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Weeping mulberry makes interesting accent

By Neil Sperry | Published Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Dear Neil: How tall does a weeping mulberry grow? I saw one in a friend’s landscape, but she didn’t really know. It looks really interesting in the winter. Does it look like a mulberry when it has leaves?

The most common variety sold is called Chapparal. Its mature height is in the 8- to 10-foot range, although it will remain shorter for a relatively long period of time. While its leaves are exactly the same as other mulberries’ leaves, its growth form is so unusual that it really doesn’t resemble them at all. It makes a fascinating accent tree to anchor a special bed or to highlight a pathway.

Dear Neil: A friend has 15 or 20 large patio pots with some kind of good potting soil left over from last summer. Can I use that in my vegetable garden? She is planning on starting anew the next time she plants in them.

That would be wonderful soil for your garden. In fact, offer to buy her a nice plant in return for it, as it represents a valuable asset for you. Maybe she’ll do this every year or two, as that’s about how long potting soil will be at peak performance in a container. However, its usefulness in your garden will be years longer.

Dear Neil: I have a sprinkler system, but I still get areas of mondograss and even hollies that seem like they are dying from drought. I try to keep it working properly, but there still seems to be dry spots. What more can I be doing?

What you’re describing is very typical of sprinkler systems, especially during periods of extreme drought. Nothing waters as well as a deep, soaking rain.

There are several ways that all of your planning and work can be derailed. First, each head should spray to the center of the heads that surround it. That will ensure double coverage for more uniform watering patterns. Often, the dry areas show up on the boundaries of beds where there are no other heads beyond.

Also, if the heads are spread slightly too far apart, their spray patterns may be diminished when water pressure is too low. Water early in the morning, when few other people will be doing so. Be sure, too, that no branch or tree trunk has grown large enough to block the spray pattern. Finally, watch each head as the system runs to be sure they’re all clean and properly aligned.

Dear Neil: I have a backyard that is full of wild onions. Neither winter nor summer seems to phase them. They are out of control all the time. I mow them one day, and the next day they’re back. What can I use to eliminate them?

They have narrow, rounded leaves, but onions are controlled by any broadleafed weedkiller spray containing 2,4-d herbicide. Many of these long-proven products will even claim on their labels: “Controls onions.”

They are most effective when applied at temperatures in the 70s and 80s, and they must be applied to as much foliage as possible, so don’t mow for a few days before or after you spray. It will take the spray 10 to 15 days to do its complete work, and some plants may reappear, in which case a second treatment would be needed. However, if you read and follow label directions, these controls will work well.

Dear Neil: A friend has given me a buckeye tree that is about 3 feet tall. When can I dig it and transplant it? Also, I have planted several buckeyes from seed. They sprouted and grew this past year. When can I take them out of their pots and plant them?

Dig established plants while they are dormant. Winter is the best time. Always keep as much soil as you can intact around their roots, and water them deeply after you replant them.

As for plants that are growing in pots, they can actually be planted at any time of the year. The only special challenges to small trees that you might be setting out would be if you can see them during the winter and, therefore, avoid trampling them.

Also, you have to be very attentive to their water needs the first summer they are planted into their new homes since their root systems won’t be developed very well at that point. Finally, buckeyes can offer challenges in Texas landscapes. Most do best with protection from the afternoon sun.

Dear Neil: This is going to be the year that I get rid of scale insects on my hollies. What is my best course of action? When do I treat?

Use a horticultural (dormant) oil spray during the winter. Read and follow label directions pertaining to temperatures, rainfall/irrigation and stages of growth. Only one treatment per winter is recommended. You can also apply the same material at a more diluted solution (more water, less oil) during the summer.

Again, those directions will be on the label, but one major warning will be not to spray while the sun is shining on the plants during the growing season. Finally, you can also get good relief by using a systemic insecticide such as Imidacloprid every month or two during the growing season.

Have a question you’d like Neil to consider? Mail it to him in care of the Wise County Messenger, P.O. Box 149, Decatur, TX 76234 or email him at mailbag@sperrygardens.com. Neil regrets that he cannot reply to questions individually.

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