Friday, March 2, 2012

Asparagus, Lawns, Ferns, Bees, and Viburnum

Here's Walter Reeve's most recent column from the AJC. There's lots more here.

Gardening - 4:54 p.m. Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Q: I'm a first-time asparagus planter and just received my plants in the mail. The directions say to open up a trench in which to plant them. Do I bury the connected part of the roots or should I bury each individual root, leaving the middle exposed? -- Darren Kubiak, Lawrenceville

A: Asparagus is a perennial plant, so proper planting is important. I call the center part of asparagus roots the "crown" and the thick fingers spreading from it the "roots." It's best to bury the crown relatively shallow, just an inch or so, but the roots can be 2 to 4 inches deep. I typically dig an area 6 inches deep and wide enough to contain the root system when spread out. I put a clod of clay under the crown to support it a couple of inches higher than the roots around it.

Q: I have a well established lawn of centipede grass. Which comes first, aeration or dethatching? -- Earl Spell, Sharpsburg

A: Generally speaking, you don't need to remove thatch if you aerate a lawn every year or so. The aerator brings up plugs of dirt that help to speedily decompose a layer of thatch. You also can minimize thatch formation by mowing regularly, only removing a third of the height at each mowing.

Q: We have moved to northeast Georgia from south Florida. Knowing I need to protect my staghorn fern from winter freezes, can I have any possibility of success with it during the growing season? -- Roy Riggs, Dahlonega

A: If you have a good place to keep it indoors in winter, you can bring it in and out each year, as you’d do with any tropical plant. If your fern grows too large to carry, you can pull off newly emerged fern sprouts, mount them on a piece of wood and give to your new Lumpkin County neighbors.

Q: Do you know a source for mason bees in Georgia? I have a friend on the West Coast who swears by them for increased crops. -- A. G. Borud, email

A: Mason bees are a terrific substitute for honeybees when you have a fruit or vegetable garden. Unlike honeybees, they are solitary and make nests in hollow stems or tubes. No one sells them locally, to my knowledge. Your best bet is to buy them online. They will arrive in paper tubes containing several cocoons. The best housing is translucent paper tubes inserted in a short piece of four inch diameter plastic pipe. Mount the pipe to your garage or shed wall, under the overhang. Mason bees are active in spring and make cocoons for their larvae to hibernate in during summer and winter. You can remove the tubes in summer to see how many cocoons you have and to inspect for predators and parasites. Good sources for bees and their housing include Crown Bees ( and Knox Cellars (

Q: I am looking for a pollinator for tea viburnum. Is there another viburnum that would suit its needs? -- Phil Greenawalt, email

A: Tea viburnum has perfect flowers (male and female parts in the same bloom) but it won't accept its own pollen. In order to get the bounteous berries for which it is famous, you need to have nearby a tea viburnum that came from different parents. Call several local nurseries and ask where they get their tea viburnum shrubs. If they come from different wholesale growers, it's likely that you'll get plants with different genetic parentage. These will pollinate each other nicely.

Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on AM 750 and 95.5 FM News-Talk WSB. Visit his website,, or join his Facebook Fan Page at for more garden tips.

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