Peonies need loose soil and summer sun protection

Q: My peonies won’t bloom. They are in mostly sun with a little shade right now. I’m wondering if they need to moved. Kat Streetman, Douglasville

A: Three things strike me as essential for success with peonies in Georgia: loose, well-draining soil, protection from afternoon sun in summer, and chilly winters. To increase your success with the plant, choose a planting spot that gets six hours of morning sunshine but dappled shade in afternoon. Amend the soil with plenty of soil conditioner before planting. You can move them now. Since peonies need to be cold in winter, plant your roots shallowly, barely an inch deep in the soil. Fertilize in early spring with an organic fertilizer like Holly-tone or Milorganite. I have a list of Southern peonies at bit.ly/GApeony.

Q: We received a corn plant when were married forty-one years ago. Now it’s blooming and the fragrance is wonderful! Blake Turner, McDonough

A: Given appropriate watering, occasional feeding, and the right amount of light, a corn plant can live to a ripe old age. The plant’s scientific name is Dracaena fragrans, which accounts for its perfumed flower. The flower will last for several weeks on the plant, although you can cut it off sooner if you care to. One thing to understand is that the tip of the plant around the flower stem will die in a few months. This is normal: The plant simply sprouts another stem nearby and continues growing normally.

Q: I have a garden shovel that I would like to clean. It has some dirt caked on it and a little rust around the edge. Nancy Waldrop, Rabun County

A: My favorite shovel cleaner is a wire brush. When the rust and dirt have been removed, think about using a file to sharpen the shovel edge. You’ll be amazed how much easier digging can be with a sharp shovel. If your shovel has a wooden handle also consider painting it with linseed oil. This protects the wood from deterioration if you sometimes leave the tool outdoors in the rain. For rust prevention, the same linseed oil brushed on the metal will do the job.

Q: My front yard is nothing but dirt and wood chips because of a sewer line fix. My plan is to apply an inch of landscaping mix in April, then lay down zoysia sod. Am I doing it right? Frank Padula, email

A: Your plan sounds good but you will be way ahead of the game if you till the landscape mix into the existing soil, at least six inches deep. Grass roots don’t like to grow through different kinds of soil and your existing earth and the landscape mix are markedly different from each other. While you’re at it, mix in starter fertilizer and lime, according to a soil test recommendation. You can get details on how to have your soil tested at www.georgiasoiltest.com.The best time to lay zoysia sod is in late April or early May. Before then the soil is too cold for grass plants to root very well.