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The Globe and Mail

What's this weed?! Our garden guru takes your questions

We asked readers for their beginning-of-the-season gardening dilemmas. Columnist Marjorie Harris weighs in with solutions. Send your questions and photos to Be sure to include your name, city, and details of your gardening challenge.

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QUESTION 1 From Morris Maduro, Edmonton, Alberta: We had a fairly mild winter this season in Edmonton, but our cedars suffered quite a bit of damage.

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QUESTION 1 CONT'D We had a fairly mild winter this season in Edmonton, but our cedars suffered quite a bit of damage.

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MARJORIE'S FIX: These poor plants did not get the moisture they needed. We had so little snow, ground water is lower and no one was watering in early March when they needed it. The tree in the first shot should be removed. Add compost to the area. For the other, add compost and water as well - and get rid of the brown areas by rubbing the branches while wearing a pair of leather gloves.

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QUESTION 2: From Lydia Shemeluck, Toronto: Please help! I've only had this plant for two weeks and already I'm killing it! I heard mint likes full sun so I out it in a very sunny window.

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QUESTION 2 CONT'D: Then it looked like it was starting to suffer, so I started watering it very frequently - a few times a day. It looks worse. I can't decide if I'm underwatering or overwatering. Branches are all drooping over the edge of the pot.

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MARJORIE'S FIX: You are killing your plant with kindness. Let it dry out between waterings. Water until it runs out the bottom and then, leave it alone until it passes the second knuckle test: stick your finger in to the second knuckle. If it’s dry, water. And leave the plant in full sun.

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QUESTION 3: From Gloria Geller, Hamilton, Ontario: Last summer my beautiful golden elderberry shrub’s leaves turned black with a rotting appearance. I severely cut back the shrub last year with the hope that whatever was causing the problem would not reoccur this year.

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QUESTION 3 CONT'D: This is close up of a leaf with the “rot” starting on it again.

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MARJORIE'S FIX: This looks like a fungal disease, usually systemic, which has hit the plant again. Cut out all the diseased sections, spray it with a fungicide, put lots of compost around the plant. If this continues, pull it right out and don’t plant anything there for a year. Just use compost to bring the soil back to health.

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QUESTION 4: From Helen O'Neill, Kitimat, B.C.: Please help! This weed is literally taking over our back yard. We noticed it started last year, but this spring it looks like an epidemic.

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QUESTION 4 CONT'D: We live in the north west corner of British Columbia. Last year we had a wet summer and this spring is much the same. We are not gardeners - cutting and maintaining the lawn is about the extent of our gardening.

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MARJORIE'S FIX: This is field horsetail, one of 15 species native to B. C. Don’t pull at it - you’ll only increase the number of plants you’ve already got. Try solarizing it: cut it back (get every bit out of the garden) before the spores develop, cover with plastic and let it fry. Or cover it with a dense mulch and smother it, then you will have to dig it out, but do not pull as new plants will develop. This invsasion means you must fix the drainage in your lawn.

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QUESTION 5: From Lorrie-Anne Lauder, Unionville, ON: I have two hydrangea standards that appear to be dead. The one in this photo is completely without buds at the top part of the "tree" but has a couple of shoots coming out of the bottom (next photo).

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QUESTION 5 CONT'D: Is this worth saving? They are only about 2 years old. My garden is otherwise thriving!

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MARJORIE'S FIX: The standards are dead and what's coming is below the graft so you'll be getting whatever the parents are. Usually you wouldn't want the parent - they graft for hardiness not beauty. I'd get rid of both of them and start over again with some of the new hydrangeas: 'Little lady' is lovely; 'Endless Summer'. Or try Fotherfilla 'Mt Airy' which would fit in with your garden.

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