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Fielding Questions: Hibiscus trouble, vegetable spacing and creeping Jenny taking over the yard

A reader asks Don Kinzler what she can do to help this hibiscus tree that starts to look "pretty sad" after a couple months in the house. Special to The Forum1 / 2
Don Kinzler, Growing Together and Fielding Questions columnist. The Forum2 / 2

Q: My hibiscus tree does really well outside in the summer but after a couple months in the house, it looks pretty sad. I water it twice a week, and in that interval the leaves get very droopy. Once watered, some of the leaves start to yellow, although others perk up. Just before watering, many of the leaves curl inward. I don’t see any evidence of insects. I had mites last winter but eliminated them. I give it a little fertilizer once a month. Any suggestions? — Mary Wakefield, Grand Forks.

A: Thanks for sending the photo of your braided-trunk hibiscus. Several things might be interacting.

Yellowing and dropping of a few hibiscus leaves in winter is normal, as plants slow down during winter’s short days. To accommodate the hibiscus’ slowdown, less watering is needed. Leaves can wilt and curl from overwatering, as well as underwatering. Before watering, check by poking a finger into the soil up to the first joint. If you feel moisture at the fingertip, don’t water. If it’s dry, apply enough to wet the entire soil ball.

Your hibiscus might also be rootbound. Repotting into fresh potting mix and a slightly larger pot will let you assess the health of the root system. March is a great month for repotting.

Removing the dropped leaves from the soil surface is also a good plan. Spider mites, which are nearly invisible, are a persistent pest, and I wouldn’t rule out their resurgence as a contributing factor to the symptoms you describe.

Q: Can I plant two rows of carrots 2 to 4 inches apart rather than single rows farther apart? Are tomato plants best in a single row? I’ve been planting them in rows 4 feet apart. Should the tomatoes rows be planted north to south or east to west for best sunlight? — LeRoy Throlson, Sheyenne, N.D.

A: Besides planting in single rows, carrots can be planted in wide, 6-inch rows, in which the carrot seed is sprinkled within the area, giving each carrot a little more growing space and requiring less thinning than is usually needed when seeding in narrow rows. That method might work better than two straight rows planted closely. Growing tomatoes spaced 3 or 4 feet apart in all directions has long been a successful planting scheme.

You also ask the interesting question of which direction to orient garden rows. The layout of the garden sometimes dictates the direction, but generally the important concept is to prevent tall items from shading the adjoining vegetables. For all vegetables to receive maximum sunlight, it’s often recommended to run rows north to south, although unless vegetables are tall, east to west works fine, which is the orientation of our garden that produces well.

Q: Creeping Jenny is taking over my yard. I have many flower gardens around the yard so spraying weed killer isn’t an option. I bought a roller and tried it, but some lawn areas were burned. Weed-B-Gon slowed its growth, but the creeping Jenny still grows strong. — Laurel Nabben, Niagara, N.D.

A: Creeping Jenny and creeping Charlie are both difficult weeds, and long-term persistence is definitely needed.

In the lawn, try turf-type herbicides for “hard-to-kill weeds.” The most successful timing for application is during September. That’s when perennial weeds absorb herbicides most effectively. If applied on a calm, wind-free morning, close to ground surface following all label directions, there should be no danger to adjacent flower beds. For weeds within flower beds, carefully spot-spray as needed. Apply follow-up applications in late spring or early summer, and repeat these herbicide applications every September and early June for at least several years.

Other than herbicides, persistent hand-digging or smothering with an opaque material are the only methods I know.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.