenacious, so if you just yank it out, it may be gone above the surface but underneath lurk tiny pieces of rhizome that would sprout more plants, right?

Ken. Any little piece is going to come up. And there is very little you can do. You can try digging it out, and we talked about how it breaks off and keeps coming up again. So like every three weeks dig out that variegated one.

As far as that solid green one, if it was planted in an area as a groundcover that you can really handle, herbicide won’t work. I don’t know of any herbicide that will work. But I think that maybe solarization might help, if you want to explain to people what that is.

Q. It’s harnessing the power of the sun, with the device that you use to do that being a piece of black plastic. I love the heavier stuff that I don’t have to throw away after one year; I have some sheets that I have used for many years of the thick plastic, the thicker-mil stuff.

You’ve got to put it on early. You can’t put it on this time of year, at the beginning of September for two weeks, and figure it’s a little sunny out so it killed the stuff. Unh-uh. You really want it to be there for goutweed…

Ken. For the whole summer.

Q. …and maybe next year, too. And some people say to let it sprout, mow or cut it down—so in other words, it’s used some of its energy already to push up from its resources in the roots. Let it do that, then cut it off so you’ve weakened it a little bit, and put the black plastic on so that it’s trying to push the next time under the black plastic in the heat. Now this assumes a sunny situation, which isn’t always the case—I’ve often seen it in the shade. [Note: In shade, you’re not really solarizing as much as depriving the plants beneath the sheeting of light and therefore of the ability to conduct photosynthesis.]

Ken. And if it’s in a bed, good luck.

Chameleon plant, or Houttuynia cordataQ. And that’s a good point, Ken. If you have—and I have that other thing you named that I won’t repeat the name of, grrrrr, the chameleon plant [above]—and that’s gotten into other things. I thought I had it set back, but I didn’t.

So if I want to rescue the other things before I attack this bed the way we were just talking about, I’m going to have to take them out, bare root them, wash their roots. I can’t just dig them up and plant them with soil on them, because I am going to move the invader, too.

Ken. Yes.

Q. So that’s tricky; a tricky thing to do. A lot of people recommend using herbicide as part of the regimen with this damn thing, too—digging, digging, digging, solarizing—in other words attacking it on all levels. I don’t know; I’ve never done that.

Ken. Or move.

Q. You’re going to keep suggesting the moving, are you?

Ken. Well after hearing what you are going to do to it, this is a new career. [Laughter.]

Q. What’s your worst weed—do you have chameleon plant, Houttuynia?

Ken. There was a little chameleon plant when I came to this garden 22 years ago. It was here, and it still is. I’ve done everything I could possibly think of. Well, I’ve give up; I’ve stopped—now I just keep an eye on it and get rid of it when I can, but I don’t see any stopping to it. You can eat it as well, but I haven’t.

Q. I know, and it’s a Chinese herbal medicine kind of thing, and it’s eaten fresh like a green—like a watercress-y thing. But oh it’s a stinky thing, and it’s my worst weed as well. And then I have some woody weeds, like Oriental bittersweet.

Ken. We’ve talked about that before—bittersweet, wow, up the trees. But stiltgrass still is the monster here. And you know I should mention, too: I sometimes have garlic mustard [above], which people say is their worst monster, and I find it very easy to pull. If I haven’t had time and pulled it all, I’ll go around when it starts to flower and cut the flowers off with scissors.

And that’s another thing with the Aegopodium, the goutweed, that you can add to that list of things to do: not to let it go to seed. You’ve go the underground rhizome, the seeds on the top—maybe if you just move your house on top of it.

Q. I think what we’re saying—and we’re being a little bit flip, talking about moving and it being hopeless—but you need tenacity. With any of these, especially rhizomatous tough weeds, we have to be even tougher. It’s going to require a long commitment, realistic expectations and probably multiple tactics. Like I said, if you’re going to put the plastic over, first cut its head off—weaken it, weaken it, weaken it, weaken it, weaken it. Multiple layers; it’s a war.

Ken. [Sighs.]

pickling cucumberscucumber vines get dry and collapse

Ken. We got a cucumber question—and I know you are the edible person.

Q. I like a good cucumber in my salad—I like Greek salad. Is that what the question was about, my Greek salad recipe?

Ken. Sheep versus goat is the question.

Q. I like sheep, OK. [Laughter.]

Ken. We got this question from Sharon in New York State:

“This summer we grew ‘Straight Eight’ cucumbers, and they were looking gorgeous—lots of vines, blossoms, and vegetables.”

Fruits, I’d say, but I don’t want to correct her….

Q .[Laughter.]

Ken. …“We arched a metal wire fence over the raised bed with some twine suspended so the plants could grow up onto the fencing. It was all working according to plan, except the other morning virtually the entire bed had dry brown leaves, with curling edges. We don’t think they’re going to produce any additional cucumbers.”

Q. It’s funny, my neighbor just came over and told me the same thing, last week. She was like, “What’s wrong, what’s wrong?”

When I see that and I didn’t see powdery mildew gradually infest the plant and cause the leaves to decline—kind of an obvious coating on the leaves earlier—I’m betting it’s a bacterial wilt, and that’s spread by cucumber beetles. And you don’t have to have 10 million cucumber beetles, in my experience, to have this.

The adults overwinter, and I believe in their digestive tract they have the bacterium and wake up next year and spread that more—I think that’s how it works. As I told my neighbor, Missouri Botanical Garden has a great website and a wonderful factsheet about wilt in cucumbers.


an aside on panicle hydrangeas

Ken. I think we should think about something a little more cheerful. I don’t mean to change the subject on you, but I’m in love with an old friend.

Q. Oh!

Ken. You know, I’ve taken these plants for granted, but this year—especially at this time of year when everything else is asleep—the Hydrangea paniculata are incredible. They’re fragrant, and the bees love them. I think I’ve got 10 different ones, and all over the area they’re just beautiful. And they’re so easy, and you can cut them back and they’ll bloom.  Maybe you have to run over them to hurt them.

Q. No, run over the goutweed, Ken, not the hydrangeas. They’re wonderful, and I really like the big ones. Last week on the show I was talking to Dan Hinkley, and we were talking about new hydrangeas and ones he loves. And paniculatas—how we both love the big ones that are more like the species, not the little ones being introduced. Yes, they freshen up the garden late in the season.

Ken. The earliest one here is ‘Brussels Lace,’ which is almost finished, and then ‘Tardiva,’ is just coming now.

Q. I love ‘Tardiva,’ it’s a big, beautiful one.

black knot fungus on stone fruit trees

Q. We have 2 more minutes so we can probably do Lenny’s question. He says:

“I’ve got several stone fruit trees (plums and peaches) that are afflicted by black knot fungus. Ever encounter this? Any ideas?” [Photo by Robert L. Anderson, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org.]

I haven’t had it in my garden, but all the wild cherries around me in the woodland around me get it. It almost looks like stretched-out tubes of charcoal around the twigs. It’s fungal.

Apparently attempting any control is a combination of tactics that starts with pruning out and burning or otherwise destroying the twigs with the knots on them—don’t put them in the compost. We have to do that before bud break in spring, because it’s in the moist spring weather that the spores—or maybe they’re technically something like spores, I don’t know [updated note: they are called ascospores]—will move around and spread to new wood, to young twigs.

Most people also probably use a fungicide, and there are fungicides approved for organic use, like lime sulfur. I don’t know about you, Ken, but I don’t do any spraying myself, even if it’s an organic spray. I ask a tree company that practices IPM to come in and do the spraying. I don’t have the gear to do that properly on a large tree.

Ken. A neighbor of mine has that on I think a plum tree, and I can’t even see the bark any more—it’s all knots.

Q. All that’s got to come out. It’s the worst on plums and prunes, and it gets on cherries—and the wild cherries it’s worse on than the cultivated ones. It’s least damaging, I think, on the peaches, ugly but less damaging.

Phew! That’s a lot of questions for one show, Ken.

Ken. We did good.

calling all questions for next month, a theme show on overwintering strategies

cannas ready to put up after storageA PREVIEW: For October’s show, we’re going to tackle the “mad stash” in a themed edition: how to overwinter tender things I call investment plants, from cannas to bananas and who knows what, and keep those houseplants happy, and maybe even where the heck to store all those potatoes or carrots you’re digging, too. Tell us what you’re hoping to successfully overwinter (or store for later eating) in the comments below.

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  1. Jenn says:

    Thank you for the excellent information as always! Chiming in on the goutweed, it’s also evil because the roots can irritate your skin on contact. To eradicate it I had to dig out my entire bed 18 inches deep and sift the soil. Yes, I built a wood frame around some wire mesh and sifted all of those roots out of wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of soil. Luckily I got really good at distinguishing goutweed roots from good plants and was able to save most of the plants in the bed, but it took an entire season of heavy work.

    1. margaret says:

      Oh, Jenn, so sorry. Evil is indeed the word. Didn’t know about the potential irritation, too, thank you. Sounds like you really went at it!

    2. Andrea says:

      I have dug up every plant in a bed 50′ x 15′ three times in 30 yrs and have failed to eradicate goutweed. Herbicides. Gin. Boiling Water. Sifting. In the spring a tiny little piece will appear and try to spread. Only in this one bed. Held in by a metal and granite block edge. Until a helpful spouse dumped a basket of root debris over a stone wall, and 1/3 mile of gout weed now mingle with the bittersweet, invasive roses, winged euonymus, etc.

      1. margaret says:

        Ouch, Andrea, I am sorry it is not relenting. The only people I know who got rid of it used the black plastic for more than a year, through one full or not two growing seasons…along with pulling first, spraying, etc.

  2. Julie from Monterey MA says:

    I was gifted a huge potted jasmine last summer. I brought it into my study last winter, and it barely survived…lots of leaf drop and a very sticky floor (??). It has been happily outside all summer, but I would love suggestions for how I can make its’ upcoming indoor time more successful. Thx!!

  3. Sandy Lentz says:

    Similarly to Julie, I get what I think is scale in my “wintering over” area ( tall benches, mixed warm/cool fluorescents on a 16-hour timer, trays of pebbles with water to up the humidity) in my basement, even though I do all the right stuff before bringing things in from “summer camp”. It particularly bothers a bay plant. I’m about to scrub down the table, light fixtures and even adjacent walls!

  4. Cathy Hackert says:

    I had the gout weed war too and I won! I fought it for years. It started out as variegated and reverted and turned evil. I gave up and hired a landscaper to come in here and physically remove all the soil to a depth of 2′. Since many of the evil weeds were coming from a neighbor who does nothing with their yard, we also lined the property with 2′ roof flashing. The kind on a roll and is aluminum. Whatever other plants were there were washed to the roots. At the bottom of the bed, I had them put the kind of landscape fabric that goes under roads! New soil brought in. Yeah, it cost me, but if I hadn’t done that, I would be totally overrun. An ocassional one tries to cross over, but I have found that repeated doses of herbicide (the only time I use it!) will kill it. I have to be vigilant. The landscaper told me years later that where they dumped the infested soil was a mountain of goutweed, not usable for anything. The stuff of nightmares!

  5. Marilynne VenJohn says:

    Please please address the problem of red oxalis, I have fought it all summer, regular weed killer does nothing, just knocks it back and then it appears again, seems to have a taproot, but thats not all, it has runners also, even a small plant an inch high will bloom and have those runners.

  6. I’d love to know if its OK to prune fruit trees once they go dormant in the fall/early winter, rather than waiting to prune in February/March when snow mounds complicate access to trees. I am battling black knot, cedar apple rust, brown rot and other fungal nasties and would like to prune asap but not harm the tree’s future fruiting abilities.

  7. Lorie Leonard says:

    About 20 years ago I saw a lovely vine described in a catalog as “gorgeous – your neighbors will beg you for cuttings.” Being a very new gardener (and a college English major intrigued by the name – chameleon plant) I ordered and planted some – and spent the next 15 years trying to dig it out. What I think did ultimately kill it was the combination of covering as much as I could with multiple layers of landscaping fabric and a very dry summer in WNY. This plant is a water lover – starving it for water might help others battling this nasty invader.

  8. Ann says:

    I kind of like my inherited bishops weed! (I have variegated) I guess that is why the former owners moved. Lol. I cut theblooms to keep it in check.

  9. Terry says:

    Hi Margaret
    You didn’t really answer the question about variegated plants reverting, and whether we do any good in the long run by cutting changes out, as not all plants spread seeds. I have variegated Ceanothus, that routinely sends out an entirely green branch from a variegated branch. A variegated Phlox sends up entirely green plants from the roots, even from rooted cuttings of variegated stock. Am I fighting a losing battle by cutting out the non-variegated growth?
    On another subject: our nightmare weed is Bindweed, which can grow here like kudzu, covering up entire structures, and can even cross under roads, although tips die back in the winter. Roots are said to go down TEN feet and will regenerate from just one node. I never got rid of it until I did something drastic: We spent a few weeks watering it well (so hard to do!), then cut it back partway and put bundles of the cut stems in undiluted glyphosate. Die back took a month. A few plants survived, but after a few years of digging out every one we saw, we got rid of it. Lesson learned: never think you will get rid of it by rototilling.
    Love your site and show!

  10. Linda says:

    Re goutweed: I won. First, I discovered that it is not only edible but rather good, so I began eating it (boiled like any green). Then I took arm loads to my sheep (they are restricted from the garden areas, but glad for such treats). These activities caused the goutweed to pause, just a little, as if for thought. But then the ducks discovered it, and what they did not eat they trampled. Over and over. This quickly depleted the goutweed’ energy reserves. Now there are two very small patches in fenced-off areas. So I recommend ducks. Ducks are also picturesque and funny, and (unless one gets call ducks) reasonably unobtrusive and quiet…except for the stomping of webbed feet on goutweed, a sound I think you and Ken would find charming. Perhaps someone would undertake to try ducks on chameleon plant.

  11. gloria miller says:

    Okay- I use herbicide in small areas(I use a paintbrush and keep the herbicide from spreading) and then cover with black plastic for a very long time-
    Summer heat seems to work best. I am in a war with the goutweed but I think if I am persistent,patient and vigilant that I will get there. If I live long enough I may win this war-
    The goutweed came with the house so I guess it could be a very long war.

  12. Tibs says:

    I killed variegated goutweed. I don’t know how. An elderly neighbor gave me some. I knew it could be invasive so I planted it in a narrow strip between the house and sidewalk. It died. But somehow I have some basic green in a shade bed. I just keep pulling it and keep it under control.

  13. Scott Hadsell says:

    I have recently started to listen to your podcast as I am a fairly new gardener. I thoroughly enjoy your show. I am also fascinated that you have Ken Druse on your show as I am in the middle of his book “Making More Plants”.
    The trouble that I have been encountering is properly identifying things that ail my plants. Perhaps one of the questions I have concern mums that I received from my fathers garden. The first year they were leggy and didn’t bloom. This year they started out fantastic, beautiful green foliage and decent growth. However by the end of July the plant had numerous yellow spots that quickly escalated in to dead brown patches and ultimately a sickly malformed plant with malformed flowers. I could not really see any pests on it and any google searches kind of come up dry.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Scott. They do get a lot of different diseases. When you mention “deformed” I think of Aster Yellows, a viral disease…but of course I can’t see the plants. Start by browsing this list of mum issues at UMass, or this one at Penn State Extension with a few more photos. Also read this factsheet at Missouri Botanical about “aster yellows” in case that’s the kind of deformity you are seeing — again, I could be totally wrong a there are many possible causes.

  14. Matthew Cairns says:

    Hi, Margaret (& Ken)… a question, perhaps for your next show: When is it too late to apply compost to borders and around shrubs? If I do that now, as I prepare everything for the winter, will it encourage new growth? I also have some areas of my lawn that need feeding/amending the soil. How might I broadcast compost or something similar to improve the soil structure? Right now, I have a few areas of rather compact clay. (Okay, that was 3+ questions, but who’s counting?) Thanks! Love your question and answer episodes.
    – Matt Cairns, Hurley, NY (Zone 6a)

  15. Reid Anderson says:

    Hi! I am interested in overwintering a sweet pepper plant I have potted. What is the best way to be successful at that? I have a really bright grow light that I got for $57.00. The brand is, “Purple Reign”.

    Do I need to reverse harden it off?

    I know peppers can be perennials. I want to keep it alive and happy until spring. Thank you!

  16. Amy manning says:

    Gout weed has existed on my property for 10 years. It stays put in dry shade and looks great. It is incredibly helpful against the invasive weeds that seed all over the place.

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