Carpenter Bees Are Not the Best Pollinators

Q: Are carpenter bees good pollinators in my garden? Some articles say they are and others say they are not that beneficial. Peter Carlson, Cobb County

A: I think their usefulness in a garden is doubtful. They certainly pollinate big, open flowers like sunflowers but carpenter bees are so strong they cut through the side of smaller blooms to sip nectar without carrying pollen from flower to flower. Most of my blueberry flowers are slit on the side from carpenter bee nectar robbing.

Q: I live in a small townhome and the ground floor is very damp. I need a small bush that grows in shade to soak up water. Daria Palwol, DeKalb County

A: Unfortunately, plants do not "soak up water" from an area. Certainly some plants use a bit more water than others as they grow but the difference is not large. While some plants tolerate wet soil around their roots, they do not use more water and make the soil around them dryer. I have a list of shrubs that tolerate damp spots at xrl.us/dampshrubs. The dampness in your house is more likely caused by inadequate indoor ventilation.

Q: I sent a sample of soil to the Georgia Extension office. They say we need to use 46-0-0 on our lawn but I can't find it anywhere. Can I use Milorganite? Julia McBride, e-mail

A: Yes, you can use Milorganite, with an analysis of 5-2-0. The 46-0-0 fertilizer is commonly called urea. Milorganite has much less nitrogen than urea. Therefore, since it is nine times less concentrated, you would use nine times as much as the recommended urea. Example: if you were recommended to use two pounds of urea per 1000 square feet, you would apply eighteen pounds of Milorganite instead. The University of Georgia has a handy calculator that allows you to substitute locally available fertilizers for their laboratory recommendations at www.georgiafertilizer.com.

Q: Several years ago we purchased what we were told were two dwarf Helleri hollies. One has died. The other is still no more than a foot tall, with a spread of two and a half feet. We are trying to find a replacement but have been told there is no such thing as a "dwarf" Helleri holly. Kathryn Richardson, Gwinnett County

A: You're right, 'Helleri' holly grows bigger than you need, perhaps six feet tall, depending on environment. Consider Ilex crenata 'Soft Touch' or Ilex vomitoria 'Bordeaux' for small-sized holly replacements.

Q: Two years ago, I replaced my fescue lawn with dwarf mondo grass. I planted sprigs about four inches apart. So far, so good, except for one problem: in the bare spaces between the sprigs, there are lots of weeds growing. Can you recommend a weed killer? Peter Vantine, e-mail

A: Sethoxydim (Vantage) would be your best bet for grassy weed control. Imazaquin (Image for Nutsedge) is labeled for use on most groundcovers. Vantage is difficult to find at garden centers but Cooper Seeds (www.cooperseeds.com) in Auburn has it.

Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on AM 750 and 95.5 FM News-Talk WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Fan Page at xrl.us/wrfacebook for more garden tips.