iGrow photo 1

Weigela plant in flower.

Q The previous owners of our house put up a large post and lattice structure on our hot dry hillside — maybe to grow grapes? We don’t know. It’s probably 6’ high and 12’ wide. We refer to it as the giraffe hitching post, because it has a high rail you could tie your giraffe to. If you had one. I can get water to that spot and would like to plant something — maybe a vine with flowers. It has red clay soil and gets a lot of sun. Hillside faces west. Any suggestions welcome!

A This sounds like a challenging location to grow plants. The combination of full sun and being a dry site in your dry climate there will be tough on plants. Grapes are a possibility, but you will need to keep them watered or else they will not survive and certainly not fruit. You might consider some other types of vines, like Virginia creeper or Boston ivy which do not have showy flowers but do have good fall color. You could also try something like pole beans or even pickles, cucumbers, a smaller fruiting squash or gourds, providing the lattice is fine enough to allow for the vines to grab onto it or wrap their tendrils around it. I would definitely suggest you apply an organic mulch around the plants once they are planted or up and growing, to help keep the soil cooler and retain more moisture. You may want to try using a soaker hose for irrigation. I would also suggest you keep a close watch for pests, especially spider mites and whiteflies. They like to feed on plants in hot dry locations. If all else fails, you may consider the giraffe.

Lime for my lawn

Q General recommendations tell us to put lime in our lawn if I have a dog. I live in the Black Hills on a mountain of limestone. Should I lime my yard — it sounds like pellets work better to apply — and take 2 years to work into the ground. Also, instructions say it’s not good for dogs, and my dog is outside a lot.

A The main reason to apply lime to a yard or soil is to neutralize an acidic soil. Generally speaking, most all home lawns and gardens do not have acidic soil but rather alkaline, with a pH of about 7.4 and often higher. You mention that you live on a mountain of limestone, so adding more lime is certainly the last thing you should do. Unfortunately, many gardening shows on TV are from the East Coast where acidic soils are much more common. Using lime there is a good idea. Lime is also available in many hardware stores; discount outlet stores and even in some nurseries. Unfortunately, when people see it for sale, they recall perhaps that you are supposed to use it on your lawn or garden, so they buy it and apply it. If you are unsure, the best thing to do is get a soil test done. That will tell you what your soil pH is and tell you if you need lime, or more likely that you should apply elemental sulfur to reduce the alkalinity in your lawn.

Dog spots are caused by a high level of salts that are found in the urine. The salts get so high that plants cannot take up water which will cause the grass to die. You will also sometimes notice that the grass is a darker green color and grows taller right around the dead spot. This will be particularly evident if you have not fertilized your lawn in a while. The solution is dilution – dilution of the salts in the soil. You may want to dig out some of the top few inches of soil in the dead spot, then replace with fresh soil. Then flush each of the dead spots with plenty of fresh water to help dilute and dissolve the remaining salts and flush them down deeper into the soil profile. You can then sprinkle seed in the bare spots and keep it watered until the new little grass seedlings emerge. If you could somehow give your dog more space to use as a space to “do her business”, that would probably help reduce the dog spots somewhat. Also, fertilizing will help to mask the spots by reducing the green circle around each spot.


Q Why doesn’t my weigela ever bloom? I have moved them to new locations. I haven’t trimmed them. I keep them watered. What about fertilizer? They grow but do not bloom. They are about 3 years old. Thank you.

A Weigela are a spring flowering shrub that normally blooms on old wood, but it may also bloom sporadically during the rest of the growing season. It should be planted in a full-sun location for best growth and flowering. Since this plant blooms on wood that grew last year, do not prune it late in the summer, fall or during the winter because you will be removing the tips of the branches that would otherwise produce the flowers. If you want to prune it, wait until right after it is done blooming, when it does bloom that is. Late spring frosts can also damage flower buds and therefore reduce flowering. Be patient, it can take a few years for plants to get old enough to begin blooming.

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