Q. My lilac and snowball bushes did not do well. They had beautiful blooms but in a couple of days they turned brown and wilted. I blamed the weather, but maybe you know of something else. I usually bring bouquets into the house because they smell so good, but not this year.
— G. M. of Cahokia
A. Lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) and snowball bushes (Viburnum species) can be bothered by powdery mildew disease when we have a longer rainy season in spring. You can spot this disease as a whitish covering over the leaves, making them appear chalky. You can prevent the spread with a fungicide that will keep it from going from the leaves to the flowers. A spray of two tablespoons of baking soda to a quart of water will control this as well, but you will need to apply this after every rain as it washes off.
Rain and spring weather with the cold spells can help spread this disease by splashing the spores form one area of the plant to another.
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Q. I want to separate my daffodil bulbs. They are too close together. When is the best time to dig them up and transplant them? I know the fall is the best to plant bulbs. But I am in a quandary about digging them up.
— S.R. of Belleville
A. You ask this question at the best time. Your daffodils will be going dormant shortly. Let them grow until the foliage turns brown. Then you can safely dig them. Be careful not to disturb the brown tissue covering the bulb as it is a protection from diseases starting on the bulb itself. Let them dry in an area where there is moving air and afternoon sun.
When the bulbs have dried, store them in a cool location. In mid-October you can plant them in a new location. This practice will be required every three to four years to keep your flowers large. If not, the number of flowers will increase but the size will decrease.
Q. Behind my house where the sun does not hit the bare ground, a green moss grows like a blanket and covers the ground, every bare spot in the grass area and under the hedgerow. It rakes off but comes right back and makes it hard to grow anything there. Is there a chemical that would control this problem?
— J. A. of Belleville
A. Mosses are a primitive type of plant that spread by spores and not by seeds. The moss blanket that you have actually is thousands of minute plants in a small area. You find moss growing in the shade in moist, acidic soil.
You can “burn” off the moss and keep it from returning with an application of ferrous ammonium sulfate. Apply this in the morning when the moss is still wet. Any nearby grass may darken for about 10 days but will recover.
Whenever you find moss, it’s an indication of poor fertility and poor drainage.
Some gardeners will actually pay for moss so they can add it to containers to make them look aged. They can add a little planting media with a diluted buttermilk and water mix and smear it on the containers and items. If kept moist, the moss will become established within two weeks.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do it now
Fruit trees: Thin excessive fruit so that most fruit is 6 to 8 inches apart for larger fruit. It will keep the weight down on the branches.
Lawn: Start cutting the lawn about 1/2 inch taller so it won’t be stressed when the weather turns hot.
Watering: Be ready to irrigate when Mother Nature turns off the rain. An inch of water soaked into the soil each week will keep the plants from going into stress.