Q: Reading your recent Q&A about a skin reaction to canna leaves, I was reminded of what happened to me last week. While I was chopping down some wilted elephant ear leaves and stems, my right eye began burning horribly. I had to rinse it for an hour before it felt better. Linda, Grant Park
A: You are lucky the eye is still functioning. A friend of mine, doing what you were doing, got a squirt of elephant ear sap square in her eye. An ophthalmologist confirmed eye damage from the microscopic calcium oxalate crystals in the sap. These are needle-like (yes, needle-like) crystals that are released when the plant is cut, handled, bruised, etc. It’s a good idea to wear eye protection when working with canna, caladium, elephant ear, dieffenbachia (dumb cane), peace lily, etc.
Q: Every year, I grow basil in pots outdoors, and every year, I have the same problem. While the basil flourishes through June, by mid-July, it will invariably be afflicted with some sort of gray, fuzzy mildew growing on the back of the leaves. Audrey Thaiss, Marietta
A: The gray fuzzy mold is probably downy mildew. It is caused by high humidity and moisture on the leaves. Consider putting them in an environment that keeps the leaves dry. If they become crowded in the pot, divide them so there is at least 4 inches between the leaves of adjacent plants. Try to find a place that has a bit of wind to keep leaf surfaces dry at all times. Water properly so the soil is neither soggy nor very dry. Use houseplant fertilizer as directed on the label. If one plant in a pot becomes infected with downy mildew, discard the whole pot. You should be able to have pesto in July by following my suggestions.
Q: I have a fair amount of crabgrass in my yard. I primarily have centipede and Bermuda grass. I am looking for a yearlong plan to start getting rid of the crabgrass. Eric Lust, email
A: I like the succinct answer from Texas lawn expert Neil Sperry. He says the timing of preemergent applications would be between March 5-15 for crabgrass and goosegrass (warm-season weeds) in the spring. A repeat application would be needed 90 days later, so June 5-15, to give season-long control. Then, for the cool-season weeds, annual bluegrass and ryegrass, the application should be made Sept. 1-10. Choose any of the following products: Dimension, Halts or Balan.
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.