Your Great Big Home + Garden Show Ask The Expert Questions & Answers


You submitted your questions to the Great Big Home + Garden Show experts, now we have your answers! The Great Big Home + Garden Show takes place at the I-X Center January 31st through February 9th, 2020. Take a look below at all your great questions and answers:

Q. Ashley in Mentor - We recently planted roses in a new flower bed. We are having a big problem with wild onions growing in this spot. What could we use to get rid of the wild onions without hurting our roses?

A. Wild onions are tough, and you don’t want to pull them because more will develop! The two methods to use are smother or spray.  Smothering requires several sheets of wet newspaper applied over the top of the onions, around the roses, then a sheet of black plastic over the newspaper held down with rocks or lawn staples. Keep the area covered for 2 months or more.

In spraying, you can use your choice of general herbicide, such as Bonide BurnOut. It is best applied in spring when new growth is emerging, and fall when the onion is storing energy for the winter. Roll a poster board into a cylinder placed over the onions and spray into the cylinder so the herbicide does not drift onto the roses. 

Q. Cathy in Painesville - How often should mulch be completely cleared and replaced in landscape beds?

A. Mulch should break down over the course of 2-5 years.  It is considered organic matter, so turn it into your soil, or compost it. You may have to touch up areas every year, and some areas the mulch may last longer. Remember, 2” of mulch is really the max you want to apply from a plant benefit, aesthetic, and cost stand point.

Q. Brittany in Elyria - What are the best indoor plants for an apartment with little access to natural light?

A. Low Light – 8-10’ away from windows/no windows/dark corners/ barely enough to read by:

Cast Iron Plant (Aspidistra elatior) ℗
Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema spp.)
Dracaena spp. (Corn Plant, Dragon Tree, Spike) ↓
Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia spp.) ↓
Palm Neanthe Bella/Parlor (Chamaedorea elegans) ℗
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp.)
Philodendron spp.

Pothos, Devil’s Ivy (Epipremnum spp.) ↓

Snake Plant (Sanseveria spp.) ↓
ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamiifolla) ↓


℗ = pet friendly (dogs & cats) per ASPCA

↑ = accepting of moderate to high soil moisture

↓ = prefers moderate to low soil moisture                  

*This is an excerpt of our Petitti Gardening Guide “Perfect Places for Houseplants” currently available in stores.

Q. Ashley in Brook Park - What are the best low maintenance bushes for a front yard?

A. For sunny areas (6+ hours of direct sunlight): Barberry, Juniper, Panicle Hydrangea & Spirea

For shady areas (6 hours or less of direct sunlight): Boxwood, Clethra, Smooth Hydrangea, Rhodendron ‘PJM’

Q. Carolyn in Parma Hts. - I am interested in trying organic fertilizers, but am doubting their effectiveness. What are your thoughts or recommendations on brands or sticking with the Scotts 4 step program vs organic?              

A. Simply put, synthetic fertilizers, like Scotts, feed the plant, and organic fertilizers, such as Espoma Organic Lawn Care, feed the soil, which in turn feeds the plant. They both contain Nitrogen, Phosphorus, (mostly removed from lawn fertilizers), and Potassium but at different percentages because their nutrients breakdown differently. Generally, organics are slower acting over a long period of time, and synthetics are faster acting for quicker results.

If you have no major weed issues in the lawn, you may want to try the organic lawn foods just to maintain a healthy, thick lawn.  If you do have issues like crabgrass or dandelions, synthetic fertilizers like Scotts have some of the best and easiest to use formulations for treating those problems. 

If you would like to try an organic product, switch the 3rd step, (lawn food with Iron), which is applied around the 4th of July for Espoma Summer Revitalizer or Milorganite.  See if you notice the difference.

Details on Espoma Lawn Care:

Details on Milorganite:

Happy gardening!

Q. Lynn in Lyndhurst - What type of grass seed can we plant that will have a strong root system? We have 2 fairly large (and young) dogs (60-70 lbs.) and when they run in the yard grass goes everywhere.

A. Try “high traffic” mixes that usually contain tall fescues and/or Black Beauty, which is a turf type tall fescue that produces very deep roots (up to 4’), and is very drought tolerant.

Q. Joe in Louisville - How can I best protect my vegetable garden from damage caused by rabbits?

A. The three most common techniques for preventing large pest damage in the garden are barriers, repellents, and proper plant selection.  Barriers can be netting, fencing, shade cloth, etc. With rabbits, we recommend placing the barrier 6” below the soil level to prevent burrowing underneath. We recommend Bonide’s Repels All for a multipurpose, granular and spray repellent for rabbits and other large pests. Apply the repellent as a barrier around the garden and on the individual plants. For plant selection in a veggie garden, the following seem to be less attractive to rabbits:  Artichokes, Asparagus, Onions, Peppers [may eat young plants], Potatoes, Squash, Tomatoes, Basil, Oregano, Parsley, and Tarragon. Placing pots of Mint around the garden can help repel too.

Q. Tom in North Ridgeville - What is the best flowering bush to plant in the shade?

A. Spring flowering for shade is the Rhododendron. ‘PJM’ varieties are excellent. Summer flowering favs are Hydrangea, but you need 4-6 hours of sunlight to keep them blooming with the Oakleaf type being the most shade tolerant. A close second is Clethra for later season, fragrant blooms.

Q. Colleen in North Ridgeville - What are the best plants and trees to grow in a mostly clay type of soil?

A. Native species and cultivated varieties of native plants will work best in clay because they can adapt to extreme moisture in spring and drought in summer. Try the following:  Maples, Oaks, River Birch, Redbuds, Clethra, Redtwig Dogwood, deciduous Holly, Viburnum, Butterfly weed, Chelone, Liatris, Bee Balm and perennial Hibiscus. For the full Petitti Gardening Guide “Growing Natives” click on this link:

Q. Catherine in Strongsville - How do I get rid of crab grass without using fertilizers?

A. For pre-emergent control, Scotts makes the Halts product without fertilizer. There are also granular and spray corn gluten products that can be used for crabgrass prevention like Espoma Organic Weed Preventer or Bonide Maize. Most of the lawn safe herbicides are labeled to control crabgrass after it appears in the lawn such as Bonide Weed Beater Ultra.

Q. Cody in Cleveland - What's the best tree to plant in Northeast, Ohio that is easy to maintain and will last for years?

A. We suggest sticking with native types such as Red Maples, River Birch, Redbuds and Oaks.

Q. Diana in Elyria - How can I keep my succulents alive? They never last.

A. Bright indirect light to full sun is key, along with letting their soil dry out almost completely before watering again. Don’t let them sit in water, and do not expose them to cold temperatures and drafts, which may occur if kept near a window.

Q. Daniel in Columbia Station - what are the best flowers to put around a pool?

A. Try planting tropical flowering plants that love the hot sun and reflected light:  tropical Hibiscus, Mandevilla, Dipladenia, Bougainvillea, and Lantana.

Q. Karen in Westlake - How do you encourage growth in hydrangeas?

A. Be sure to feed them regularly spring and midsummer with a slow release fertilizer such at Plant-tone or Osmocote.  We recommend a dose of Triple Phosphate as well, if they are not blooming.  Protecting the plant for winter can help too.  Wrap it in burlap and mulch the base 4-6” after all the leaves drop late fall.

Q. Lucinda in Cuyahoga Falls - Is there a natural way to make your grass greener?

A. Milorganite and Espoma Organic Lawn Care products are natural fertilizers that are formulated to green up your lawn and make the soil underneath healthier too. You can keep you mower height high and leave the grass clippings on your lawn. Also, water the lawn deeply in the morning, 1” per week.

More questions and answers to come!