Crape myrtle is beautiful, but not fragrant

Q: You claim crape myrtles are not fragrant. I have to disagree! I planted several in my garden and I was surprised when I discovered the crape myrtles were the most heavenly fragrant plant I have! — Patricia Casanave, Virginia

A: I wish you were right, but I have consulted with crape myrtle experts here in Georgia who agree that crape myrtles are only very slightly and occasionally fragrant. The consensus is that you're smelling a nearby plant, perhaps tea olive, which has inconspicuous flowers that are powerfully fragrant.

Q: Is there a product that repels deer with ultrasonic sound? — Tom Garrett, email

A: Ultrasonic repellers are ineffective at deterring deer, rats, squirrels and mosquitoes. The University of Vermont says: "Deer quickly become used to stationary objects and sounds. If ultrasonic or similar sound emitters or radios are used, they should be moved frequently. If radios are used, they should be tuned to all-night talk shows, as human voices are more effective than music, and don't have to be very loud." I conclude from this statement that, if you download my Saturday morning radio show podcast and play it in your garden at night, I could be your most effective sonic deer repellent!

Q: I have a few yucca plants in my yard I want to get rid of. I need your expertise on how to kill them. — Andrew Enloe, Marietta

A: My expertise is that it's really hard to kill a yucca! I got rid of one by cutting it to the ground and chopping as many roots as I could find, then waiting a year and digging up all the little sprouts that came from roots I hadn't found before. That was the end of that one, but a second yucca that I cut down took two years before little shoots started showing up. It is still growing in my backyard.

Q: I have a vegetable garden consisting of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. The soil is mostly clay. I use a drip irrigation system and was wondering what rate of water you would recommend. — Rich Mickiewicz, Marietta

A: This is hard to answer, because much depends on your soil type. If you have sandy soil, you have to put more water on a plant because it dissipates so quickly. With clay soil, it's the opposite.

The size of the plant is also a factor. A big tomato vine requires more water than a mature pepper plant. Your goal is to keep the root zone moist but not soggy, and that may take a little bit of digging around with a trowel to find out how much water you need for each plant during the summer.

Q: Why don't you tell folks about the mosquito-repelling recipe using beer, mouthwash and Epsom salts? — Several correspondents

A: I don't recommend the recipe because it doesn't work. Mosquito repellents work by blocking the insect's "smell" sensors. The materials you list are useless as repellents.