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You can now email your gardening questions to me at Gardening questions spring, summer, & fall, houseplant questions, leaf spots, bugs, no flowers, deer problems fertilizer, lime, veggies, broken branches, need more colour, brown spots, yellow spots, plants for birds, slugs, etc, etc..., ! Try me!!

I'll post old and new questions; every one is interesting, with something new to learn for all of us. The newest will appear at the top, with the first name and locale (let me know if you'd rather not be identified at all).


I have a problem with ants in my flower gardens, sometimes it seems that they are eating my annuals, ie. petunias. Just wondering if it is true that the red mulch I am using is any worse for attracting ants than the dark mulch? If so, should I switch to the dark mulch?
Thanks for your time concerning this matter!

Dorn, Hampton

Hi Dorn.
Ants usually get blamed for more than they are actually doing. I don't know of any instance of them eating flowers. They may sometimes, but I doubt that it is significant. The chewing may be happening at night, and the ants are just around in the daylight when you can see them, on the same plants getting nectar, and getting your blame! The most likely maker of holes in petunias is slugs, which come out mainly at night. There's good non-toxic slug bait now, which uses iron as the lethal ingredient for the slugs. Its by safers brand. We carry it. The next most likely chewers would be earwigs, but not nearly as likely as slugs.

As far as mulch making the area more attractive to ants, I am not convinced of that either. The main attraction for ants is the nature of the topsoil. They like it sandy and/or dry and well-drained. I have absolutely no mulch in my entire yard, and yet I have my fair share of ants. I dont think it makes a big difference. I do know that it is very hard to grow annuals through mulch. I never try it. They never do as well, because you cant begin to prepare the soil deeply enough with mulch on top for them to do well. You are better to grow annuals in beds with no mulch, or just a sprinkling on top after you have deeply dug the soil with organic matter, and planted.

As to whether one colour of mulch would be any more attractive to ants, I have never heard or observed that, and wouldnt be able to think of a scientific reason why that would be. Not to say it doesnt, but I wouldnt be concerned myself.

My husband's mother gave us a lemon tree that she had had for about 20 years. It did produce lemons as far back as 10 years ago but has slowly been dropping leaves and we have not had even a blossom in about 4 years. Do you have any advice for the care of the tree? It literally has only about 6 leaves left and I would be heartbroken if it dies under my watch.
Kerry Alexander, Saint John, NB


I'll take a couple stabs at it, though I have never had a lemon tree under my care!
Moving to a new home with much less sunlight would be a bad factor. That kind of tree needs very much sun to thrive.
Over-watering to compensate for poor health could slowly drown and kill the tree. That could gang up with the lack of light to be very bad.
Root-bound condition would result in too few nutrients, and soil volume that was so low that it would not hold enough water, and dry out all the time. Repotting into a larger container would help that situation.
At the point of having very few leaves left, it would take a horticultural miracle to reverse things and save the tree. Sounds like you should also check its will, and start thinking about funeral arrangements!


Read your piece in the T-J this morning, concerning problems with deer in gardens.

We were successful in keeping them out for 24 years, by using a "soap fence". You run string lines between stakes about three feet high, around the garden perimeter. To these strings you attach small pieces of soap...motel size is boring a hole in the soap, attaching a small length of string through the hole and attaching the other end to the main line. We put these attached pieces about three feet apart, all around the perimeter.

Now the sad part. This worked very well for 24 years of gardening here on the shores of theSt. Croix River but one night some brave...or maybe he had a cold in his nose...deer, munched on the goodies inside the fence anyway. His buddies saw this and did the same....the era of the soap fence was over for us. Anyway, it had had a good run. It might work for some of your customers, at least for a while.

Ruth and Stan Hart

Hi Ruth and Stan

Thanks for the soapy deer tail!

Typical deer story, in that it involves an evolution of home invasion bravery on their part. For instance, this winter for the first time ever, they went through the arbour and into my secret garden, a very confined space right beside my house. I think that without any danger in the home landscape (dogs, guns, etc), they are slowly gaining confidence about entering our spaces. They are also experimenting with newer plant foods that they didnt try before, and liking some of them! (eg, my Impatiens!!)

You may have to go with a tall, physical barrier fence, the only failsafe method I know of.



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