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

Ask the Experts – October 2017

By Kelly Young

Cat’s claw

Cat’s claw vine is overrunning our house. I have tried trimming it to the ground, but it always comes back. How can I eliminate it without killing other, nearby plants?

Cats’ claw (Dolichandra unguis-cati; formerly Macfadyena unuis-cati) is a tenacious vine famous for damaging stucco and climbing where it isn’t welcome. A heat-lover that produces bright yellow flowers, cat’s claw can climb without a trellis thanks to tendrils that are forked and able to grip surfaces. Simply cutting the plant down isn’t enough; it will regrow new shoots from energy reserves stored in underground tubers. The tubers must be completely dug out, thereby eliminating the carbohydrate source that fuels new shoot growth. Be persistent and dig around for tubers anywhere you see new foliage emerging from the soil. If the plant goes dormant during the winter, you must resume efforts next spring, when cat’s claw becomes active again.

We have 20 agaves that have started producing large flowering stalks. Is it true that the plants will die after they bloom? Is there anything we can do to stop this process?

With few exceptions, agaves die after blooming. Watching our valuable landscape plants perform their final act of beauty can be a bittersweet time for gardeners. Although some folks try to prolong an agave’s life by cutting off the stalk before the flowers are produced, this is only a short-term solution that makes the plant less attractive during its final months and prevents it from realizing its full, beautiful potential. You didn’t mention what type of agave you have, but it may be one that will produce hundreds of tiny plants, called bulbils, along the flowering stalk. You can plant these bulbils in your landscape to enjoy for many years before they bloom.

I think snails have been eating my lettuce seedlings. When I removed some cardboard mulch in the garden, there were dozens of them hiding underneath. What can I use to control them that is safe around edible plants?

Snails and slugs can be serious pests in Arizona vegetable gardens. We most commonly find the elongated-shelled decollate snail crawling on pavement after heavy rains. Although they are predators, the decollate snail will feed on tender garden seedlings if its favorite prey, slugs and brown garden snails, aren’t available. Remove the snails’ hiding places and try to let the soil dry out between irrigating. Never use salt to kill snails or slugs as this will harm the soil. You can also trap snails under a board placed near the garden and hand-pick them during the day, while they are hiding.

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