Several fern varieties fine for Georgia; bracken can get weedy

Q: I am looking to do a mass planting of ferns. The least expensive way to go is to buy bare root ferns online. I’m looking at beech fern, autumn fern, cinnamon fern and bracken fern. Dave Green, Lawrenceville

A: The ferns you mention are all good for Georgia. I would be cautious using many bracken ferns. They can be aggressive and weedy eventually.

Autumn fern is particularly useful in a landscape because it is evergreen. If your source offers Southern shield fern, Thelipteris kunthii, add that to your list. I have found that it grows very well in full sun and part shade with hardly any maintenance. You should certainly make a visit to the Ferns of the World portion of the GSU Perimeter College Native Plant Garden, They have one of the largest fern collections in the U. S., along with regular plant sales.

Q: We have beautiful gardenias flanking our patio. The weight of flowers and leaves has bent the limbs over to touch the ground. What would you suggest? Mary Boudreau, Cumming

A: After flowering, prune them back by at least a third. Make your cuts where one limb joins another, don’t just shear off twigs. You can do further corrective pruning, if needed, early next year.

Q: My Premier blueberry bush looks sick. It is full of fruit but the leaves are yellow, with green veins. Any ideas? Mike Childers, McDonough

A: Yellow leaves with green veins indicate iron chlorosis, which can be caused by soil pH that’s too high, compacted soil that inhibits root growth, or the plant’s inability to supply iron to the leaves and the fruit at the same time. Georgia soils have plenty of iron so one option is to lower the soil pH to make iron more available. Scatter a quarter-cup of yellow sulfur dust around your plant to lower the soil pH. Use a spading fork to jab the ground multiple times around the plant to loosen the soil and give the roots room to spread. Mulch around the plant to keep the soil cool. Use an acidifying fertilizer now and again next spring to give the plant more nutrition.

Q: We just purchased a new house with a couple of apple trees on the property. The leaves have lots of little orange-yellow spots on them. J. Harris, email

A: It’s likely cedar-apple rust. Your trees may start dropping leaves soon. Red cedar trees are alternate hosts for this disease. The rust spores can affect apples within a half-mile of an infected cedar tree.

Spraying with myclobutanil (Immunox) at labeled intervals will partially control the disease. You can help break the disease life cycle by raking and removing all apple leaves after they fall and by examining all red cedar trees in your neighborhood for the brown walnut-sized disease galls, which should be destroyed.

Q: Is it okay to put citrus fruit rinds, coffee grounds, and tea bags in my garden compost? Laurie Causey , email

A: Everything except milk and meat products is fine to put in a compost pile. You can add the compost to your garden when you plant perennials this fall.

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

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