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ASK THE EXPERTS

Answers to questions you may have wanted to ask

POSTED: May 20, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Each month I receive hundreds of calls from gardeners with questions ranging from how to keep deer out of a garden to disease control in a home lawn.  A few questions you may have thought about, but never got around to asking are as follows:

  

Are pillbugs pests? Pillbugs or roly-polys, as they are often called, are really not harmful to plants — unless they are severely short of food. Normally they feed on decaying organic plant material and hide in dark damp areas. If there is a large concentration of them and little available food, they will actually feed on desirable roots and tender seedlings.

  

What are the red bumps all over maple leaves? The red bumps are called maple bladder galls and are caused by tiny harmless mites. The galls are not harmful to the tree, but simply unsightly. The mites deposit eggs in the gall and allow the leaves to grow over the egg sack. A new generation will begin.

  

Usually the cycle will stop as weather turns hot, but the gall will remain on the leaf for the rest of the season.

  

When is the best time to transplant trees and shrubs? Not now. Wait until late fall or winter to transplant. It is very important to transplant as much of the root system as possible and reduce stress by watering soon after planting.

  

When can I divide my perennials? This question could take too long to answer in its entirety because of the many varieties and exceptions. However, there are some generalizations that can be made to help answer questions or plant division.

  

Spring and fall are the best time to divide perennials, but again, it can depend on the variety. Ornamental grasses respond better to spring division, while astibes, irises and peonies are better divided in the fall. Hosta and cone flowers seem to do best when divided just after emergence in the early spring.

  

Many vines and ground covers such as ivy or ajuga can be divided in either spring or fall without much trouble.

  

The main point is to avoid any division of perennials during the hot summer or cold winter. Many perennials can be divided by hand, but a sharp hand shovel may do best on perennials with tough tubular roots.

  

What are the swollen growths on azalea leaves? The growth is called leaf gall.

  

This is a minor disease, which affects mainly the young leaves and flowers, they become fleshy, swollen and pale green. The best control for this disease is to remove and throw away the galls before they become white with spores.

  

To have your lawn and garden questions answered, call the Dawson County Extension Office at (706) 265-2442.

  

Clark Beusse is the Dawson County extension agent.

 

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