Wisconsin Garden – Questions & Answers


From time to time people ask me questions about their gardens.  I am very flattered, but I only know what I have learned by trial and error, asked experts, or found out by doing research in books or on the Internet.  I’ll tell you what I think, and if you think it sounds logical, give it a try.  Thanks for having confidence in my answers, I’ll do my best to find you an answer in a timely fashion.

In most cases you’ll find many more questions and comments that others have posted directly under our YouTube video.  Once you find a video of interest make sure to scroll down and find lots of helpful tips about gardening.

If you have a question, comment or suggestions, send it to me :


If you’re in the neighborhood give us a call – We’ll be happy to take you on a tour.

GOOGLE: “Wisconsin Garden”

13720 West Keefe Avenue – Brookfield WI 53005

Please Call First: 1-262-613-4426


From Linda:  Zombie Tree Trouble

Q:  I need help.  We have Lombardy poplar tree stumps that we can’t take out.  What do we put on them so they will stop sprouting?

A:  While we don’t have poplars on our property, I was able to find some suggestions that may prove to help solve your tree root problem.  Just realize it will take time and patience to stop them from coming back.   Let us know which technique(s) you used and which worked best.  All the sources had pretty much the same solution.   Lynn

“The poplar tree is a very common tree in North America and refers to any tree of the genus Populus. There are three main groups of poplar trees: aspens, balsam poplars and cottonwoods. They are quick growing but short-lived trees.  The tree can be very invasive due to sprouting new trees from its root system. Thus, some people find it necessary to remove poplar trees from their landscape. With proper practices, it is fairly easy to remove them.

First, using a chain saw, cut the stump down as close to the ground as you can, without allowing the chain saw’s teeth to strike the ground (this would dull your chain). Apply a non-selective herbicide like Roundup (active ingredient = glyphosate) to the stump of the poplar tree.

A good way to apply this is to use a paint brush and paint the entire exposed surface of the tree stump. This herbicide will kill the roots of the tree. Also apply it to all the leaves on the sprouts instead of cutting them off.  This way the herbicide will be absorbed by them also.

The single most effective method of getting stumps and roots to be digested is to bore some holes in the stump and fill them with a high Nitrogen product which will encourage the bacteria to get to work and digest that stump.  Drill holes a few inches deep into the stump in numerous places, using your widest drill bit; the wider and deeper the holes, the better. Fill these holes first with water, then with a fertilizer high in nitrogen. For instance, you could use cow manure.

If you’re using a commercial fertilizer instead, make sure the first of the 3 numbers of the fertilizer’s NPK is the highest (for instance, a straight nitrogen fertilizer such as 45-0-0). Soak the ground all around the stump. Cover the stump with a plastic tarp. The tarp will act as a barrier to help retain moisture in and around the stump.

Moisture is a powerful ally to have on your side for tree stump removal. Apply organic mulch over the plastic tarp, and water it thoroughly.  Organic mulch such as tree bark or hay will hold additional moisture, keeping the area even wetter.

Wet mulch is also heavy, which will help weigh the tarp down, so that it doesn’t blow away. For additional weight, roll some heavy stones onto the tarp. The final thing you need to do for this tree stump removal project is — to be patient!

You’re speeding up the natural process of rotting by employing the steps above, but this tree stump removal technique is still not for those who need the stump to disappear N-O-W.  You’ll reduce the wait for completion of your tree stump removal project, however, by periodically removing the mulch and tarp for a moment and once again thoroughly soaking the stump and the ground around it.

If you still have that nitrogen source at your disposal, add more of it. Then reapply the plastic tarp and mulch. Soak the mulch again, too, to keep the tarp wet and weighed down.

Read more: How to Remove Poplar Trees | Garden Guides http://www.gardenguides.com/93645-remove-poplar-trees.html#ixzz0zFmwttYY – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

From Jacob:  Popsicle Tree

Q. I bought a Rainbow’s End Dwarf Alberta Spruce, it’s 33″ tall and looks perfect in a pot on my front patio on the east side of the house. It came in a planter’s pot so I replaced it with a thick ceramic pot 14″x12” giving 5″ of new dirt on bottom and about 2″ on the side. I would like to keep upsizing pot size until the tree is 4 feet (should be years) then grounding it. Is this possible?  Could my new baby survive the Wisconsin winters in a pot?

A:  Sounds like you did just the right thing when you transplanted it to the new pot, Jacob.  You added new soil and didn’t go too big with the size of the pot.  It is better to use a pot that is just a little bigger than the old one.

My research answered some of my own questions about keeping plants in their containers for the winter.  First, it is advised that the plant should be rated one zone hardier than your region.  That being said, there are a few things you can do to insure it will be happy in its new home.

You mentioned that you want to keep it on your east patio, so think of ways you can keep it out of the direct path of the wind for the winter and early spring.  Consider pushing it up to the house or into a more sheltered corner.

Wind can be very drying and harmful. You will want to keep its feet warm, so use bails or bags of straw around the pot itself as insulation to protect the roots.

Think of these as decoration possibilities for the holidays. Insulate the top of the soil with wood chips to help keep the moisture in the ground, and probably the most important tip is to water your baby tree, not only right before it freezes outside, but also anytime the soil is thawed and dry, throughout the winter and spring. Enjoy your lovely little tree in all the seasons.  Sounds like it found a loving home. Lynn


From Sue  Pop Your Own Balloons

Q. My blue balloon flowers were huge, but wouldn’t open naturally.  I had to pull them apart by hand.  Do you have any ideas as to why?

A:  I have been trying to find an answer to your balloon flower problem and have had no luck.  Every source tells how hardy and problem-free balloon flowers are.  They only list fungus problems, but never once mentioned blossoming problems.  I have not had that problem either. If you did not pop them open, what happens?  Do they just wither and die unopened?  What a disappointment!

I have to go to a nursery so they can identify a vine problem we are having, so I will ask about your flowers too.  Could be a freaky nutrient missing or something like that.  I’ll let you know what they say.

Reply from Sue: They just wither if I don’t open them.

A #2:  After talking to the experts at Hawks Nursery, they came up with a couple of possibilities. Too much water, too much shade, or a combination of both at the exact time the flowers were blooming.

Did the place you  have them planted get shadier from last year due to tree or bushes nearby? I guess you will have to wait until next year to see if it happens again.  Gardening isn’t an exact science, it’s more like a work of art in progress.

Reply from Sue:  Thanks, Lynn.  It could be more rain along with shade, but adjacent to the blue ones, there was a white one, and that opened just fine.  Guess we will wait and see.  I appreciate you checking into it.


From Dave:  Rotten Bottoms

Q. Last week Dave, from California asked me about a problem he was having with his tomatoes. He said his tomatoes were ripening nicely but seemed to be rotting on the bottom, and was wondering if he was watering them too much.

A:  I had heard in the past that this was caused by inconsistent watering patterns, and I remember having experienced this problem myself during summers when there were periods of too much rain.  So I did some research and sure enough my sources said it can be caused by a lack of calcium in the soil caused by uneven watering or lack of water or possibly root systems that aren’t fully developed. What I suggested to Dave was that he may want to cut back on the watering a bit for now and also do what Jerry Baker recommends, which is sprinkle egg shells around your tomato plant.  The calcium from the egg shells can then get into the soil and feed your plant what it needs.  He was going to try that and let me know.  Good luck, Dave.  I know you are looking forward to eating your juicy, but firm, home-grown tomatoes.


From Rachel:   Witches Butter

Q.  What is this yellow mold-like stuff growing in my flower bed? Here is a picture I took of that I took with my phone.

A:  After doing some research I think I found your culprit.  It’s called Witch’s Butter. Isn’t that a descriptive and colorful name!  You were right, Rachel, it is in the fungus family.  Here are a few suggestions I found on the Internet that you could try.

How To Treat Soil Fungus

Option 1 – Purchase a fungicide approved for use on the type of grass and plants you have and apply it to your yard according to the manufacturer’s directions.

Option 2 – Mix water and baking powder together in a spray bottle and apply it directly to areas with soil fungus problems. Use 2 to 3 tablespoons of baking powder in a 16 to 20 ounce spray bottle. Do not add so much baking powder that the mixture becomes too thick to spray easily.

Option 3 – Sprinkle corn meal over fungus-infested areas. The cornmeal will soak up the moisture and help kill certain types of fungi.

Option 4 – Add nitrogen to woody mulches to prevent the mulch from taking nitrogen from your plants. Add grass clippings to your wood mulch before composting or use poultry manure or urea to add nitrogen.

Option 5 – Saturate compost and mulch with water right after applying them to your soil. Water helps promote the growth of helpful bacteria that attack harmful fungi, reducing the chance of developing a fungus problem.

Resource: http://www.ehow.com/how_5899213_treat-soil-fungus.html


From Jeri  Tomato Tonic

Q. What nutrients did you use when you planted your tomatoes?  

A:  I used Jerry Baker’s formula called “Timely Tomato Tonic.”  3 cups of compost, ½ cup Epsom salt, and1 T. baking soda. To that mixture I added a handful of worm castings that we bought from Will Allen’s Growing Power, Urban Farm Store. The sugar goes in the hole and then sprinkle the dry milk around the tomato when it’s planted.  Best of luck with yours.


From Nora & Marc

Q. I’ve read your blog, and watched many of the videos.  Your tips are so helpful, and I would like to thank you for sharing!  I enjoy walking with you through the garden to see what you’ve done and how it has changed over time.

Lynn & Rick, I have watched videos 1-46 excluding number 44 which I didn’t find.  Each one was so interesting from a gardening perspective.  You work soooo hard and it shows in all your gardens. I especially liked the berm video and wish I had seen it before we spent so much to fill a ditch in front of our home!

I live on 13 acres, so leaves would have been easy to collect and pile up there for the last 11 years that we’ve lived here.  The log wall is so unusual, making it beautiful.  We mow around 8 acres and less mowing perked up my ears.

The idea of all the mulch and garden rather than boring grass makes your acre seem so much larger.  The mulch would be harder to do here as our property slopes down into two ponds.  I will look for the mower video!  Sounds like a scary moment:(  Maybe you need to let that strong man you married do some of those harder jobs!!

I don’t have anything to share, just looking for ideas to use in my yard.  I was interested in planting strawberries and that’s how I ran into your site.  I just kept moving from one video to the next, watching you transform your place and tell what you had done in the past.

I have a couple of Silver Maples to plant and I’m not so sure I want to plant them after hearing that you took them out of your yard.  We would have them close to the house than would be safe!  The idea was to plant fast growing trees the replace shade trees we took out.  We had to take out 8 old trees that had been through all the ice storms the could stand.

They were what my husband called “Piss Elms.”  They dropped tiny limbs daily and he spent half an hour each day picking them up.  He doesn’t miss them at all.  The shade on the house is gone now and the Silver Maples would grow fast and shade the house and yard again. I could comment on each video, they are all so good.

Feel free to post my comments in your blog if you’d like.  Thought I’d let you know we live in Northwest Missouri.  Thanks for all the information! Marc & Nora

A. Dear Nora, Thank you so much for your kind and encouraging comment.  Rick and I have fun walking around the yard looking at the changes that take place daily, knowing full well we will never be finished because everything just keeps growing.  Thank goodness it does!

We continue to try things and talk to people about how they do things.  Please share your tips and ideas so we can learn from you too.  Did you see the latest blog with me working on the lawnmower?

I did my best to follow Rick’s instructions, but when he started it up, I hadn’t cranked the blade on tight enough, and it made the most terrible noise…..he had to stop it and use his muscles on it.  Live and learn.

If you’re on FaceBook, feel free to join my garden group.  Just look me up at Lynn Voigt.  Sincerely, Lynn & Richard


Bind Weed   Our daughter, Lace, sent me a picture of a weed that was growing in a friend’s yard and asked if I knew what it was.  Even from the tiny camera shot, we could tell it was from the morning glory family because it was twining its way up a flower stem.  I have heard it called Bind Weed because it just wraps itself all over your plants and binds them together.  Eventually it gets little pinkish morning glory flowers and produces SEEDS.

Our advice is to spray it with a ground-type spray, unless it is already climbing all over your plants.  In that case you will need to unwrap it, pull or dig it out, and throw those invasive weeds in a garbage bag. Don’t just throw it on the ground somewhere or in a compost bin, as it will root itself and start over.  It’s a constant battle once you find it, but always worth the work to protect and keep your garden plants in top health.