KC Gardens

Answering your gardening questions from asters to zoysia

The ins and outs of mulching

It’s that time of year when your car, minivan or SUV becomes a transport vehicle. No, I don’t mean for the kids, grandkids or errands, but as a full-on assault vehicle for transporting home load after load of mulch for the landscape. Spring is an excellent time to freshen up the all-important mulch layer in the landscape.

Mulch is akin to a properly frosted cake. It finishes off the landscape and adds beauty. Unfortunately, in some cases, also left in the mulching wake is a problem for those landscapes mulch is aimed at protecting. The concept of mulching is really pretty simple — cover the soil and the plants benefit from cooler soil temps, more even moisture, less weeds and a finished look. Improperly done and the plants suffer.

A proper layer of mulch should be between 2 to 3 inches deep. A deeper layer can inhibit oxygen and air exchange in the soil, damaging roots. Deep layers of mulch can also compost, generating heat and a potentially sour mulch condition that can burn the plants.

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By DENNIS PATTON. yesterday

Problems with black things on my asparagus. What’s up?

I went to pick some asparagus yesterday and I noticed several small black protrusions. I’ve never seen these before. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can be? I’ve attached a picture. Thanks - Ken


Those little black specks are the eggs of the asparagus beetle. This beetle will feed on the spears and cause them to be deformed. Once you harvest, wash well to remove the egg case. They are ok to eat if you can get past the insect thought. As for control any general use insecticide labeled for asparagus should do the trick. Dennis – Johnson County Extension

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What about pruning and fertilizing holly?

Tell me about pruning and fertilizing holly. - Joanne


Holly is a nice evergreen addition to the landscape. It is not an easy to grow plant as it seems like it either thrives or struggles. It is very dependent on the right micro-climate for success. The goal would be to prune holly as little as possible. But if it does need a trim, now or early spring is a good time. If you are needing to prune then why would you fertilize to promote more growth that you have to prune? Once established holly should not need additional fertilization. Dennis – Johnson County Extension

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2 days ago

How invasive are butterfly bushes in small areas?

I would like to plant a butterfly bush in my small enclosed patio garden but I have been reading that they are extremely invasive. Is this true and if so is there another shrub that would do as well? - Sheila


Butterfly bush is considered an invasive plant in many parts of the country but not in the Kansas City area. Rarely if ever does it reseed in our climate. I would continue to plant this great summer flowering shrub. Another thought –– many of the newer varieties on the market are now sterile which means they should not produce seeds. Dennis – Johnson County Extension

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2 days ago

Dennis says: Fertilize your roses, but follow updated guidelines

Want more flowers on your rose bushes? If so then you need to provide them an extra boost through fertilization. Proper fertilization develops strong vigorous canes that will end in a big fat plump bud with a nice flower.

Most local soils have plenty of phosphorus and potassium, so the recommendation of using a balanced fertilizer such as 13-13-13 or 10-10-10 is outdated. The old recommendation was to apply about 1/2 cup of this type of fertilizer per plant 3 to 4 times per growing season between mid-April and mid-August.

Newer recommendations are more environmentally friendly, as it reduces the use of unnecessary fertilizer containing phosphorus and potassium. Nitrogen, the first number on a bag of fertilizer, is the key nutrient for established roses. Using a higher rate of nitrogen and low amounts of phosphorus and potassium are best. Examples of fertilizers to use are 27-3-3 or 25-5-5.

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By DENNIS PATTON. 6 days ago

Looking for some evergreen trees and shrubs for a woodland setting

(To see an answer to this question, click on Read More.)

Dennis, I've appreciated your tips and guidance for years.

We live in Red Oak Hills, just west of 435 and Shawnee Mission Parkway. I need to add a few evergreen trees/shrubs to my woodland, very sloped backyard and would like your recommendations for small evergreen trees that will survive in this area.

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April 16

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About the Blog: Send us your questions

Kansas City can be a challenging area for gardeners and homeowners with lawns and landscaping. We're here to help with resources, advice and answers. Email us questions at kcgardens@kcstar.com and you'll get answers from Johnson County Extension Master Gardeners and other experts.

Our bloggers

Dennis Patton
Patton is a Johnson County Extension horticulture agent and majored in horticulture at Kansas State University. He calls himself a plant geek and says his own garden is one of dreams and hope. Patton enjoys perennials and says if he had the time, hecould envision a large vegetable garden.

Carole Brandt
Brandt has been a Johnson County master gardener since 1990 and works on the Master Gardener hotline, which gives her an opportunity to research a great variety of garden questions and learn from all the people who contact her.

Craig Nienaber
Nienaber is a Star Metro editor and author of “Flower Gardening in Kansas City,” a book that profiles more than 20 of the area’s best gardeners. Each year, he tries to make his Shawnee yard a little bit better and keep it from backsliding.