HT Home & Garden

Substitutes for roses with rosette virus

By Walter Reeves, For the AJC

Troy Warren #homegarden-all

Q: I saw your Facebook post about watching for rose rosette disease in spring. Once I have dug and destroyed mine, what can I replace them with? Sylas Logsdon, Douglasville

A: There are several good substitutes for a shrub rose. Dwarf abelia (‘Rose Creek’, ‘Kaleidoscope’, ‘Radiance’, etc.) works very well. Small gardenias (‘Jubilation’, ‘Radicans’, ‘Frost Proof’, etc.) are evergreen and scented. The Encore series of azaleas gives a wide variety of flower colors and bloom times. Small shrubs that lose their leaves in winter include weigela, dwarf butterfly bush, and dwarf crape myrtle.

Q: Last fall I planted oats as a cover crop in my small vegetable garden. They came up quickly and have been a nice green area this winter. How should I best remove them in the spring? Simon Dodge, DeKalb County

A: You can use a mower or string trimmer to chop down the oats a couple of weeks before spring planting. Winter cover crops are sometimes called “green manure” because they benefit spring crops so much. They prevent erosion and weeds, provide soil nutrients and may attract pollinators. The best cover crops are a combination of a cereal grain and a legume. Typical are wheat, oat, or rye with clover or winter peas. Different plants are used for cover crops in the summer. I have instructions for both winter and summer cover crops at

Q: I recently moved here from the U.K. and safe to say I have no experience with Bermuda lawns. Our sod was planted a few years ago, but it is terribly uneven and has lots of bare/thin patches. How and when should we level it? Erin Sweeney, Gwinnett County

A: First, welcome to the South! Although I am not as handsome and or as smart as U.K. garden experts like Monty Don or Alan Titchmarsh, I will try to be of service. The best leveling compound is a 1:1 mix of compost and sand. Don’t use pure sand or you’ll have spots that dry out too fast in summer. Wait until the grass is at least 50% green to spread your leveling mix. The job can be a nice family activity. One person drives the wheelbarrow while the other wields the shovel to scatter dry soil mixture in the low areas. A third can use a broom to sweep the soil off the grass and into place. Only add one-half inch of soil to the low spots at one time, leaving most of the green grass leaves showing through. Some areas may still be too low, but you need to allow the grass to grow up through the soil for at least a month. After leveling, fertilize lightly and water the lawn thoroughly. Four weeks later, another half-inch of dry soil can be swept into the remaining low spots. You might find useful my lawn care calendars at