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Ask the Gardener 

Welcome to "Ask the Gardener," a dedicated space where all your gardening questions and queries find their answers. Whether you are a seasoned gardener seeking expert advice or a beginner just starting out, our team of knowledgeable and passionate gardeners is here to assist you every step of the way. Let's embark on a journey of learning, sharing, and nurturing nature together.

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Can I grow rose of Sharon in this area between Fenelon & Bobcaygeon?


The short answer is yes. Rose of Sharon grows in Zones 5 to 8 and prefers full sun to part shade. It is native to Asia.


Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a deciduous hibiscus species that produces abundant showy blooms in summer and fall. The five-petal flowers come in a range of colours. This flowering shrub only requires regular watering and feeding when it’s young. As it matures it becomes a low maintenance option that is drought and heat-tolerant, easily adaptable to poor soil and urban conditions and can live up to 20 to 30 years.


Rose of Sharon can be planted in the spring or fall and has a moderate growth rate of 12” to 24” per year until it reaches a mature height of 8’ to 12’. It can grow to be 6 to 10 feet wide, so it needs room to expand. Space plants far enough from building foundations, walls and decks so the foliage won’t crowd the structure.


Be aware that as it grows and seeds, it can become invasive in some areas, in fact it is considered invasive in some US states. You will want to keep an eye open for seedlings and don’t plant it where it might escape into the wild.


Pruning annually will help to regulate the size of the plant and help boost the size of the flowers. If pruned in late winter or early spring, the shrub will have fewer flowers, but they will be larger. Remove damaged, diseased, or dead wood, then reduce overly long stems by one-third of their length and cut branches growing at wayward angels back to the main stem or base of the plant.

How do I keep cats out of my garden?


There are a few things you can try to deter cats from making your garden their litter box.


Texture: Cats prefer gardens with soft, dry dirt or sand. Anything pointy or bristly will help deter them. Some things people have used in or on dirt: pine cones, stone mulch, cedar mulch covered with pine mulch and straw, plastic netting, straw mulch, egg shells, small branches saved from pruning (insert in soil at random angles). Lay repurposed plastic carpet runners with the nubside up. Lay chicken wire or pieces of plastic fencing over soil. Pieces of lattice may also work.


Scent: Use safe, nontoxic scents that cats don’t like and will tend to avoid like black pepper, cayenne pepper, dry mustard power, coffee grounds, used tea leaves, or orange peels or peels from any citrus. Plant lavender, rue, geranium, or lemon thyme. Mix 1 part essential oil (choose from citronella, orange, lemongrass, lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus, tea tree, anise) with 3 parts water and spray mulch or fabric strips. The scent of human hair is said to deter cats so try emptying your hair brush into the garden. Don’t use mothballs, bloodmeal, bonemeal and fish meal which may be toxic to pets if ingested.


Water: install a motion-activated sprinkler. If your feline visitors have a favourite location, wash the area with with a hose or water from your rain barrel to remove the scent or urine spray. If you are around when they visit your garden try a gentle misting from water from a spray bottle to help cats break the positive association with your garden.


Reverse psychology: Build a sandbox to lure cats away from where you don’t want them (which at least helps to contain the mess in one location) or plant catnip in a location where you would prefer cats to be. Spread recycled mesh produce bags from onions or citrus on the garden and anchor with twigs or stakes to ensure they don’t blow away and become litter.


Sound: try wind chimes, motion sensitive bells or rocks or pebbles in a jar that rattle when kitty comes near. There are motions activated devices that you can purchase, or ultrasound devices that emit a frequency that cats can’t stand but is inaudible to humans.

The top of my white spruce was lopped off in a storm. Will the tree die? The tree was less than 12 years old and about 14 feet before it was damaged. It lost less than 20% of its height.


Conifers will produce new leaders if they have enough lateral branches left to support such growth. This tree is young and less than 20% was lost so it has good potential for regrowth.


Typically, several new leaders will start to form from the lateral branches nearest the top. If left unchecked, the tree will develop multiple tops which over time will create a tree very prone to further wind. If your wish is to let the tree get tall again, it is highly recommended that the strongest new leader be selected that is closest to the original stem. Eventually it will be difficult to see where the tree was broken except a small crook where the new leader took over.


Cut the broken top just above the first live whorl. This will encourage a branch in the top whorl to become the new leader. Find the best branch and gently bend it upwards. Using a biodegradable rag (i.e. cotton, linen) attach the branch to a pole that is tied to the tree’s trunk. This should straighten the branch and encourage it to become the new leader. the Storm_PK.pdf for Ice-Damaged Trees.pdf.  

  (Note: this article was produced by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources)

All this rain and my grass is still yellow?  What’s wrong?

There are a number of possible reasons why your grass is still yellow,when most grass in the neighbourhood is a luscious green.


A lack of nutrients in the soil can lead to an unhealthy lawn.  In spring, it’s typically a nitrogen deficiency.  Nitrogen is a major part of chlorophyll and the green colour of plants.  It is responsible for lush, vigorous growth and the development of a dense, attractive lawn.  


Too much rain can be as damaging as not enough rain.  Too much rainfall can cause a depletion of nitrogen.  Fast growing grass leaves are often lighter green because leaf chlorophyll is less concentrated or ‘diluted’ by the rapid growth rate.  


Wet, cool conditions can cause iron chlorosis to develop. The roots can’t get adequate iron from the soil to supply the rapidly growing shoots – so the turf becomes iron-deficient and chlorotic (yellow). With iron chlorosis, the YOUNGEST, newest leaves at the top of the grass plant will become deficient first.   Iron chlorosis develops in random patches. The youngest leaves will be the brightest yellow, since iron doesn’t move well from older leaves to younger ones. Rapid growth and saturated soil will encourage this temporary iron deficiency in turf.


Is grass dormant or dead?  One of the simplest ways to check is to tug on it.  If you tug on yellowing grass and it pulls out with little resistance, then it is probably dead.  Dormant grass still has strong, growing roots.  If you tug and there is some resistance, there is still hope.  Different species of grass lay dormant during certain weather or at different times of the year.  Cool-season grass, which prefers cooler temperatures, will lay dormant when it's hot in order to survive. As for warm-season grass, it will lay dormant in cooler temperatures.


Other issues can also cause your grass to turn yellow, for example, from over fertilizing, dog urine, soil compaction, or grubs and insects, 


Being the spring season, and considering the type of winter we had, and spring we are having, I would start with a slow-release fertilizer and see if that helps.  The other option (cheaper for sure,) is to give it a bit of time and see it things improve.   


Adding Nitrogen to your lawn


If you decide to buy a nitrogen rich fertilizer for your lawn, use a slow release fertilizer which is more beneficial for plants in the long run.


Natural sources of nitrogen:  grass clippings.  Don’t rake up your grass clippings when you mow.  Let them lie and microorganisms will break it down, adding nutrients to the soil to feed your plants.


Manures add nitrogen: chicken manure has the most nitrogen, followed by horse manure and cow manure.  Never use fresh manure, it needs to be composted or rotted for at least 6 months to a year before you can use it.  Aged manure is available from the hardware store and garden centers.  The best time to add manure is in the fall.


If you compost in your backyard, you can steep or brew the vermicompost in water to make homemade nitrogen fertilizer for your plants


If you compost your green kitchen waste and grass clippings you can thinly spread compost over the lawn or make a compost tea by steeping or brewing your compost in water, and then spreading the water over your lawn.


It is best to add nitrogen in the spring and fall as the plant’s growth phases are starting.  Too much fertilizer can be as big a problem as not enough fertilizing, so if using organic products, start slow.

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