Looking back 10 years at the first Fielding Questions column

To celebrate 10 years as The Forum's gardening columnist, Don Kinzler takes a look back at the very first Fielding Questions column.

A Hope for Humanity rose grows at the Montreal Botanical Garden.
Contributed / Nadiatalent, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Since we’re taking a walk down memory lane and celebrating 10 years of garden columns, I thought it would be interesting to see what gardeners were asking a decade ago. Below are the questions from the first Fielding Questions column published in 2013.

Q: My friend gave me a Hope for Humanity rose which has done well for two seasons. I jokingly call it Hope for Humility. I place a Styrofoam container filled with leaves over it in the winter and do not cut it back. I do cut back a Morden rose and then cover it in the same way. Which is proper, to cut back or not?

Also, a walnut tree probably planted by a squirrel next to the rose has grown to twenty inches. Would it make a good boulevard tree? I have a spot and could move it this fall. Would it be messy and drop walnuts and attract squirrels? - Jack F.

A: The roses you mention are quite winter-hardy and do well with no winter covering. But during a severe winter with little insulating snow cover, dieback can occur. Rabbits also like rose bushes, often stripping the bark or eating canes down to the snow level.

If you don’t want to risk winter dieback, then cover. Your method of tucking insulating leaves inside the Styrofoam rose cone is great. Without the insulation hugging the canes, roses inside Styrofoam cones can die back while surrounded by frigid air.


Roses normally winter best if left unpruned in fall, with pruning given in early spring instead. But if they’re too tall to fit inside a rose cone, trimming will be needed.

Congratulations on recognizing the black walnut seedling. Dig and transplant either this fall after leaves have yellowed and dropped or early next spring before bud-break. Walnuts develop a deep “tap root” which makes transplanting difficult, but I think you are within the window of success.

The high value and beauty of a black walnut tree surpasses any inconvenience from fruit drop. Maybe it will keep the squirrel busy while ignoring your other plant material.

Q: I have six single flowered Japanese peonies. How far down can I cut the bushes after they’re done blooming? Every year about late July or early August I’ve gotten a fungus at the bottom of the branches and I’d like to curb that. Please advise. – David S.

A: For the time being, only the “spent” flowers should be removed. Peony foliage continue to feed the roots after flowering, storing up energy for next season’s blooms. It’s best to allow the foliage to remain as long as possible. The best time to remove foliage to ground level is in fall after a hard freeze.

During the growing season peony foliage is very susceptible to the fungus diseases powdery mildew and botrytis blight. An all-purpose fungicide works best if used early in anticipation of outbreaks before they occur or at the very earliest signs.

There are various brand names but a common active ingredient is chlorothalonil. Check the label. Practice sanitation in the fall by cutting back peony tops to ground level and disposing in the outgoing garbage.

Q: The leaves on my tomato plants are turning yellow with brown spots. The lower leaves are brown and dying. With the rains we’ve had plus my watering I don’t think it’s lack of moisture. There are numerous tomatoes on the vines. What should I do? - Susan K.


A: You’re not alone. Tomato leaf diseases are common during periods of high humidity and moisture. Try soaker hoses which keep foliage drier than overhead sprinkling. Water in the morning so leaves dry before nightfall. Mulching the tomatoes prevents soil-borne organisms from splashing onto leaves.

Fungicides are best applied as preventatives, or at the first sign of problems. Look for a vegetable disease control product which can be mixed and applied with sprayer or watering can. The fine print on the label often lists chlorothalonil as the active ingredient. Apply now in an effort to stop the spread to healthy leaves. If enough healthy foliage remains, the tomato crop can ripen fine.

Listen to the "Growing Together" podcast

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at . Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.

Don Kinzler, a lifelong gardener, is the horticulturist with North Dakota State University Extension for Cass County. Readers can reach him at
What To Read Next
Get Local