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Friday, April 19, 2024
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Dear Garden Problem Lady

The top leaves and lower stems of my New England Asters, usually the star of my September garden, are brown and shriveled. I have watered often. Ideas?
Not really. They could have been burned by our many weeks of searing sun, or even drowned from recent torrential rains. Asters are so strong, however, they should survive. Make sure they get bone meal and compost in the spring.

For winter, should we cut our Autumn Joy Sedum back to the ground, or leave them alone? If left intact in winter should we cut them back in spring?
Sedum is very hardy and needs little care. Birds enjoy their seed heads, so why not attend to any cutting back for size until spring? If your sedum is getting too large, it’s easy to dig up and divide them then, to make more plants.

Is it a good idea to put spent coffee grounds onto one’s garden?
Spent coffee grounds certainly look good – a rich dark brown, the color of good rich earth – and they’re free. Now and then one hears of using them this way – it’s old-fashioned — and possibly harmless. There have been chemical analyses of coffee grounds – they are vegetable, after all. They contain tiny traces of many metals and chemicals, including small amounts of nitrogen. The reasons horticulturists tend not to use them are that they are acidic, (good for azaleas and blueberries but not everything) and also that their caffeine can curtail the growth of some plants, even kill some.

Our chartreuse-colored Hostas have invaded into the flowerbed of our superb chartreuse-colored Heucheras. How and when can we best move Hostas?
You do not need me to warn you how tricky this will be. April is the best time to do it, but your problem sounds like an emergency. If so, do it in late afternoon. Since both plants are happy (protected from intense sun, with a good deal of shade), best begin by finding a new spot for the Hosta(s). Prepare a planting hole, making it slightly bigger and deeper than the plant(s), and fill it with compost and humus-filled soil. Then among the overrun plants, first gently probe with a fork, to explore the entwined roots. You must go deep to separate each perennial’s roots, shaking them free, one from the other. Leave as many good leaves as you can on rescued plants. Wrap the freed Hosta(s) in wet paper towels. Next, separate and replant the Heucheras, thinning or throwing out overcrowded ones. Then attend to the Hostas. Divide, root prune or discard what you can’t use, and plant into your prepared spot. Keep all transplants watered well.

Capitol Hill Garden Club meetings are currently happening – virtually. Meetings are free and open to all at capitolhillgardenclub.org.

Feeling beset by gardening problems? Your problem might prove instructive to others, and help them feel superior to you. Send them to the Problem Lady c/o dearproblemlady@gmail.com. Complete anonymity is assured.

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