Learn to rejuvenate weak trees and shrubs

A spading fork and a layer of enriched mulch give woody plants some extra "zip." (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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A spading fork and a layer of enriched mulch give woody plants some extra "zip." (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Q: I planted my wife’s favorite tree, a ginkgo, in our field three years ago. I watered it regularly through the first summer and a couple times after when it’s been extremely dry. Sadly, it has grown little if any. It continues to sprout leaves, albeit fewer than it did originally. What should I do to improve its chances of surviving and thriving? Mark Bulford, Newnan

A: Whenever I hear of a woody plant that “just seems to sit there,” it’s almost always caused by a failure of the root system to expand. There can be several reasons for this, but the most likely is the roots stopped growing at the interface between the original rootball and the surrounding native soil. Let’s try a root rejuvenation. Mix 1 pint of slow-release organic fertilizer (Milorganite, Holly-tone, Dr. Earth, etc.) with a cubic foot of soil conditioner. Apply this in a layer 1/4-inch thick and out 36 inches from the trunk around the plant. Once the layer is applied to the soil, mix it into the dirt by repeatedly jabbing it with a spading fork as deep as you can and wiggling the fork back and forth. The fertilizer supplies a steady source of nutrients, and the holes made by the spading fork aerate the soil around the ginkgo roots. If you do it right, your shoulders will ache but the tree will thank you.

Q: I have been fighting for years to get rid of Florida pusley in my St. Augustine lawn. I pull six big plastic bags of the weed out every year. I’m kind of at the end of my rope and need some help. Lew Jarrell, Houston County

A: Florida pusley is a tough weed to control. Small plants quickly send out stems that form low, wide patches. The white, star-shaped flowers set seed just a few days after flowering, and pusley flowers anytime temperatures are above freezing. It starts in bare spots in your lawn so be sure your lawn management is top-notch: Correct fertilization, mowing height, and quick control of pests are critical. The weed can be pulled by hand if it is in a small spot, but in a large lawn, you’ll need to use chemical control. I preface the following with: “Be careful! Read and follow the label!” The product Roundup for Southern Lawns5 contains penoxsulam and is labeled for use on St. Augustine lawns. The product MSM Turf contains metsulfuron and is effective at very low rates. Both will injure trees and shrubs if mixed or used incorrectly. It may take a couple of years but you can control Florida pusley by combining good lawn care with effective chemicals.

Email Walter at georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his comments at 6:35 a.m. 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.