Plant poppy seed in November

Q: Should poppy or larkspur seed be planted early in the fall to make roots or should the seed be put out after the ground freezes? — Elizabeth Pharr, email

A: Poppy seeds germinate best in soil temperatures of 60 degrees and falling. That is typically in early to mid-November. Seeds will germinate in a few weeks and the leaves can stand most cold winter temperatures we'll get. Roots will grow rapidly in February and the flowers will emerge in early spring.

Q: I was cutting my grass and had to bend down to cut under a tree. My head hit a limb and a brown/rust colored snake, 12 inches long, fell down. When did snakes start climbing trees? — Alvin Richardson, McDonough

A: Some Georgia snakes are pretty good climbers. Young black racers are a mottled brown/tan in color. Black rat snakes are more black, with white markings. Both can climb a tree or shrub while looking for bird eggs and frogs. It's not likely you'll see one again, but if the thought scares you, just hit low limbs with a stick beforehand. A nearby snake will disappear before you see it.

Q: Have you had any experience with Bulldog 51 fescue? — Mike Collver, Atlanta

A: I have not, but University of Georgia turf expert Clint Waltz said it came out of the UGA turf grass breeding program 15 years ago. It's an improved tall fescue cultivar that handles our climate and soil conditions well, but its lawn characteristics (e.g. color, overall quality, density and leaf texture) are more similar to Kentucky-31 pasture grass than the turf-type tall fescue varieties. In a Chicago test, it is described as one of the coarser varieties. Despite claims of superiority, I doubt Bulldog 51 is better-looking than the finer-bladed turf-type tall fescue varieties. I have details on choosing the best fescue at bit.ly/GAfescue.

Q: I have a large white oak close to an area where I want to put a driveway and build a garage. What type of arborist should I contact to discuss the threat of damage caused by heavy equipment operating in close proximity to the tree? — Tom Strickland, email

A: The Georgia Arborist Association is home to several certified arborists who can be hired to visit your property to advise ways to minimize tree damage. You can look through the membership list to choose a professional at bit.ly/GAarborist.

Q: I found information on mole control using castor oil, water and Dawn detergent applied with a garden sprayer. Do you think it would work with a hose-end sprayer? — John Trussell, email

A: This concoction is useless. Despite its reputation, castor oil has not been shown to be effective at repelling moles. Use traps, if you like a challenge, but the easiest thing to do is to stamp their tunnels with your shoes to persuade moles to seek spots other than your lawn.