Q: What is the latest safe date to plant pansies? K. Martin, email
A: Pansies can be planted anytime the ground isn't frozen. They are perfectly cold-hardy. You'll get better blooms from plants sold in 3-inch-to-4-inch pots, not growing in plastic six-packs. Further, be sure to water the pansies at planting and every week for a month, to keep the root ball from drying out as it becomes established in cold soil.
Q: My husband and I have been battling poison ivy in our backyard. I am dreadfully allergic and I want to protect myself from another doctor visit. How can I eliminate it? Liz Settle, email
A: You can't "eliminate" poison ivy, since birds scatter the seeds randomly in their droppings every year. I think your best course is to keep a spray bottle of glyphosate (Roundup, KleenUp, etc) in a handy place and take a weekly walk around your landscape during the growing season. A couple of squirts from the bottle will kill any "leaves of three" you see.
Q: With what should I spray my scheffleras to eliminate pests before I bring them in for the winter? Cathey Eves, DeKalb County
A: I once had a neighbor who would cover his houseplants with a paper sack and stick a lit cigar in the soil. He left it covered for only a few minutes. He said it "fumergated" his plants. They seemed to have no pests during the winter but they were a bit pungent for a few weeks afterward. I don't recommend you follow his example but you can examine the leaves of your plants for spider mites, mealy bugs and aphids. If found, spray outdoors with insecticidal soap or spinosad to control them.
Q: Can I safely spray Roundup on a privet hedge growing under a mature oak tree? Rich Shriver, Cumming
A: Glyphosate (Roundup, etc) is mostly absorbed by leaves but can be absorbed by a tree trunk or roots if applied heavily. If you are careful to spray just the privet leaves, you could use the chemical under an oak.