Chipmonks aren't 'berry' nice

We have not harvested even one pint of strawberries the past two years because the darned old chipmunks get them. Is there any way to get rid of them?

I dumped coffee grounds over a bed of crocus that they were bent on destroying and that seemed to discourage them, but I am not sure that would be practical over an entire bed of strawberries. I think catching them in a live-trap and dispatching or relocating them is the best answer.

My Christmas cactus bloomed last year very well. Since it has grown so fast and nearly doubled in size, I have transplanted it three times. Now this year, no bloom. What should I do?

No Christmas cactus should require re-potting three times per year. If you think your plant (any plant) needs re-potting, tip it out of the pot and examine the root ball. If you see one-fourth soil and three-fourth roots, your plant does not need re-potting. They like to be pot-bound, so do not re-pot until you see all roots and little or no soil.

When you do re-pot a plant, use only the next sized pot. If it is a 6-inch pot now, transplant to a 7-inch pot.


A Christmas cactus must have warm days and cool nights to initiate flower bud formation. If you have it indoors and keep your home about 70 degrees all year, you will not see flowers on your cactus. So, in September and October, at least turn down any heat to about 60 degrees at night.

I have a hosta that is just too big for the space. I measured it last summer and it is easily 5-foot across. So I know that I will have to dig and divide it. Is that best done in the spring or fall? And how do I do that?

Either spring or fall is good for transplanting and dividing hosta. As soon as new shoots emerge from the ground, dig up your plant. Lift the entire plant, if possible, or divide it into sections just large enough the handle with a sharp shovel. I like to leave five to seven sprouts per division. Reset the divisions back into the ground as soon as possible and water them thoroughly.

This winter, there were many weeks that my perennial bed was totally bare of snow and some days were actually muddy that even tiptoeing across it was impossible. Do you suppose this was hard on the perennials planted there?

This type of warm weather in spurts like we had this winter is precisely why we cover perennial beds. Often these warm spells thaw and warm the ground sufficiently that some perennials break dormancy thinking spring has arrived and begin new growth. Usually this new growth is not even visible but it does occur nonetheless. Had your perennial bed been covered, the cover could have kept the soil cold and maybe even kept the snow there from thawing and melting. There is really no way to tell if any damage has been done except to wait and see what grows and what doesn’t. Next year, cover your bed with marsh hay or clean straw to prevent this situation.

We purchased some shrubs and evergreen late last fall on sale and did not get them planted, so we plan to do that as soon as we can this spring. Some were in fiber pots and the garden center folks thought it would be OK to plant these leaving them in containers. Is this practice recommended?

Even fiber pots can restrict root growth of newly planted plants, so I would recommend removing all plants from the pots before installation.

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