A female ruby-throated hummingbird visits a backyard nectar feeder. The ruby-throated hummingbird nests in metro Atlanta, and some of them stay here year-round. CONTRIBUTED BY SUZY HOPE DOWNING
Photo: Picasa
Photo: Picasa

Keep hummingbird feeders out in winter

Q: There is a hummingbird that keeps coming to my feeder to eat even though the weather is cold. Should I keep putting nectar out? Margaret Brown, email

A: Keep the feeder out; some birds don’t migrate away. The ruby-throated hummingbird nests in metro Atlanta, and some of them stay here year-round. The rufous hummingbird is also occasionally seen. Individuals of a few western species sometimes settle here and don’t migrate farther south for winter.

Q: I have recently switched my cats from clumping clay litter to pine pellets. How can I repurpose the pellets somehow in my yard? Kathy Lyon, Fayetteville

A: I don’t see a reason not to use the “enriched” pine pellets as mulch underneath your shrubs. You could also mix the material into the soil as you make new flower beds. I wouldn’t use the pellets in a vegetable garden but otherwise they seem safe to me.

Q: Where can I buy Mascarene grass (Zoysia tenuifolia)? I plan to create a Zen garden in my backyard with ferns, mosses and this beautiful grass. Sha-Ron Cassel, email

A: I saw it growing near Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia in Cuba. I was fascinated by the small green mounds this grass makes. I agree that it is very attractive. That said, Mascarene grass is not at all cold-tolerant. As a result, I have never seen it sold in Georgia. I can see there are several people who sell the seeds online but I don’t see any vendors of sod or plugs. I guess you’ll have to buy the seeds and grow it yourself.

Q: I had a gorgeous Harry Lauder’s walking stick when I lived on Long Island, but the one I planted here is barely holding on. I’m guessing it gets too much sun and heat. Bonny Levenson, Gainesville

A: I have a 10-foot-tall contorted filbert, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ (Harry Lauder‘s walking stick), in my landscape, and my neighbor has another. Both are growing great in full sun with no irrigation. More than likely, your limiting factor is a poor root system.

On a warm day in early winter, dig up your plant, trying to get as many roots as possible. Put it on your driveway and use a hose to wash the dirt completely off of the roots. Loosen the soil around your planting spot at least four feet in all directions. Scoop enough soil from the middle of this area to spread your plant roots as wide as you can. It is fine to clip a few if they won’t spread as you wish. Backfill over the roots, water thoroughly, mulch, and your shrub should be lots healthier next year.

Q: Should I aerate fescue, then dethatch, or the reverse? Ken Pruitt, email

A: Fescue rarely forms a thatch layer, so I don’t think you need to dethatch at all. Aeration is always a good idea to do in fall or early winter when the fescue is growing fastest.

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Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on 95.5 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.