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Help Me, Help My Garden!

I have always been a huge admirer and fan of advice columnists like Dear Abby, Ask Amy, Dear Prudie. When I was still in Human Resources, I was thrilled when my boss asked my to write workplace advice column called ‘Dear Gabby’. I admit, I’m a helper, and I love giving advice when it is solicited. I know you have garden questions because I get dozens of them emailed to me every month, so I am starting a garden ‘advice’ column as part of the Eden Condensed blog. I hope you’ll learn something, get some advice, and feel more confident about your gardening skills by following along. And send me questions!! You can comment here with questions or fill out my message form.

Here are today’s garden issues:

Wilting Hydrangea  Q. I just planted a big leaf hydrangea in a shady area of my garden and it’s not doing well. It’s wilting and the leaves are starting to fall off. What did I do wrong?

A. The prefix ‘hydra’ means water, and hydrangeas need a lot of water. They have fleshy roots, and if they don’t get consistently moist soil, they will wilt very quickly, especially when they are initially planted. Hydrangeas also like afternoon shade as too much hot sun will also cause them to dry out and get leaf burn. Make sure you water deeply at the root line several times a week if necessary to ensure that the soil doesn’t dry out. Once the plant is established after the first growing season, it won’t need quite as much water.

Grasshoppers eat more than teenagers Q.Help! I have a grasshoppers in my yard, and they eat everything. How do I get rid of them?

A. The average grasshopper will eat up to half its body weight each day! They don’t discriminate either about what plants they eat, plus they’ll eat the entire plant. A fairly small number of grasshoppers (I’m talking less than 10) can actually wreak economic damage to crops. In the home garden, here are some tips on controlling and hopefully eliminating these horrid creatures.

  • Remove a 12″ + wide strip of grass around your planting beds where you have grasshopper issues. You can fill the empty area in with mulch or pebbles. This slows the migration of the grasshoppers because there’s no food in that area and there’s no place for them to hide either, which makes them vulnerable to predators.
  • Use a pepper spray or neem oil on the leaves of the affected plants. Grasshoppers are not fond of either substance. You can buy either product at a nursery center or big box store.
  • Get chickens! If you’ve ever needed a good excuse to have a backyard flock, here’s a good one. Chickens LOVE to eat grasshoppers!

Citrus leaf curl Q.: I live in Southern California, and my citrus trees have leaves that are dried looking and curled up. What is causing this? What can I use to get rid of it?

A. Your citrus trees are suffering from Citrus leaf curl. Citrus leaf curl can be caused by several things including pests like aphids, mites, and psyllids that suck the sap out of the leaves. You can treat the leaves using an insecticidal soap spray or neem oil. However, if your citrus tree’s leaves look like little tunnels have been burrowed into the leaves, your tree have leaf miners. Since these pests are inside the leaves, there isn’t much you can do to treat them except to let the infestation run its course. Making sure your citrus trees are as healthy as possible will make them less desirable to pests. Proper watering and feeding (I like E.B. Stone organic citrus fertilizer and worm casings) will keep your citrus tree in good shape.

Do you need some garden advice? What are your garden problems? Let me help you out.

Hydrangeas need lots of water!Grasshoppers can wreak havoc on your garden.Citrus leaf curl looks worse than it is.