Garden mailbag: Dig up spreading gingers; wood mulches are fine; and wait to fertilize azaleas – NOLA.com

garden-mailbag:-dig-up-spreading-gingers;-wood-mulches-are-fine;-and-wait-to-fertilize-azaleas-–-nola.com

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Please provide any tips on getting rid of ginger forever. It is too invasive and I am getting too old. Thanks. — GayleGingers do have the ability to spread by underground rhizomes, and over time, some types can get out of hand. Cut the ginger back to the ground. Then dig up the rhizomes and dispose of them. You could have this done by a landscape maintenance company if the job looks too big for you to tackle. They may miss a few pieces, so keep an eye out for any stray sprouts this summer. Dig them out as soon as you see them.Recently, I read that wood mulches can deplete the soil of nitrogen as they break down. Is this true? If so, what can I add to the soil to compensate for this nitrogen depletion? Or is there another kind of mulch you would recommend that is readily available? Would it be OK to mulch using the fallen leaves of live oak trees? — Karen ShawThat information does not actually apply to mulches. When you use low nitrogen organic materials for mulch, such as cypress mulch, wood mulch, pine bark mulch, pine straw or fallen leaves (oak leaves make an excellent mulch), nitrogen depletion in the soil of the bed is not an issue. The organic matter applied on top of the soil interacts with only the very surface of the soil. It decomposes slowly at the surface without affecting available nitrogen levels down in the soil of the bed.This information applies when an uncomposted, low nitrogen organic material is actually incorporated into the soil of the bed during bed preparation. And nitrogen is not actually depleted, it is just temporarily tied up.This can happen when organic materials like shredded wood chips or pine bark are incorporated into the soil. The microorganisms that utilize the organic matter as food (decay it) must obtain the nitrogen they need from somewhere else. They take nitrogen from the soil, and in doing so, tie it up in their bodies as their populations surge. When the organic matter is largely decayed and the food runs out, the microorganisms begin to die. This returns the tied-up nitrogen to the soil, with the added benefit of decayed organic matter.The problem arises during the decomposition phase. At that time, so much nitrogen may be tied up in the bodies of microorganisms that plants are unable to obtain all they need to be healthy. This leads to pale leaves and stunted growth, symptoms of nitrogen deficiency.To keep this from happening, the gardener can do one of two things. First, the organic matter can be composted before it is dug into the bed. That way the decomposition process has already occurred. Or the gardener could simply add a nitrogen-containing fertilizer at the time the organic matter is added. That way, there will be enough nitrogen to satisfy the needs of the microorganisms and the plants. Granular general purpose fertilizers such as 15-5-10 or organic fertilizers like blood meal or cotton seed meal would be fine.I notice my azaleas are beginning to bloom. Is now a good time to fertilize them? — Johnathan MorganMost of us wait for our azaleas to finish blooming before fertilizing them. Fertilization can encourage azaleas to send out their new growth while they are still blooming. While this is not a problem for the plant, it is disappointing to see the flowers covered partially by the new growth. When you fertilize, use a fertilizer labeled for azaleas or acid-loving plants.

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Dan Gill is a retired consumer horticulture specialist with the LSU AgCenter. He hosts the “Garden Show” on WWL-AM Saturdays at 9 a.m. Email gardening questions to [email protected]
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