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Q&A: Stink bugs, shade trees, more.

By Joel M. Lerner

Q. In a recent column you mention putting down 1 to 2 inches of compost and then a layer of shredded hardwood mulch. When you talk about compost, are you referring to the homemade kind or to the mushroom compost available at nurseries?

A. The compost you want is organic material that still contains nutrients your soil needs. Mushroom compost does not have these natural organisms. Make sure the product you purchase hasnAAEt been treated with wood preservatives or

lawn chemicals and has aged for six months to a year, or until it has a fine texture. Use your own compost if it has sufficiently broken down into a dark, friable material. Leafgro is one commercial product that will supply nutrients to your soil.

Q. Are there any trees that can be planted close to a house and deck and will grow quickly and provide shade in summer?

A. Some fast-growing trees that could provide some shade in five to seven years, if the trunks already have a 1- to 2- inch thickness, are heritage river birch, pin oak, black gum, October glory red maple and Zelkova. A shade tree should be planted no closer to your house and deck than about 20 feet, which should be close enough to cast shade. Before planting, track the hours of sun and know where late-day shade is required.

Q. What can I do about stink bugs? IAAEve disposed of dozens of them over winter and spring.

A. To control them, learn their life cycle. They are active from spring to fall. Adults can live for several years by hibernating under leaf litter. They can lay their barrel-shaped eggs, up to 100 or more at a time, as many as four times a season on the undersides of leaves. Keep your garden as weed-free as possible, removing low-growing leaves that provide areas for egg laying and hibernation. They have a sharp proboscis that can feel like a pinprick. Use gloves to hand-pick them, or try using a small cordless hand vacuum, on low speed, to suck them up.

When startled, they release a smell that is not only repugnant to people but attracts other stink bugs. Dispose of them as gently as possible; dumping them into soapy water should work. They are attracted to the color yellow and to lights. Plant yellow flowers far away from the house to lure them away, and use low-wattage light sources outdoors to discourage them from flying to your property.

Q. Is there anything I can do to revive 40-year-old azaleas that are six feet tall and looking thin, tired and anemic?

A. Azaleas will renew dependably. Prune the oldest, tallest branches at their base. This will encourage new growth from the bottom of the plant. Evaluate after each cut and shape as you prune. Selectively prune healthy stems by heading them back to viable foliage. Try to trim all the shrubs to a fairly even height. This type of cleanout pruning requires patience. Most azaleas can be cut in half or more and still renew quite well.

Lerner is president of Environmental Design in Capitol View Park, Md., and author of AoAnyone Can LandscapeAo.

Photos for The Washington Post by Sandra Leavitt Lerner.


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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Jun 5, 2010
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