Q: My beautiful flowering thrift suddenly has lots of very thin yellow strings on it. I pull them off as they do not seem to be rooted, just attached to the stems. Barbara Green, email
A: It’s the parasitic plant named dodder, also known as devil’s hair. The seeds drop to the ground and sprout in late April. The tendril that emerges looks for a nearby plant to wrap around. Once it is tightly coiled, roots grow from the dodder into the parasitized plant stem. The dodder’s connection to the ground then shrivels away. Control of dodder is difficult. Pull and destroy all infected plants. Make a note to keep a sharp eye on your flower bed next year and do not let dodder become established.
Q: Our neighbors recently planted a beautiful garden and set up two beehives. Unfortunately the bees are attracted to our saltwater swimming pool. We see groups at the top rung of the ladder and also on the waterfall, where the rocks are wet. Is there anything we can do to keep the bees away from our pool? David Ireland, email
A: University of Georgia bee expert Jennifer Berry says this is a frequent problem at this time of year. For whatever reason, bees LOVE swimming pools. Maybe the chlorine provides some sort of nutrient they want. Since we don’t want to harm the bees, your goal is to train them to stop using your pool. Try placing pans of pool water close to the hives. Put a sponge in the center of the pan that the bees can rest on as they drink. With patience the situation usually can be resolved.
Q: My wife and I have a native wild cherry tree in our yard that is not doing well. About this time every year the leaves of the cherry begin to show spots, turn yellow, and fall off. The process is gradual as the summer progresses. The tree loses all its leaves by mid-September, only to come back to life in March. David Fowler, Sharpsburg
A: Cherry leaf spot is rampant this year. The disease starts with reddish-purple spots on the leaves. Many turn yellow and fall from the tree, leaving an autumn-like appearance in midsummer. Wet weather favors the disease. It can be controlled with chlorothalonil (Daconil, etc) if sprays begin after flowers fall in spring. At this point you can spray a couple of times to try to halt disease progression but your major preventative task is to rake and remove all leaves in fall since the fungus overwinters on them. Consider putting fresh mulch on the ground in January to further prevent spread.
Q: I grew Cherry Bomb peppers for the first time this year. Should they be picked while green or do you have to wait until they turn red? Jenny Misiora, Chicago
A: Peppers are edible at any stage of color but the mix of heat and sweetness will differ. The highest concentration of capsaicin (heat) occurs as the pepper turns from green to red. As the red deepens, sugars and other flavors in the fruit develop. Let a few turn red and compare their taste with a couple that are still green.
Q: Our yard has a couple of beautiful red oaks. An arborist recommended mulching around the tree. I am curious if it would hurt the tree to plant hostas or azaleas under it. Patrick McNeil, Avondale Estates
A: Mulching is a great idea. It keeps the soil cool and encourages a lot of feeder roots close to the surface, plus preventing weeds. I foresee no problem planting a few hosta and azaleas under the tree. Use a trowel or small shovel to excavate a spot one foot in diameter for the hosta and two feet in diameter for the azaleas. Mix the excavated soil with purchased planting soil and use it to fill around each plant. Water thoroughly once or twice in the absence of rain and your plants should thrive in that environment.
Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on AM 750 and 95.5 FM News-Talk WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Fan Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.