Tulip poplar flowers are a favorite of bees and beekeepers

Q: I want to plant an acre of land in tulip poplar trees. I just want the flowers. How far apart should they be planted? I would like to have them scattered and more natural-looking than in a grid. Dennis Hevener, Oglethorpe County

A: Reading between the lines, I’ll bet you want to have some tulip poplar honey! These trees get big: 75 feet high and 40 feet wide. They won’t grow that large in your lifetime, but that’s the mature size. Still, I’d plant them 40 feet apart to give them room to get lots of sunshine and not have too much root competition. One of the best things you can do to ensure fast growth is to have a university soil test done and follow their recommendations. Lime is particularly important for trees, to raise the soil pH and give the roots a good environment in which to grow.

Q: I’m having issues with my blueberry bush. Last year, it produced more than we could eat, and this year, it looks like it’s slowly dying, one limb at a time. It is planted beside my home’s foundation. Nick Congro, email

A: Some would argue that the pH of the soil near your foundation would be too high for a blueberry to tolerate. I don’t think this is likely because several studies have shown that a pH change that’s high enough to affect nearby plants only happens when the concrete is newly poured. It is much more likely that the bush is infected with phytophthora root rot caused by poor drainage near the foundation. Check the soil after a rain and look for gutter leaks. One of the symptoms of phytophthora rot is limbs on a plant slowly dying, one by one. If more than half of the limbs have died, replace the plant after thoroughly tilling the planting area.

Q: Can I use pine and fir chips in my chicken runs? I’ve read that they could poison my chickens. Eric Cutlip, email

A: We used pine shavings exclusively for bedding in our chicken houses when I was a kid. My skin is crawling right now with the memory of tiny wood shavings sticking to my sweaty back when we brought them home from the sawmill in July. The hens enjoyed the pine shavings and we never had problems. As for fir and other chips, see bit.ly/GApinechips.

Q: Do you know where I can order pecan shell mulch for some garden areas in my yard? I don’t like the look of pine straw! Robyn Faintich, north Atlanta

A: The best source of pecan shell mulch might be from folks who shell the nuts commercially each year. I have a good list of pecan shellers at bit.ly/GAshellers.

Email Walter at georgiagardener@yahoo.com. 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.