I have trouble growing grass under the trees in my yard. What kind of grass can I plant?

“Although St. Augustine and some Zoysia varieties will tolerate more shade than Bermuda, they also need at least half a day of good sun. If you’ve tried these grasses without success, it is time to stop frustrating yourself trying to grow grass in a spot where it’s just not going to do well. Try a good groundcover instead. Liriope, Mondo Grass, Dwarf Mondo Grass, Asian Jasmine, English Ivy, Ajuga and other groundcovers all do well here, and once they are established, actually require much less maintenance than lawn grasses. They need less water, less fertilizer and almost no trimming or mowing. Or try a combination of patio stones, decking, flowerbeds and groundcovers for a beautiful, finished look.”

How often should I water my houseplants?

“The short answer is: “When they are dry.” Many factors go into determining when a plant should be watered — the type of plant, the type of soil and pot, how much light, humidity and heat the plant receives — all affect how often the plant needs water, and these factors change from time to time. So don’t go by the calendar. Go by the plant. Feel the soil and water only when the soil has started to dry out. Remember, most plants cannot stand to be waterlogged or have water stand around their roots. Be sure your pot has drainage, and after thoroughly watering, pour any excess water out of the saucer.”

How often should I water my trees or shrubs?

“All the rules above also apply to outdoor plants and pots. Just remember that our dry summers will suck the moisture out of the soil in a hurry, so keep a close eye on the soil in hot weather, and even in the wintertime, plants that are extremely dry will suffer more freeze damage. Apply the water to the soil, not the foliage of plants, but using soaker hoses and drip irrigation, or putting a slow-running hose at the base of a tree. Deeper, less frequent watering is more beneficial than frequent sprinkling because it encourages deeper roots and drought tolerance. But you must also be certain that beds drain and don’t allow water to stand for long periods. Consult with Smith’s professionals for plants that are more drought tolerant, or plants that can tolerate more moisture if you have a boggy spot”

What is the best time to plant trees and shrubs?

“Most trees and shrubs are grown in containers and can be planted any time of the year. The best time to plant is the fall, because plants will have time to establish a better root system before the summer heat.”

When do I cut back my crape myrtles?

“The short answer – never! Crape myrtles bloom on the old growth from previous years, so if you cut the plant back very much, you’ll lose many of this year’s blooms. The only trimming you should do to most crape myrtles is to remove the dead seed heads. If you have planted crape myrtles that get too big for the spot where they are located, consider replacing them with other varieties. There are dwarf varieties that will max out at 2 feet, 4 feet, 6 feet, etc., so you can find a variety that is suited to your location.”

What is a good, fast-growing shade tree for this area?

“Most of the really fast-growing trees (like mulberry, poplar, willow and some ash) are not good trees. Their softer wood makes them more susceptible to insect and disease problems and they are likely to be very short-lived. Quality trees such as Oaks, Chinese Pistache, Bald Cypress, Cedar Elm and Pecan will live much longer with fewer problems along the way. These trees can be moderately fast growers if they are properly watered and fertilized and if you keep weeds and grass away their trunks. Weeds and grass compete for water and nutrients and will slow down the tree’s growth. A good layer of mulch or a fibrous weed mat will hold conserve water and keep weeds away.”