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GARDENING Q & A

Dividing Agapanthus

November 08, 1987|PAUL B. ENGLER and ROBERT SMAUS

Q: Can I divide agapanthus now, or do I need to wait?--L.F., Los Angeles

A: Agapanthus should be divided in the fall so that they can become well-established by June, when they flower. It isn't necessary, however, to divide agapanthus every year--as it is with many other perennials--because they bloom best as large clumps. Although dividing them sets them back temporarily, it is an economical way to get additional plants.

Agapanthus clumps in the ground weigh a lot, and digging them up is a major chore. Dig up the whole clump. Then cut the clump into smaller pieces, using a sharpened, flat-bladed spade. Plunge the blade into the clump and jump on it with both feet to sever the fleshy roots. Spades can (and should) be sharpened with a bastard file, available at any hardware store. Agapanthus in containers can be cut into small clumps with a sturdy kitchen knife.

Q: We have a small lime tree that now hosts a heavy population of red scale. It is all over the leaves, twigs and fruit. How can I control it?--V.R., Covina

A: If a spring treatment is necessary to supplement annual oil-spray treatments, malathion is the substance of choice. Apply it during April and May, but not while the tree is blossoming.

Q: When garden books recommend an application of mulch, does that mean I should use one that one that also fertilizes, such as manure? -- T.K., Canoga Park

A: Not necessarily. Manure and well-decomposed compost used as a mulch add nutrients to the soil. However, most mulches--peat moss, wood shavings, straw--provide no direct nutritional benefit until they are completely decomposed in the soil. Many mulches decompose slowly and use large amounts of nitrogen in doing so.

Q: We've moved to a not-yet-developed area outside of town . How can we attract birds and other wildlife to our new home?--G.A., Rialto

A: Don't move a rock or brush pile, cut a tree, plant a bush or dig a hole--until you know what resources you already have. You then can manage your wildlife. Most species need food and some sort of cover. Songbirds, for example, survive the competition of larger birds if a birdhouse with small entry holes is present. Plan your new yard so that a wide variety of plants with seeds, berries and foliage plants is available to all the wildlife you want to attract. Water is also essential.

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