Paulownia trees are not recommended for most landscapes.

Q: Would an Empress tree be good to make shade for my grandchildren while playing outside? Is there another tree you would recommend? — Lois Collins, email

A: Empress tree, aka Princess tree, Paulownia tomentosa, is too coarse and weak-wooded to be a good tree in most landscapes. Besides dropping numerous twigs and branches during summer, in a few years you’ll see big-leafed paulownia seedlings sprouting up all over your neighborhood. I think a red maple is just the ticket for you and the kids. Look for named varieties like ‘Autumn Blaze’, ‘October Glory’ or ‘Red Sunset’.

Q: We had a huge river birch removed, so now we have a huge pile of wood chips from the stump grinding. Can that be used in our yard for anything? Will it attract termites? — Mary Albin, email

A: Yes, you can use the chips for mulch anywhere in your landscape as long as the layer is less than 1 inch thick. Termites aren’t exactly “attracted” to chips, but they do love the moist soil underneath mulch. If a termite queen lays her eggs in the mulch, the workers will happily consume the chips, but a pile of chips won’t bring in insects from other parts of your yard.

Q: We recently had a university soil test done for our veggie garden and they recommended 15-0-15 fertilizer. I found it, but only labeled for use on lawns. Is it OK for a vegetable garden? — Pam Williford, Alpharetta

A: It’s tough for the University of Georgia soils laboratory to keep up with all of the fertilizer products a consumer might have available. Last year, I personally counted 25 different fertilizer analyses available at local nurseries and big box stores. Your soil is likely high in phosphorus, so 15-0-15 would be a sensible product for the soil lab to recommend. I recommend you look for fertilizers at your local nursery that have nutrient numbers that are close to 15-0-15. A 12-4-8 or 16-4-8 product would be safe to use in your garden even if it is recommended for a lawn. Make sure it does not contain a weed killer. Follow the application rate on the fertilizer bag, not the rate for 15-0-15 you saw on the soil test report.

Q: Is there a product that will kill a big maple tree and its roots? The roots are ruining my walkway. — George Carpenter, Marietta

A: Once you cut down the tree, roots won’t continue getting bigger or elongating. But they may send up leafy maple root sprouts nearby. Be vigilant clipping the sprouts at ground level for a year and the roots underneath will die. When sprouts no longer appear, you can repair the walkway without worries.

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