We just saw the most gorgeous vine on a fence, covered with thousands of small white flowers that smelled like vanilla. Can you tell us what that is?”.
You have described ‘Sweet Autumn’ Clematis! It’s an aggressive vine that is simply covered with those sweet smelling white flowers. Once those are finished, the seed heads are also very attractive. There is a new selection that flowers just a few weeks earlier called ‘Sweet Summer Love’, and its lightly fragrant flowers are a maroonish-red!
“Should you pile mulch near the trunk of a newly planted tree?”.
Don’t ever pile mulch against the trunks of trees (called volcano mulching), and don’t make it too deep! Your mulch should be 2-3 inches deep, and pulled several inches away from the tree, so the mulch looks like a donut around the tree. Research has proven that mulch placed high and against the trunk of the tree can cause air rooting (roots developing from the trunk of the tree, or coming from the root system up and into the mulched area), future root girdling, can stress stem tissue / begin decay which leads to insect or disease issues, root and top decline then eventual death, and can be a great place for rodents to live in while they eat the bark off the sides of the trunk.
“How do we get rid of colorful caterpillars eating our parsley?”
Those are probably Parsley Worms (caterpillars) which eventually turn into black swallowtail butterflies! We get them every now and then on that and dill and a few other herbs, even in our greenhouses and the Outlet when we sell herbs! We let them eat, as they’re a butterfly. But if you’d rather not let them eat, hand picking is the easiest. You can spray with Bt or Captain Jacks, but just hand pick them if you don’t want them…which I don’t understand why you wouldn’t!
“Thinking about brewing our own beer next year and was curious if I can grow my own hops?”.
Yes you can! Hops are a perennial vine, fairly aggressive, and can be planted fall or spring. We have them for you both seasons.
“When is the best time sow grass seed?”.
Not at all. The best times are Aug. 15 thru Sept 15 (or something close), and this week you’re still right there. But as we continue to progress into the fall, the days get shorter, the nights begin to cool, daytime temps begin to cool, soil temps begin to cool, and that means grass seed germination times take longer. Right now the seeding window is wide open, but generally, after this week, in most cases, it slowly begins to close. It’s all ‘weather pending’ – we have planted grass seed in October and as long as the weather stays warmer, it still germinated. But optimum timing is late summer. Don’t forget to feed your lawn this month, and again in November. These are the two most important feedings for your lawn!
“When should I think about bringing in my houseplants for the winter?”
If you’ve been growing your tropical plants outdoors all summer, as summer fades and fall is on the horizon, it’s time to get them ready to go back inside the house for the winter. Begin this process in mid- September, so the plants will be ready to go indoors before the weather gets too cold. And always keep an eye open for that early frost!
Bringing Plants Indoors: -The first thing to do is to move your tropical or non-hardy plants into a shady location outside, and leave then there for 10 days to 2 weeks. This helps to acclimate them to the lower light conditions they’ll be receiving once inside your home. During this time, do be aware of possible cold temperatures and frosts, where your plants will need extra protection! -Just before bringing them inside, hose them off with a strong stream of water. You may even want to do this a couple times while they’re acclimating in the shade. This helps to blow off any insects that may be hanging out on the plants. Immediately before bringing them inside, give your plants a good spraying of insecticidal soap, making sure you spray tops and bottoms of the leaves, stems, trunks and all. Again, trying to get rid of any hitchhiking bugs! (If you do this the same day you’re bringing them inside, let the spray dry, then bring the plants indoors.) And one last thing. If possible, lay the plant on its side, slide it out of the pot, and inspect the root ball for any unwanted bugs or anything else that may be hiding in the bottom of the pot. Rodents, even snakes have been found hiding here. -One way to make sure nothing is in the soil (ants, etc.) is to fill a large tub with water, and then submerge the plant pot and all in the water for several hours. Anything in the soil will either drown, or will float to the top of the water. It’s also a great way to soak the soil. Just make sure you allow it plenty of time to drain before bringing it into the house. -Move your tropical plants indoors to a well-lit area indoors, and away from heat vents and cold drafts. Place a saucer under the pot. As a general rule, water the plants well, let dry, water again. And never let water sit in the saucer. Use luke warm water for watering. -Expect leaves to drop as the plants make their final acclimation to the indoor lighting. It’s natural. And do keep your eyes open for any flare-ups of insects on the plants. Keep insecticidal soaps, systemic insecticides, and whitefly traps on hand just in case. -Reduce feeding to an occasional shot of a water-soluble fertilizer, which can be increased once the days start to get longer, come next spring! Again, do expect leaves to fall once the plants are inside, as the sunlight just isn’t what it was outside. Stick with them, water only as needed, watch for outbreaks of insects and catch them early, and your tropical plants should make it through the winter, and be ready to get back outside late next spring. We also suggest a good rinsing off several times through the winter, and the shower is the perfect place to do it! Knocks off many bugs, cleans the leaves, and the plants love the water and the humidity in the shower. Use luke-warm water, and let them shower for 5-10 minutes.