Jessica Damiano Jessica Damiano, Newsday columnist

Jessica Damiano is a master gardener and journalist with more than 25 years experience in radio, television, print and online media. She has worked on Newsday's interactive endeavors since 1994, and currently is Deputy Editor overseeing's Lifestyle and Entertainment coverage. Jessica enjoys toiling in her garden -- a never-finished work in progress -- and helping local gardeners solve their horticultural problems in her Garden Detective column, which appears every Sunday in Newsday. Her Garden Detective column and blog have been awarded Press Club of Long Island Society of Professional Journalists Awards. Jessica lives in Glen Head, NY, with her husband John, daughters Justine and Julia, dogs Maddie and Miguel, and a whole bunch of perennials, vegetable plants and weeds. Ask a question Show More

DEAR JESSICA: Do you know of any plants or flowers that repel squirrels?

— Lawrence Carr

via email

DEAR LAWRENCE: You didn’t explain your motivation for seeking out plants that repel squirrels, but I’d say it’s safe to assume you’ve lost a few to the hungry critters. And I feel your pain.

For many years, I had a pear tree that would put forth literally hundreds of beautiful pears during spring, but by July Fourth was stripped bare by squirrels. I would watch helplessly from my window as they climbed a branch, swiped a pear, took a bite and abandoned it for another, like a toddler with a box of chocolates.

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It got to the point that when we installed a new deck, I didn’t think twice about removing the tree; there was seldom a time when a pear actually remained on its branches long enough to ripen and do me any good, anyway.

Other preferred squirrel foods, which you may have noticed by their disappearances, include other fruits, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, eggplants, daisies, sunflowers and beans.

If squirrel thievery is a particular problem, odds are best they will leave the following plants alone, in most cases because they find their scents off-putting: Fritillaria, Galanthus, daffodil, Allium, hyacinth, lily-of-the-valley, marigold and often, geranium.

DEAR JESSICA: I would like to plant grass seed this spring but also spread a pre-emergent for crabgrass. I planted some seed, albeit too late in the year, in November. Obviously I don’t want the crabgrass killer to kill my grass seed, and I don’t want to spread the crabgrass killer too late, as I understand it would be ineffective.

— John Menacho,


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DEAR JOHN: Looks like you’ll have to make a choice: Eliminate crab grass or plant grass this year.

I would go ahead and sow seed, since you already started in November. It’s likely those seeds will germinate once the weather warms up.

The hope, of course, is that your new grass fills in luxuriously and crowds out the crabgrass. If that doesn’t work out, however, apply the pre-emergent weed preventive in the spring of 2018, between when the forsythia on your block begins blooming and when the lilacs fade.

DEAR JESSICA: How do I protect my Leyland cypress from snow and winter cold weather? I didn’t wrap them with burlap bags, just left them alone.

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— Nancy,


DEAR NANCY: There really isn’t much you can do to protect them. Narrow, upright evergreens like arborvitaes benefit from being wrapped in burlap or tied up with rope or twine to prevent snow and ice from weighing down and splitting branches. But Leyland’s shape and size makes that method impractical and ineffective.

The best thing you can do is go out there with a broom after — and during, if necessary — a snowfall and knock snow off branches before it accumulates and freezes.