Q: My family from Germany visits every year and they love magnolia trees. Is there any variety I can buy that will survive the winters in southern Germany? Ken Rosenberg, email
A: Plant hardiness zones in Germany run North-South, rather than East-West like they do in the U.S. That means eastern Germany, both the northern and southern areas, is Zone 6, comparable to the mountains of North Carolina. Western Germany is comparable to the northern half of Georgia. That said, some Southern magnolia varieties are reputed to be much more cold-hardy than others. Suggest ‘Edith Bogue’ or ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’ to your German friends. If planted in a spot where they can grow large but be sheltered from winter wind, they should be fine.
Q: I need to know what writing instrument I can use to make my outdoor plant labels. I need something that doesn’t fade. Pat Scanlan, email
A: I use a Brother P-Touch label maker and flat metal label holders that have thick wire legs, which I buy online. I’ve found that the tape, lettering and label holders last for several years. I searched in vain for an ink-based marker but could not find one that didn’t fade after a few months in sunshine.
Q: I got the soil test results back for my centipede lawn. It says my soil pH is 6.5. I know centipede likes acid soil. Do you think I need to somehow make the soil more acid? John Eddlemon, Bibb County
A: Plants have a remarkable ability to adapt to soil conditions. Turf expert Clint Waltz says established centipedegrass can tolerate a higher pH just fine. But to gradually lower it, use lawn fertilizers that contain ammonium nitrate or urea. Between normal environmental conditions and these acidifying fertilizers, the pH should decline over a couple of years. Remember that centipedegrass is a light feeder. Only a couple of applications of fertilizer are needed per year.
Q: I have a vegetable garden with a terrible crabgrass problem. Is there anything I can use to control the crabgrass and not hurt my seeds? Terry Smith, Cumming
A: You could use a weed preventer containing trifluralin (Monterey Vegetable Weeder). If you follow label directions, the product will keep the crabgrass at bay while allowing your vegetables to flourish.
Q: My son gave me a Meyer lemon tree for Christmas. The plant was filled with beautiful lemons and blooms. Since then, the blossoms have dropped as well as most of the leaves. I water it regularly. I have noticed clusters of white fuzzy stuff on the top of the soil. Debbie Snyder, Mableton
A: The fuzzy stuff is probably just a fungus decomposing the surface material of the potting soil. Its presence tells me you are watering too frequently. It is likely the plant has developed root rot that’s causing the leaf drop. Water the lemon only when a finger pressed one inch into the soil comes up dry. I can’t guarantee it will live until you can take it outdoors in spring, but it’s worth a try.
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.