Question: I bought some clay pots in Mexico recently that I'd like to use for planting. On pots I've bought before, the inside has been coated with a black paint. Should I paint the insides of these new pots? Does it protect them from moisture?
P.L., Santa Ana
Answer: "Basically, the 'paint' you see is a light tar mixture that's used to seal it," says Paul Bracci of Villa D'Este Fountains & Statuary in Garden Grove. "Mexican pots, while they're often attractive, aren't as durable as those made in Italy, which is why the dealers often seal them. Without some type of protection from the moisture, they'll deteriorate very quickly.
"You don't have to use tar to seal them on your own. Try one of the concrete water sealants available at hardware stores and just paint it on."
Q: We have two adjacent maple trees that are about 15- to 20-feet high that seem perfect for a hammock. However, is there a rule for how strong a tree should be before you put that kind of stress on it?
B.T., Costa Mesa
A: "There's no rule of thumb that I know of, but when you have a strong tree like a maple at that height, you shouldn't have a problem," says Jim Montgomery of Anaheim Patio & Fireside in Huntington Beach. "Generally, you have to figure that the hammock is going to hang no more than 4 feet off the ground. Depending on how much space is between the trees, you may have to tie the anchor ropes fairly high. If they have to be tied too high, you may be bending the trunk when someone uses the hammock. At that point, you might consider using a hammock support."
Q: I'm thinking of installing a series of outdoor lights to light up our driveway, walkway and some sections of the front yard. What are some of the pros and cons of using a high-voltage system versus a low-voltage system?
A: "In general, installing high-voltage lighting is going to be a much more complicated procedure," says Steven Joseph of Allied Lighting in Costa Mesa. "There are a number of code regulations that have to be adhered to regarding insulation of the power lines, how deep they're buried in the ground and how far they are from water. However, a high-voltage system is better when you're trying to light up areas from long distances.
"With a low-voltage system, you can have wires buried very shallow or above ground, and your energy costs are lower because you're using less power. Low-voltage systems make sense for most homes, since the lighting objective is usually to provide decoration rather than illumination."
Q: I've been told that using a root irrigator on some of the large trees in my yard is better than watering. Is that true?
A: "Root irrigators have been tried and tested for many years and are excellent for watering trees or large shrubs," says Charles Crum of Flowerdale Nurseries in Costa Mesa. "It's a 3-foot-long probe that you place in the soil near the tree and connect to a hose. They get water directly to the roots, so none is lost through evaporation. There's also a cartridge on some models that lets you feed fertilizer down into the roots along with the water."
Q: We're coming up on spring, and for our house that means it's wasp season. Is there some kind of insecticide or coating I can use on the eaves of our house to prevent them from nesting?
A: "Unfortunately, there's really nothing you can use on the wood to prevent them from nesting," says Tony Alcantara of Vint Pest & Termite Control in Santa Ana. "The best thing to do is monitor the areas they usually nest in every few days. You can use some of the over-the-counter pest sprays made specifically for wasps that send a stream of insecticide a long distance. Or, knock them down with a broom. When their nests are fairly new, you're not dealing with many wasps, so it's easier."