Oakleaf hydrangea is one of many shrubs best planted in fall. PHOTO CREDIT: Walter Reeves

Still time to plant shrubs

Q: I purchased an oak leaf hydrangea back in the spring. It’s still in a two-gallon pot, doing very well. Is it too late in the season to plant it outside? Brenda Allen, email

A: There’s no reason not to plant your hydrangea, as well as other potted shrubs, in late fall through early winter. The soil will be plenty warm enough to help roots grow between now and January. There is no reason to fertilize now but be sure to loosen a wide area around the planting spot so the roots can expand easily.

Q: Deer ate all the leaves off of my four-foot tall Japanese maple. Will it survive if I bring it into our sunroom this winter? Rick Davis, Dunwoody

A: I think there’s a good chance your Japanese maple will sprout leaves next year without much problem. It has completed much of the photosynthesis it needs for next year during the past growing season and it was preparing to drop its leaves when the deer came by. If the branch tips were chewed off, that might be more problematic but I still predict you will have plenty of leaves. Fertilize the tree in late February with a slow release product like Holly-Tone or Milorganite. There is no need to bring it inside.

Q: I had a UGA soil test done and it recommended: “For establishment, incorporate 3 pounds of 34-0-0 per 1000 square feet into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil prior to seeding.” I just wanted to know if aerating would be enough to accomplish that, or do I have to till? Ken Pruitt, email

A: Local landscaper Lyle Collins (southerntrillium.com) says his brother-in-law, who studied turfgrass management at ABAC, has successfully seeded fescue lawns with just aerating and spreading fertilizer over the top. Nitrogen leaches fairly easily through soil. With the amount of watering done during establishment, leaching is accelerated versus normal rainfall. Tilling could be more damaging if there are trees around, when the surface roots are destroyed during the job. In addition, tilling brings up dormant weed seeds. I think you would be successful with aeration as long as the tines penetrate the soil at least two inches and there are ten aerator holes per square foot.

Q: I have a large hemlock but over the years other trees and shrubs have encroached on one side of it. I recently removed the trees and now a third of the hemlock has dead branches. Is there any way to stimulate growth on the brown side of the tree? Chris Souther, email

A: If the hemlock branches are brown, there’s no way to make them sprout new foliage. You can remove them completely. Consider installing upright evergreen plants in front of the “dead” side of the tree to screen it. Consider ‘Sky Pencil’ holly, ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae, or ‘Blue Arrow’ (‘Skyrocket’) juniper.

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.