Q: When is the best time to fertilize zoysia grass? What fertilizer should I use?
Mike Bruff, Clayton
A: The most important thing to remember is that you should take a soil test every two to three years to make sure you don’t over or under fertilize your lawn. You can pick up a test kit at your local extension office or at most good garden centers.
Once you receive the results of your soil test, you will be ready to go. Zoysia, like all warm season grasses, is dormant during the winter and should not be fertilized during this time. Wait until it is in active growth before applying any fertilizer. I prefer to split my fertilizer application, putting half down between late April and mid-May and the other half down around the beginning of July.
Growing vegetables in a greenhouse
Q: I received a small greenhouse for Christmas and would like to know what type of vegetables I could grow in the winter.
Robin Gregorinci, Willow Spring
A: If your greenhouse is unheated or minimally heated, it can be used to grow cool season crops like broccoli, kale and cabbage. Many root crops such as carrots, beets, parsnips and garlic will also do well in an unheated greenhouse. If you choose to heat your space, the palette of plants extends quite a bit, and tomatoes and peppers along with other summer crops can be grown.
Beloved witch hazels
Q: Two years ago I was surprised to find growing under my witch hazel (Hamamelis intermedia “Primavera”) a small tree that had started from seed. I have potted it but am wondering if it will be true to the parent since I’m guessing the mother plant was grafted and is a hybrid. In a nutshell, will it be as hardy and will I get the same great flowers? The mother plant is at least 15 years old, and I do have other witch hazels, but they are far away. They are “Arnold Promise” and “Diane,” so I doubt they would cross pollinate. Please also share your thoughts on a witch hazel which you think every garden should have.
Jann Martindale, Raleigh
A: You are correct to think that your seedling witch hazel will not be true to the parent “Primavera.” Your plant will likely have flowers more typical of the parent species, but that seedling could very well be much different than any other witch hazel around. That is one of the true joys of growing flowering plants from seed. Witch hazels are quite hardy as a group, and your new seedling should prove to be just as tough as the parent.
I do think almost every garden should have a witch hazel – the fragrant flowers when little else is in bloom make them invaluable in the landscape. There are so many great ones out there. You already have some of the most popular forms available. “Primavera” is a particular favorite of mine along with the classic “Jelena.” Another form with a most unusual flower color is “Amethyst,” which has really grown on me over the years. For gardeners with limited space, “Quasimodo” is a nice dwarf with coppery orange flowers, and for those who really like something different, “Falling Star” is one of the only truly weeping forms.
Mark Weathington is the director of JC Raulston Arboretum at N.C. State University in Raleigh. Info: jcra.ncsu.edu. Please send your garden questions, including the city where you garden, to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Common name: Common witch hazel
Botanical name: Hamamelis x intermedia “Jelena”
Family: Witch hazel (Hamamelidaceae)
Category: Large shrub
Primary uses: Winter garden, mixed shrub border, woodland
Dimensions: 8 to 15 feet tall by 8 to 12 feet wide
Culture: Full sun to shade; moist, well-drained soil. Witch hazels are tough performers in the landscape once established, tolerating drought and temperature fluctuations well. Witch hazels rarely need pruning except for shaping. Prune, if necessary, immediately after flowering.
Bloom time: Late February through March
Bloom color: Coppery orange
Hardiness: minus 15 F (USDA hardiness zone 5)
General attributes: Witch hazels are grown for the winter interest they bring to the garden. “Jelena” is a classic form with large coppery orange flowers. The flowers are slightly fragrant and will hold up well even when the temperature drops below freezing. Foliage is dark green in summer, turning butter yellow in fall. Pests and diseases are minimal with this group of plants.