Autumn fern is best planted in semi-shade

Q: We recently removed a large oak. Now my autumn fern is in full sun all day. Do I need to move it? P. Knight, Walton County

A: Yes, I think you should move it. I've never seen autumn fern, Dryopteris erythrosora, grow successfully in full sun. If you like ferns, I have a lot of Southern shield fern, Thelypteris kunthii, in my landscape and it does fine in sun or shade. Unfortunately, it is deciduous, so the fronds die back in winter, but it sprouts back faithfully every spring. Some gardeners, though, find that it's a bit "pushy" to smaller ground covers.

Q: I'm told that the grass at my new home is St. Augustine. I've learned that there are different varieties of this grass. How can I find out which one I have so I can match with new sod? David Geter, Marietta

A: It's true that there are different varieties, but it is difficult to tell them apart. A grass scientist would do it by examining the grass under a microscope. The best bet for a match is to transplant runners from your existing grass into the bare spots. Fertilize immediately now to force your grass to grow rapidly and mow it as high as you can. By mid-July, you should be able to find runners 6 inches long. Clip them off at the soil level and insert each one into a shallow slit cut into the soil in your bare spots. Water immediately and fertilize lightly. These new plants should be rooted and growing well by August.

Q: My backyard in the spring/summer is shaded by a dense canopy of poplar trees. In fall/winter, the yard gets sunshine most of the day. I am not sure which grass would be most successful back there. Chris Johnson, Walton County

A: I think one of the turf-type fescue blends would work best. A named blend combines two or three different varieties of seed that thrive under different conditions of shade, drought or soil type. Look for brands like Rebel, Pennington, Vigoro and Scotts. Generic Kentucky 31 fescue rarely does well in this kind of situation.

Q: Would the shoots that come up around my blueberry bushes make good clippings to root more plants? Gary Winkles, Locust Grove

A: Some will but some might not. Use a trowel to gently excavate around a promising shoot. If it has several vigorous roots attached, you can dig and transplant it. If it has just one or two little roots, clip the connection it has to the larger bush nearby then mark it for transplanting this fall.

Q: I needed a fast screen so I bought two Leyland cypress trees. Unfortunately, I discovered I planted them only 20 inches from a sprinkler line, which is 8 inches deep. Do you think I can leave them? Bob Torcivia, Athens

A: If this is a plastic water line, as most are, there should be no problem. A tree root cannot tell there is water inside. To them a water line that's not leaking is the same as a rock; roots will pass it by with no damage likely.

Listen to Walter Reeves’ segments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website,, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Fan Page at for more garden tips.