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This winter's salted roads may have done damage to your evergreen

Our 6-foot evergreen has suddenly turned brown, but only on the side facing the road and only the top half. [We] don't see any insects or disease. [It] looks terrible at the end of the driveway. What's the problem?

We suspect salt spray damage from salted roads. The upper exposed leaves or needles were desiccated by salt, whereas plowed and shoveled snow piled on the base of the tree may have protected lower branches. Some branch tips may die, but often leaves and needles fall off and new foliage grows in on tips that are still alive. Where salt damage is a chronic problem, replace the salt-sensitive plant with one that is salt-tolerant.

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A dog did his business in our rabbit manure pile. Can we still compost the manure or do we have to throw it out because of contamination? We want to use it for vegetable gardening.

You have three options. First, if you can easily distinguish the dog feces, simply remove it with a shovel — taking a generous amount of adjacent rabbit manure — and the pile should be fine to use in a vegetable garden. Second, use that pile of composted rabbit manure on ornamental plants only. Finally, you can wait an extra long time to use it: Compost the manure over the next six months, and then work it into your vegetable garden this fall.

Plant of the week

Epimedium, barrenwort

Epimedium

When thinking ground covers for shade, especially dry shade, one that springs to mind is epimedium. Although it prefers rich, well-drained soil, it will grow in dry conditions. Handsome heart- or lance-shaped leaves are leathery and have bronzy-pink edges that turn to green in the summer. Some cultivars keep their reddish coloration all summer, while others only turn red in winter. With a height of 6 inches to 1 foot, epimedium blooms in spring with dainty white, yellow, pink, purple or lilac flowers. Although it can get vine weevils and mosaic virus, these are rarely a problem, and deer generally do not like to eat epimedium.

— Ginny Williams

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