published Saturday, August 11th, 2012

5 tips for frequently asked gardening questions


What: "What's Wrong With My Plant, Tree or Flower?"

When: 7 p.m. Monday.

Where: Collegedale City Hall, off Apison Pike and Highway 317.

Admission: Free.

Contact: Donna Shelman, 236-5598.

What's wrong with my garden?

Worried horticulturists will have the opportunity to address their concerns with Tom Stebbins, director of the University of Tennessee County Extension program. Stebbins will be speaking to the Green Thumb Garden Club at 7 p.m. Monday at Collegedale City Hall off Apison Pike.

The presentation, "What's Wrong With My Plant, Tree or Flower," allows attendees to ask Stebbins about issues they've encountered in their gardens. Some people, he said, even bring samples and cuttings for him to examine.

A master gardener, Stebbins spoke to the Times Free Press about frequent questions and concerns he hears from at-home gardeners.


1. What bug is this?

Identification is the key for deciding whether you have a good bug or a bad one. Bad bugs, Stebbins said, are either eating or drilling holes in the plants. "Good bugs are out there doing things that could decrease the detrimental bugs." For more help, call the Master Gardeners of Hamilton County hotline (855-6113) from 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays, or call your local garden center.

2. Is my plant diseased?

Diseases are harder to identify, but they are usually caused by fungus or bacteria. They can be cleaned up by removing the sick part of the plant and being careful not to water the foliage, which can cause too much wetness and disease. Water at the base of the plant.

3. What's with this odd-looking fruit?

When the plant was flowering, it didn't get pollinated properly. A curved cucumber, for example, is usually because of poor pollination.

4. Why are my rose bushes underblooming?

A lot of plants go through cycles. Sometimes the rose bushes will bloom, but then other plants might shade them out, so they'll decrease in their flowering. After the first flowering, cut roses back to produce more flowers. This can apply to other flowers, such as petunias, as well.

5. What can I do about holes in my yard?

"Holes can be from moles, voles, snakes, gophers, all kinds of things," Stebbins said. First, identify the culprit. One might consider using a live trap to escort the uninvited guest to another vicinity. Some plants may have to be repositioned.

about Holly Leber ...

Holly Leber is a reporter and columnist for the Life section. She has worked at the Times Free Press since March 2008. Holly covers “everything but the kitchen sink" when it comes to features: the arts, young adults, classical music, art, fitness, home, gardening and food. She writes the popular and sometimes-controversial column Love and Other Indoor Sports. Holly calls both New York City and Saratoga Springs, NY home. She earned a bachelor of arts ...

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