The Capitol Hill Garden Club presents Dear Garden Problem Lady


This year I will get my spring bulbs planted on time – that is, before Thanksgiving – but I forget whether I should water the plantings.

Some people water bulbs after planting to help them “settle” and close any air pockets. But what bulbs need most now is cold – about nine or more weeks of cold. Then as the earth begins to warm around January and February they will start growing roots, and respond to spring rain. If you see green shoots coming up in the spring, and weather is unusually dry then, by all means do water them.

In preparing the garden for winter I’ve been told that several inches of mulch will protect plants. However our garden soil is extremely hard – compacted, really. I can’t see that putting a layer of decorative wood chips on top will help with the compaction.

It’s difficult to get more air and nutrients into hard, compacted soil, but you must start working on it! This year, start with a mulch of compost or dry chopped up leaves if you can do that. Next spring, gently but firmly, dig this mulch into the garden around each plant. That will take some effort. Then immediately add another layer of compost to mulch – just a few inches will help greatly. Keep doing this forever, spring and fall.

We lost two Yucca plants over the very hot, dry summer of 2019. I am wondering whether to go ahead and divide some of the “baby” Yucca plants that have appeared on the surviving Yuccas – and transplant these now.

Now that colder weather has arrived it might be wiser to transplant your baby Yuccas next spring. You can divide the main Yucca plant without digging it up – just find the rhizomes of the smaller baby plants – they look like underground branches. Use a saw or strong knife to separate them off from the main plant. Plant the offshoots in sandy, well-drained soil, burying the rhizome up to the base of the foliage. Water well. Keep the plant well watered for several months, until it is established.

We are new to DC. When, approximately, is the first frost for 2019-2020?

Here in DC on average your risk of frost is from October 21 through April 16. Almost certainly, however, you will receive frost from November 8 through March 26. Almost guaranteed (that’s almost) we will have no frost after May 7. (We had a big blizzard late one May within memory.)

The next meeting of the Capitol Hill Garden Club occurs on November 12, 2019 at 6:45 pm at the NE Public Library, corner of Maryland Ave. & 7th St. NE. Meetings start with refreshments, and are free and open to all. Membership and Program Topic details are at

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