Ask Me Questions, I Tell You No Lies

We thought we would let you into the world of queries to the Garden Geek. Readers send us about 50 questions a month — and I answer most of them — but the entire department assists with the effort. They’re as wide and varied as San Antonio, but during certain times of the year they fall into broad categories.

Here are a few examples.

Which plants are deer resistant?

This is probably among the top questions we hear. The short answer is plastic, but we do understand the frustration.

No list is 100 percent accurate in providing species that deer-resistant, but we think our Find a Plant advanced search is highly accurate and inclusive. My personal parameters for determining deer-resistance – is the plant smelly, sticky, fuzzy or thorny?

How do I care for my lawn or remove it? Now, regular readers of the newsletter know the feelings of this old forester – grass should be killed with extreme prejudice – but I understand some people have great affinity for this simple plant. While the reason escapes me, I do understand it. Grass care is really simple. It comes down to these five principles.

  1. Put the right grass in the right place. St. Augustine goes in the shade; Bermuda goes in the sun; and zoysia falls somewhere in between. Grass in the right place saves water, money and headaches.
  2. Mow, mow, mow. Frequent and consistent mowing improves grass health and reduces weeds.
  3. Fertilize at the right time. Never before April 15 or after November 1 (general rules of thumb). Ignore the big box stores. If you leave the clippings on the lawn, you could probably skip this step.
  4. Compost and aerate annually. Other than frequent mowing, nothing improves lawns more than composting and aeration. Unlike fertilization, these activities can be done pretty much the entire year.
  5. Watering. If you follow the previous four suggestions consistently, most of the time you don’t have to water. And in normal years, rain will suffice. Otherwise, once a week in spring and fall when necessary will be adequate.

I’m not from around here, what can I plant? We have a lot new arrivals and people who simply have bought their first home, and they have lots of questions on plants and landscape. Our first response is to read our website religiously. Also, subscribe to the Garden Style San Antonio weekly newsletter. You’ll learn all about plants and get lots of gardening tips, too. And for the record, neither eucalyptus nor red maple will grow here. But Arizona cypress and crape myrtle are wonderful substitutes.

Again, this is just a small sampling of the queries we receive. We’ll let you know from time to time what your friends and neighbors are asking about plants and pests.

Picture of Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson was a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System before retiring. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you're likely to find him hiking San Antonio's wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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