Q: Is it too late to cut back an angel trumpet bush? If not, what’s the procedure in cutting it back? How far down should I cut it? Yolanda Byrd, East Point
A: We’ve had some nights below freezing, but I don’t think you’ve had a hard, killing freeze in south Atlanta yet, so you have time to do two things: cut your plant back and root some for later in case your outdoor plant gets completely zapped. First, use long-handled loppers to cut the angel trumpet down to 6 inches high. Cover it with a black plastic pot or a small bucket. Then cover everything with a pile of straw or leaves for insulation. Examine the pruned branches to make sure the bark is adhered tightly. From these, select a few that are about 1/2-inch thick. Cut six 12-inch-long sections of branch. Note which end of each section pointed toward the branch tip and which end pointed toward the plant’s roots. Place the “roots” ends of the sections in a small plastic bucket and cover the ends with 6 inches of water. Put the bucket and branch sections in a sunny window in an unused bedroom. You’ll be surprised to find how fast the bottom ends of the lengths will sprout vigorous white roots. When most of the roots are 3 inches long or longer, you can plant the rooted pieces in individual pots and then plant them outdoors in April.
Q: My wife and I have had a successful compost bin for many years and bury a gallon of fruit and vegetable scraps a couple of times a week. Lately we have been including a quart of wood ash each time. It helps absorb the liquids in the compost container. Is there a limit to how much ash we should use? Bill and Rina Witherspoon, Decatur
A: Something that seems such a simple process (piling up leaves and kitchen trimmings to rot) is pretty complicated chemically. The different microorganisms, grubs and earthworms that chew up your lawn clippings and apple skins prefer different amounts of acidity in the pile. Ashes decrease the amount of acid and can inhibit microorganism and macroorganism activity and slow down the whole process. Ashes hurt earthworms too. But there is a use for ashes. Lawn grasses “like” low acidity! You can scatter 20 pounds of wood ashes per 1,000 square feet of lawn with no problem. The ashes perform the same service as the garden lime you might buy at a nursery. To make sure you are adding the right amount of acid neutralizer, have the soil tested by the UGA Soils Laboratory. Details at georgiasoiltest.com.
Email Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for his latest tips.