Privet tends to take over

Q: If I use privet as a hedge along my property line, is there any reason to be concerned about the berries making their way into a nearby vegetable garden? — Tim Thomas, Jackson County

A: There is every reason to be concerned! Chinese privet seeds seem to have a 110 percent germination rate. If you allow the privet to produce seed, you'll have problems in your landscape and garden for years.

Evergreens like ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae, ‘Foster’ holly, ‘Little Gem’ magnolia or dwarf ‘Burford’ holly would be much less likely to cause worry.

Q: I was once told by a “good ol’ boy” termite inspector that houses that had cave crickets in the crawl space never had termites. Is there any truth to this? — Gary Kolar, Atlanta

A: University of Georgia termite expert Dan Suiter says there is absolutely no truth to this. Cave crickets eat small amounts of decaying organic matter in damp environments. They do not eat or repel termites.

Q: I live on the shores of Lake Oconee. Would a bay laurel shrub survive being put in the ground now? — Ellen Richards

A: Bay laurel, Laurus nobilis, is the source of aromatic leaves used in cooking. The shrubby tree is reasonably cold-hardy where you live, but if temperatures are forecast to be below 15 degrees, cover it with black plastic to the ground on all sides and put a 60-watt bulb in there to keep it from freezing.

Q: My mother has an old flower plot containing phlox, sedum and many other perennials. The bed is in decline and needs to be rejuvenated. Considering the variety of plants, what needs to be done? — Don Partee, Walton County

A: Wait until April and observe the bed for emerging leaves of the various flowers. Once you know where each plant is growing, you can transplant the clump to a better spot. Keep an eye on the area in winter; don't allow weeds to grow so thickly that they obscure the leaves of the perennials in spring.

Q: Would it be beneficial to till my garden now while the temperatures are low in order to kill some of the bugs that winter over in the soil? — Bo Mullins

A: Winter tilling is one of the very best ways to organically control garden insects.

Dress warmly and work the area over on a windy day when the soil is dry.

Wind desiccates insect eggs and larvae. Exposing them to sunshine may make them hatch and die from cold.

The sacrifice you make by tilling in the cold will be repaid in less insect control work to be done in summer.

Listen to Walter Reeves from 6 to 10 Saturday mornings on WSB-AM (750). Visit his Web site, www.walterreeves.com, for detailed advice on Georgia gardening.

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