Magnolia seeds might not always have two beautiful parents. WALTER REEVES

Magnolia seed may not be worth propagating

Q: I have three beautiful magnolias that are healthy and bloom beautifully. One has pods with red seeds. How do I harvest them and plant at my new home? Ida Butler, Fayetteville

A: I’m sure yours is a beautiful tree but the tree that grows from its seed may not be identical. If there is an “ugly” magnolia in your neighborhood, it could possibly be a parent of your seeds. You won’t realize this until a decade has passed and the tree begins blooming (or not). Why not spend a few dollars and install a nice small magnolia like ‘Little Gem’ or ‘Teddy Bear’? If you have room for them, ‘Bracken’s Brown Beauty’, ‘Majestic Beauty’ and ‘Claudia Wannamaker’ are excellent. If you really want to grow them from seed, I have details at bit.ly/GAmagnolia.

Q: I’m overseeding my fescue lawn. Your website says to apply lime at a rate of 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet. My lawn is 5,000 square feet, needing 250 pounds of lime. But I saw a 30-pound bag of fast-acting lime at a big-box store, and the bag stated that it covers 5,000 square feet. There’s a big difference between 30 pounds and 250 pounds! Greg Lyles, email

A: Liming soil to raise the pH is more of a marathon than a sprint. The fast-acting lime will change pH quickly, but it doesn’t have enough acid-neutralizing ability to last long-term. If you like, you could apply the fast-acting lime now, wait two months, and apply 40 pounds of less-expensive garden lime per 1,000 square feet. Have a soil test done (georgiasoiltest.com) in April to see if even more lime is warranted.

Q: I have been told that the little black balls on my deck are caterpillar poop from the trees above. Do I need to use a mask and rubber gloves and bleach to clean up or will hosing them off be sufficient? Sue Light, email

A: I am not a doctor nor a toxicologist but I can’t imagine that caterpillar feces are any more dangerous than those of other creatures. I would use the same caution you use when dealing with animal manure in your garden or dog droppings on your lawn.

Q: To deal with an extreme squirrel problem I added some chili powder and cooking oil to sunflower seed. Now only cardinals visit my feeder. Could it be too hot? Jill Pohl, email

A: I think the change in bird feeder visitors is likely to be more from seasonal variation than from your pepper being too hot. Research from Cornell University showed that birds simply don’t have a receptor for capsaicin, the hot stuff in hot peppers. Mammals, on the other hand, do have pain receptors that are stimulated by capsaicin. I found one paper that noted that squirrels were deterred from three feeding stations treated with various levels of capsaicin but chipmunks were not. I have no idea why that happened. More research is needed!

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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.

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