FARGO -- There's a Christmas tree battle raging, and we're all in the thick of it. No, it’s not the neighborhood couple who required therapy after putting up their Scotch pine. Nor does it involve tempers flaring while locating the needle-in-a-haystack loose bulb that made the whole string of lights go out.
Q: I was shocked to see our 40-year-old spruce has developed patches of brown, dead needles. Since it's an established tree and it was a wet fall, I didn't water it. Is this caused by lack of moisture, disease or is this tree nearing the end of its life? — Kay Hogetvedt, Felton, Minn.
FARGO -- People who enjoy tending their yard or garden have much in common. I’ll bet I’m not the only one whose garden hose never kinks within easy reach, but instead knots itself way back by the spigot. We’ve all discovered that rabbits prefer ruining the plants most dear to us, and leave untouched those we value less. We treasure the first ripe tomato of the season as though we hit the jackpot.
Q: Our 8-year-old ponytail palm, named Dr. Seuss, has always been quite buoyant. Over the last several months, the leaves have lost many curls and droop downward instead of standing taller. We repotted it a few months ago, but its mood hasn’t improved. We water it two to three times a month, only when it’s really dry since we know the large stem is the water reservoir. Any ideas? — Kat Ramsland.
FARGO — People with houseplants fall into three personality types. First are those who coax any indoor plant into junglelike vigor and turn even sickly rescue plants into room-sized wonders. Second are those who have a minimalist relationship with their plants; the plants appear adequate as they get basic care, no more, no less. Lastly are those who have never met a houseplant they couldn’t kill, but wish to discover the secret to success.
Q: Could you please identify this vining plant that grows on our chain-link fence? It is very invasive, as it originally started two doors down and over the years eventually made its way across our neighbor's fence and onto ours. We all know to cut it back as needed. Are the berries edible? It has lovely fall color when conditions are right, but not this year. — Denice Heiser, West Fargo.
FARGO -- Did you know scientists are discovering that trees communicate with each other? They aren’t necessarily gossiping about you behind your back, and they probably aren’t sharing a joke about two trees walking into a bar, but researchers are finding fascinating ways that trees are talking among themselves.
FARGO — The autumn of 2018 will go down in history as one of the more difficult for end-of-season yard and garden work. Our own garden has been too wet to dig potatoes from the gooey clay. Instead, I’m waiting for them to float to the surface. I wonder if Martha Stewart has a recipe for herbed potatoes a la mud.
Q: The photo shows my chrysanthemum this fall. Should it be cut back now that it froze, or leave it until spring to clean it up? This was the second year for it and I was not sure it would survive the winter, but it did! — Bonnie Johnson.
“Close your books and take out a sheet of paper.” I haven’t heard the words for decades, but I remember vividly how the teacher’s chilling words struck fear into the hearts of us poor, unsuspecting (and probably unprepared) students when a surprise quiz was announced. It’s easier to laugh about it when you’re no longer a student.