Q: I live on a lake in East Texas and have always had bougainvilleas hanging around our dock and on the back deck. They die off during the winter and I replace them every spring. This year most of them died during the summer — not from lack of water but I guess just from the heat! Now I have a greenhouse. Should I cut them back and put them in the greenhouse before the first freeze or just leave them (mostly scraggly) and put them in the greenhouse the way they are? Water and feed them or let them go dormant? I also lost several older hydrangeas; again, not from lack of water but just from the heat. Finally, my dogwood looks dead and is losing leaves. Any possibility of saving it? S.M., Frankston
A: Keep the bougainvilleas outside, fed and watered well until the beginning of cold weather. Move them inside before the first hard frost. I would cut them back to save space, since the colorful bracts form only on new growth. The damaged shrubs and dogwood tree should be given the Sick Tree Treatment. Then wait for spring.
Q: I have a 7-foot red maple in my yard that a buck has used for a rub. The bark is torn up and the damage goes all around the maple’s trunk. Is there anything I can do, or is it doomed? R.H., Tyler
A: Bucks (male deer) rub their antlers on small, flexible trees in order to rub off the velvet on their new antler growth. During mating season, bucks rub their antlers on trees to attract receptive females and to mark their territory. Unfortunately, buck territory now might include many people’s landscaped yards and prized trees. It is possible the buck may return to this tree again if it is part of his territory.
Try using the product Deer Scram to keep him from causing further damage. To help the tree, you could try soaking burlap in a homemade batch of Tree Trunk Goop and wrapping it around the trunk’s damaged areas. Keep the burlap moist for a couple of weeks, and then allow it to dry. You can mix the Tree Trunk Goop yourself with equal amounts of compost, natural diatomaceous earth, soft rock phosphate and water. Fireplace ashes can be substituted for soft rock phosphate.
Q: Our daughter and son-in-law recently purchased a home at which the former owners chose to terminate their water as soon as the contract was signed, leaving the lovely trees and grass to fend for themselves. The St. Augustine lawn is in shock, and several wax-leaf ligustrums have died. What is the best way to rehabilitate this yard? S.A., Arlington
A: Spread dry molasses at 10 to 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet and then 1/2 inch of compost over the turf and beds. Water heavily so the moisture deeply penetrates the soil. How much and how often you water depends on the type of soil and whether affected areas are in sun or shade. Water frequently and deeply until a probe shows that moisture has wet the soil at least 18 inches deep.
Q: My Leyland cypress trees seem to be dying. They are turning brown. Could it be too much water or not enough? A.K., Prosper
A: You are probably applying too much water. When in stress from overwatering, a fungus called bot canker attacks and kills entire limbs. Those limbs that have turned brown should be removed. Apply my Sick Tree Treatment to the trees and the soil around them. Make sure the trunk flares are visible, and cut back on the watering. I would not recommend planting any more of these trees. This problem with them is becoming widespread.
Q: I need to cut my first-year asparagus foliage for the winter. When should I cut it back and how close to the ground should I shear it? G.R., Fort Worth
A: I don’t cut my asparagus back until frost burns all the green away. Then I cut it off an inch or two above the ground and cover it with 1 inch of compost and 3 inches of shredded mulch.