Experts differ on when to prune ‘Miss Huff’ lantana

Q: My ‘Miss Huff’ lantana is 6 feet tall. Can I trim it back now? Can I move it now? — Dianne Dye, email

A: There is much disagreement among gardeners about how to treat ‘Miss Huff’ perennial lantana for winter. Some say that cutting them in fall or early winter leaves hollow stems that will collect rainwater and ice. Others, including me, cut them back after the leaves fall off in December. I have never had a problem with them coming back in spring. The best time to move perennial lantana is in spring when new sprouts are 4 inches to 6 inches long

Q: I have dark black deposits on the bark of a red maple tree. — Phyllis Grimes, Lawrenceville

A: It could be an indication that the tree is infested with gloomy scale. A maple trunk gradually turns black as sooty mold accumulates on the honeydew that the scale insects produce. Gloomy scales often go undetected for years due to their size. They’re about the size of a pin head (1/16 to 1/8 of an inch) and look like very small bumps on the bark of the tree. Although they blend into the bark very well, they’re easy to identify by gently scratching the bark with a fingernail, causing them to flake off.

If you decide your tree needs treatment, apply horticultural oil during the dormant season and again in early summer. If control is successful, the black patches will fade away.

Q: My garden tool blades get sticky at times when I make cuts. What’s the best thing to clean them with? — Stephanie Parker, email

A: I use WD-40 to unstick my pruners. But WD-40 is a penetrant, not a permanent lubricant, so I then spray with a silicone lubricant. If possible, disassemble your pruners beforehand and scrub the blades with steel wool.

Q: I want to plant rye grass. Is it too warm? The weather forecast is saying that we will have above average temperatures. — Dennis Benedict, Cumming

A: I checked your soil temperature at and found that it is in the mid-60s. That’s perfect for rye grass and fescue planting. When soil temperatures decline below 55 degrees, you’ve probably waited too long.

Q: I just dug up my sweet potatoes. They are very small compared to past crops. Did I dig them up too soon? What else could it be? — Linetta Woodruff, Cherokee County

A: Sweet potatoes should be harvested when the leaves all begin to turn yellow. It’s close to the correct time to harvest them, so I don’t think you did it too early. The main reason for small potatoes is growing them in less than full sunshine. Other causes could be lack of fertilizer or water. Consider fertilizing more often next year and be sure to water in dry times.

Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook fan page at for more garden tips.

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