Q: Privets! The bane of my existence. I live on a corner lot in the Rosemont area. I'm in my 70s, single, retired, no gardener, bad back, yada yada. Over the years, I have tried a little at a time to grow a "park" for myself. Got rid of the lawn, water less frequently, etc.
Privets have always been a problem, but after I retired I located two huge hidden mother plants that had grown into trees. I sawed them down. I thought I was on the path to a solution to stop new plants. Not so; the other plants along with the birds and squirrels plotted against me and somehow started thousands of new privets, primarily in my roses and hedges.
They seem to have a symbiotic relationship. The new privets immediately sent tap roots to China and I cannot pull them out.
Can't someone invent a "poison pill" that can be pushed into the soil at the base of privets, aimed directly at their roots? Spraying inside my roses and other desirable plants is not an option.
Help, please, before I "Roundup" my entire beautiful yard and go entirely to pots. These privets have ruined my sanity, quality of life and garden.
Judy Jones, Sacramento
A: The seedlings of glossy or broad-leaved privet (Ligustrum lucidum) are annoying weeds in the Sacramento area, according to UC Master Gardener Bill Pierce.
Plants of 18 inches or smaller are easily pulled when the soil is damp.
For those larger ones you didn't notice until they were several feet tall, an herbicide will do them in.
Cut them close to the soil and immediately paint the stump with a liberal quantity of undiluted 41 percent or 50 percent Roundup or Ortho Brush-B-Gone. Wear gloves and read and follow directions on both products carefully.
Q: I'm writing for information on nematode eradication or control using household remedies, preferably no chemicals other than spices, etc. Currently, I'm trying garlic water.
I have a potted plant in a 6-inch container and another 6-inch pot I'm trying to get a habanero pepper started in. The nematodes either eat the sprout out of the seed or the sprouts come up to maybe an inch tall and don't grow any more. Nothing seems to get rid of them.
Please let me know what I can do. Will hand soap, detergent or chili powder work?
Thomas Alford, Vacaville
A: According to UC Master Gardener Bill Pierce, nematodes are microscopic, eel-like roundworms. The most abundant ones are beneficial. Those that bother plants cause knots on the roots that inhibit the full functioning of the roots and result in sickly, under- performing plants.
The most reliable practices for controlling nematodes are preventive, including sanitation and choice of plant varieties.
Currently, no chemical nematicides or soil fumigants are available to home gardeners for nematode control in backyard gardens and home landscapes.
In growing plants from seed, do not use garden soil. Use a soil mix that holds water but also drains quickly.
If the soil is too wet, seeds rot. Sprouted seeds also will die from damping-off fungus. That may be what's happening to your sprouts instead of nematodes.
Pepper seeds are harder to germinate than tomatoes, for example. Peppers are also more prone to damping-off fungus.
Try putting one-third sand in your potting mix next time to provide good drainage. When the seeds sprout, give them only a light sprinkling of water when the soil surface feels or looks dry.
Use clean containers and steam-treated soil or pasteurized potting mix. Seedlings affected by damping-off will wilt and usually have a dark and shriveled area on stems or roots near the soil line. Shoots may also rot before they emerge.
Questions are answered by master gardeners at the UC Cooperative Extension services in Sacramento and Placer counties.
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