Hank Wessels

My houseplants do not look healthy; what can I do for them?

There are five thing you probably need to do to improve the health of your house plants: 1) Give them better lighting; 2) Avoid over-watering them; 3) Avoid applying too much or too little fertilizer; 4) Stop using cheap potting soil (buy the best you can find); and 5) Provide them with plenty of humidity (one should have at least 30 percent humidity in the house where you have plants).

If disease or insects appear on any of your house plants they should be sprayed with the product Orthenex. Always follow the directions on the label on how to mix this spray. Be sure that this product did not freeze.

Is there anything I could plant near my home this year that the rabbits and deer wouldn’t eat?

When they’re hungry, rabbits and deer will eat almost anything. Here are some ideas. They usually will leave a catalpa tree alone and trees which produce the long pods and leaves and hang on the tree in fall. Sweet orchid-like flowers and daffodil flowers will in most cases be left alone. Fences around plants, in some cases, keep the deer and rabbits away from eating them. With all of the snow we are having, they are likely hungry enough that they’ll eat almost anything. Trees they usually will not chew on include fir trees, yews, spruce and juniper.

What are some ornamental grasses I can plant in this area?

Here are a few recommended by the University of Minnesota: Blue Heaven, Blue Gama Grass and Silver Baner Grass. Silver Baner Grass is quite evasive in the area, so stay away from it unless you have a lot of room for this to grow. In many cases of this type of grass, it is left until in the spring before cutting it back for new growth.

With all of the snow we’ve had, the rabbits are chewing at the bark of our fruit trees. What can I do to save my trees?

Get a shovel and dig the snow from around the tree trunks at least two feet away. You may want to put a high chicken netting wire around it, unless we have a fast winter thaw. Rabbits eating through two layers of bark will in time kill a fruit tree.

•••

Hank Wessels is a Master Gardener in Watonwan County. He welcomes questions and comments from readers. He may be reached at 601 1st St. SW, Madelia, MN 56062, hwdw@madtelco.net or (507) 642-8479.