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Homepage / Special Features  / Gardening 101  / Ask the Experts – January 2017

Ask the Experts – January 2017

By Kelly Young

Is it worth it to purchase special frost cloth to protect my sensitive plants from the cold, or can I just use old bed sheets?

You can cover your plants with bed sheets, but every morning they should be removed once it has warmed up. Specially designed frost cloth can be left on the plant because it allows light to penetrate. Frost cloth can be used for several years if properly cared for. Whichever you use, the cover needs to extend all the way to the soil surface so that heat is trapped inside. If possible, don’t let the cover touch the foliage, as this may damage the leaves. It is important to keep the soil evenly moist but not saturated during cold snaps. Water absorbs heat by day and releases it at night, providing some protection against the cold. Dry soils are more prone to temperature fluctuations.

Rabbits are eating my overseeded rye grass. I spent a lot of time planting and caring for the lawn, and I am not going to forfeit without a fight. Please tell me what to do before I lose my mind!

Rabbits are notoriously difficult to deter—remember poor Elmer Fudd?—when there is an irresistible food source luring them into our gardens and landscapes. The fluffy critters love the lush, green growth of winter lawns. The best defense to keep your lawn bunny-free is to install a fence that is at least 2 feet high and buried several inches below the soil surface. Rabbits can squeeze through small openings, so use fencing material with apertures less than 1 inch in diameter. You can also try commercially available rabbit and deer repellents. Always read the label before application, and be aware that you may have to reapply every time you mow.

My houseplants all die within months after I bring them home. I water them every week and fertilize them every month. Still, they typically turn yellow and die. Can you tell me what I am doing wrong?

Growing plants indoors is more challenging than many realize. There are a few reasons your plants may not be surviving:

• Your house is too dark. Move your plants to a brighter location near a window. Open the blinds to provide indirect sunlight every day.

• You are overwatering. Only water when the surface of the soil has dried. Lift the pots to feel if they are heavy with water, and make sure the containers allow excess water to drain out of the bottom.

• Your selections require more fuss than is acceptable at this point in your life. Choose easy varieties that thrive with minimal care. Sansevieria, or mother-in-law’s tongue, is particularly well-adapted to low-light conditions and can survive weeks without water.

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