Damage to a tree root from an ax or a mower leaves an open wound through which rot can invade. CONTRIBUTED BY WALTER REEVES
Photo: Contributed by Walter Reeves
Photo: Contributed by Walter Reeves

Exposed tree roots can be covered with mulch

Q: Maple trees always seem to have a problem with surface roots. Do elm trees have a deep root system? Rob Stroupe, email

A: The type of tree you have is not as much a problem as is the hardness of the soil around the tree. Tree roots have to breathe. If the soil is hard, initial roots will grow just below the surface. As time goes on, the roots grow bigger and you begin to notice them bulging above the soil surface. You might be tempted to lower the roots with an ax, but this results in an open wound that will never heal. Removing the roots entirely takes away the tree’s anchoring system. The easiest fix is to cover the exposed root area with mulch.

Q: I have five Confederate rose plants, and the stems are not yet dead. Should I prune it down anyway? Dale Gann, Tyrone

A: I did an experiment a couple of years ago. I left my stalks in place all winter. To my surprise, the stems did not die all the way to the ground but did die down to 3 feet high. New growth came from that spot and below, yielding an interesting shape to the plant. You can choose whatever you want to do with the stems. If stems are green, you can cut foot-long sections and root them in a small bucket of water.

Q: I’m too old to do classic composting with a pile. Every day I have a cup or so of vegetable scraps to dispose of. Can I just toss them over my shrubbery to decompose or am I asking for a rodent problem? Rita Yeazel, email

A: Tossing the scraps over your shrubbery might indeed invite rodents to come for a snack. A better idea would be to dig a small permanent hole next to the shrubbery, toss your foodstuffs in it, and cover it with a rock that the unwanted animals can’t move.

Q: On the radio, you told a listener they should remove most of the soil a tree has around its roots before planting. You also said use only native soil to fill around the roots, no amendments. Benny Williams, Auburn

A: You should get a prize for actually listening to the details of the radio show! What you heard is correct. Research shows that removing the planting media and using native soil makes a huge difference in woody plant survival. I wish everyone would try this like I have. I found a great presentation on the process at bit.ly/GArootwash.

Q: Does my Bermuda lawn need irrigation when it’s gone dormant for the winter months? Rick Swartz, LaGrange

A: No. The only time to irrigate a lawn, winter or summer, is when the soil is dry for more than seven days. On average, lawns need 1 inch of irrigation water (or rain) every seven days in summer. All of the water should be applied in one day, so the soil can dry out between waterings. It is doubtful your soil ever dries completely in winter, so there’s no need to irrigate now.

Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on News 95.5 FM and AM750 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, follow him on Twitter @walterreeves, on Pinterest, or join his Facebook Fan Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.

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