We have a large back lawn and are overrun with rabbits; they are eating up our lawn like crazy. I have put down hot peppers and garlic powder. That has been very costly and without results. Can you help us?
>Doris DeMattia, West Hills
The only tried-and-true method for rabbit deterrence is a fence.
The simplest and least expensive fence you could install would consist of poultry netting/chicken wire. You can purchase it in rolls of 4 feet by 150 feet. It should be staked every 5 feet.
You will need a fence with 3 feet above ground, 8 inches below, and the bottom 4 inches bent as a flange outward to keep the rabbits from tunneling underneath. The mesh of the netting should be no more than 1 inch to prevent baby rabbits from squirming through.
I love to cook using fresh herbs, but I either overwater or underwater them, especially dill. I want to grow dill in a pot outside. I have both south and west exposures. What type of light does dill require? Can I use the hydroponic method described in last week’s column to grow herbs?
>Fern Reisner, Porter Ranch
Dill grows best when its seeds are scattered over bare ground, in full or partial sun, and covered with a thin layer of mulch or fluffy soil. Once seeds sprout, water moderately.
This same planting regimen works with cilantro, a dill relative, whose seeds, known as coriander, germinate with equal ease. Both plants self-sow or reseed themselves from one year to the next.
If you choose to grow dill in a pot, make sure the pot is a decent size — at least 12 inches deep — since dill has a tap root that needs room to expand below. Also, it is not a good idea to transplant dill once it has established itself in a container, since plants with tap roots often do not survive being moved.
Dill is not really that picky about soil as long as it is kept reasonably moist. And yes, virtually any herb, including dill, can be grown hydroponically.
I have a garden full of amaryllis (Hippeastrum) plants. Up till now I have just pretty much left them alone except for an occasional handful of fertilizer thrown their way. They do their thing each year, giving us beautiful big red blooms. Out walking, I noticed that another gardener had cut back all his amaryllis to the tops of the bulbs. His do pretty well, too. What is the correct method for taking care of bulb plants after they bloom?
>Alden Loomis, Upland
With any bulb plant, the leaves should remain until they wither. As long as the leaves have color, they are making food that is sent down to bulbs that will leaf out and flower next year. You will have bigger and healthier bulbs next year if you wait and remove this year’s foliage only after it has lost its color.
Several readers have inquired as to where they can procure California tree mallow (Lavatera assurgentiflora), a fast-growing shrub that may be planted as a replacement for oleander, a formerly reliable shrub that has been killed throughout Southern California by an incurable bacterial infection.
According to its Web site, the Theodore Payne Foundation (www.theodorepayne.org) in Sun Valley has packets of California tree mallow seeds for sale, as well as a small number of 1-gallon plants. And Las Pilitas Nursery (www.laspilitas.com) has 75 1-gallons for sale at its Escondido location.
Keep in mind that California tree mallow is not known for its longevity and probably will not live more than 10 years. It does grow rapidly, however, and reaches its mature height of 10 to 12 feet within a year or two. Although it requires less water than the average garden ornamental, it should be kept a bit wetter than bone dry.
Tip of the week
Twenty-four hours a day, from March through May, you can call the Theodore Payne Wildflower Hotline at (818) 768-3533 to find the choicest locations for viewing wildflowers in California. The hotline message is updated every Thursday evening with details on more than 90 wildflower sites.