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Questions & Answers
Q & A's List

Questions & Answers

I am a long time "dirt worker". I have done it so long, it has become natural to talk and think "dirt" and all it means. I have done extensive landscaping, garden design and gardening for food, all of which I still find simply fascinating and truly fun. I have met some great people and devoured some fabulously worldly advice about the more common problems we all have with all phases of gardening. I love using my fairly wide experience to help others who aim for some of the same accomplishments I have been lucky enough to get. I like to think I can help get just about anyone going and Iove sharing gardening tips and ideas.

This page has some of the many questions we have received and our answers to them. More questions will be added over time. If you have any questions about your own garden we'll try to help. Just mail us at:

Round 1 - October 08

Question: From Amos in Pardes Hana, Israel: "I went to a park in Haifa last week and I was overwhelmed by the smells in this garden there. I swear, it was so beautiful, it made me wonder what I could do at my own home to create something similar. It was just heavenly! Is there a way to make my own home smell anywhere as nice as that?"

Lavenders are wonderful plants, redolent with a sweet aroma that lasts a long time with very attrqctive flowers which - when dried - can be brought inside and used in sachet's or "pot pourri's" that penetrate just about everywhere.

Lilacs are a North American favorite which may grow there and which smell as powerfully as any North Amnerican plant there is. They are a shrub in actuality and they take some controlling, but their flower is amazing. Think Gardeinia, in terms of smell, which brings us to -

Gardenia. These tend to be a subtropical or tropical plant but my Mother has had them for decades in Kentucky, in the US. She keeps them indoors during Winter and sets them outside during Summer. They bloom incessantly and the bloom are fabulously odoriferous. Many times, she will get a set of bloom during Winter, indoors, making a great smell and something to look at and appreciate during long winters.

Here is a smal list of some others, but, if one goes to almost any nursery, this question is also often asked there. I bet they have plenty of answers and plenty of advice and selection. This is a growing piece of landscaping lore any more with more and more people realizing what is possible.

Other good-smelling plants: Roses; Honeysuckle Vines; Creeping Phlox, Garden Phlox and Woodland Phlox; Sweet Allysum; Lilies (many!), Hyacinth (a bulb) like Daffodils; Daphne's; Mock Orange and Mexican Orange Blossum; some Viburnums.

Trees: How can we leave out the Citrus Trees, especially the Lemons? Japanese Apricots and Black Locusts, both attract beneficial insects as well.

Question: Cindy, from Melbourne asks: "We have had our house foundation drains invaded by tree roots from out trees in the front yard. What can we do to fix it, for one thing, and will it kill the tree?"

Steve: "Cindy, your problem is not unique. This is an ongoing problem everywhere when we live in houses that have an environment containing almost anything that gets bigger. Obviously, trees sure meet that criterion. But so do shrubs and many other plants. The questions are not unique, in short and these are problems with one heck of a lot of history. By studying the nature of trees themselves we get a reasonable idea of what to expect. In general, most trees - as powerful as we see them in uplifting sidewalks and driveways - if spaced far enough from the house, won't do much damage.

Like most trees, the root system is about the same circumference as the overhead canopy. Therefore, if the leaf canopy overhangs your house, chances are good that the roots have already grown under your house.

Unless the trunk of the tree is right next to your house, you probably won't have any problem with the roots uplifting any part of your house. One problem you may have is the roots invading any underground pipes in the vicinity. The roots of the most thirsty varieties of trees will seek out any source of water. If you have underground jointed sewerage pipes, the roots will invade the joints and quickly clog the pipes. Other than that, you shouldn't have any problem with your tree coexisting with your house. Having said that, if the tree is planted too close to the house and appears to be getting to a fairly huge size - with expectations of getting bigger based on species - then you should remove it.

Question: Bob from Chicago asks: "What is mulch? Is it just decorative or does it have a function?"

Steve: Good question, Bob. The classic definition: "In agriculture and gardening, mulch is a protective cover placed over the soil, primarily to modify the effects of the local climate. A wide variety of natural and synthetic materials are used.".

This is accurate, as far as it goes. A mulch can be used to better retain water in the soil by limiting evaporation. It can prohibit weed growth by acting as a barrier to air borne seeds and spores. It can maintain some level of warmth underneath as well, thereby at least partially helping during snap frosts or ill-timed snowfalls. Bark mulches are most commonly used as mulches, but I have seen any number of other materials, from rocks of all shapes and sizes to artficial products with color. One can even use lawn clippings and leaves as a mulch most effectively, providing they don't have seeds in them. In fact, more and more people are using lawn clippings between plant rows as a very slowly-developing composting material which, in the end, gets dug into the soil and thereby becomaes a bacteria-laden part of it. Leaves take far longer to break down, of course, but they too, can full this role, at least to a degree.