My neighbor planted a cypress tree near my property line. As it has grown very large, the knees have invaded my yard and become a real problem to mow around. Can the knees be cut back to ground level or just below ground level without damaging the tree? — Fred
Absolutely. Dig down 1 or 2 inches around a knee, and then use a pruning saw to cut it off horizontally below ground level. This will not hurt the tree.
I have some beautiful, colorful hydrangeas — blue, pink, and purple — that I would like to dry at these vivid colors. A long time ago, I must have done the right thing and dried some faded ones from the late summer and fall. I still have them in a vase in a bedroom. But now I want these vivid colors. Do I put them in water till they dry? Do I leave them out till they dry without water? — Diane D. Mouille
If you harvest the flower heads too early they will shrivel when they dry. It is very difficult to dry heads when they are in full color. Best results are generally to allow the heads to at least start to turn green or to turn mostly green before you dry them.
Certainly try a few now and see what happens. But if they shrivel, you know you need to wait for the rest. Cut the flower head with a stem as long as you want to take. Strip off the leaves and bundle a few heads together with a rubber band. Hang them upside down indoors in a room with a ceiling fan left on for good air circulation. The heads will generally dry in 10 to 14 days (sometimes less).
When they feel crispy dry, they are finished. Handle them gently and store them in the dark to preserve their natural colors until you get ready to use them (wrap heads individually with tissue paper). You might also consider floral dyes or spray colors available at craft stores to spray the dried heads a brighter color (you can make them just about whatever color you want, I did some in burgundy for Christmas decorations and they were smashing). You can also guild dried hydrangeas by spraying them with high-quality gold spray paint. They are great in Victorian-style decorations or for the holidays.
My husband insists on getting out and working in the yard no matter how hot it is, and I worry about him in the heat this time of year. I know I can’t get him to quit gardening, but is there any advice you can give me to make sure he doesn’t overdo it? — Janice Mason
Gardening activities in late summer should include taking special precautions against the heat, so I’m glad you asked. Working outside in hot weather places extra stress on our bodies. Gardeners working outside may lose up to two quarts of water each hour. As sweat is lost by the body, dehydration occurs. This can cause headaches, weakness, nausea and sometimes even lead to heatstroke.
To prevent dehydration, drink before, during and after working outside. It is especially important for the body to have a good storehouse of fluids well before the start of outdoor activities. Drink before you’re thirsty and drink cold liquids because they are absorbed by the body faster. Keep a container of cold water handy. If you choose other liquids, make sure they contain only a small amount of sugar, as it slows down liquid absorption by the body. Avoid beverages containing alcohol and caffeine.
Work in your garden in the early morning or late afternoon when it is cooler and stay in shady areas as much as possible. Follow the shade in your landscape as the sun moves across the sky; leave areas as they become sunny and move into areas as they become more shaded. Wear a wide brim hat, loose, comfortable clothing and use sunscreen. Also, take frequent breaks and try not to stay outside in the heat for extended periods.
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Dan Gill is a retired consumer horticulture specialist with the LSU AgCenter. He hosts the “Garden Show” on WWL-AM Saturdays at 9 a.m. Email gardening questions to email@example.com.