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: When would you recommend uncovering my 3-year-old fig tree? It has been doing well, but we hope to yield more fruit. Are there any tips you can offer?

— Joy Grasso-Krebs,


DEAR JOY: Uncover your fig tree on a cloudy day just after the last average frost day, which is April 15.

Figs require plenty of sunlight, so if surrounding trees are casting shade, consider trimming them back. They also appreciate moisture, which can be aided by mulch applied at the end of May. Fertilizing with a 5-10-5 product can help the plant along, just be sure to follow package dosing directions carefully.

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DEAR JESSICA: Do you have any advice for keeping cats out of my garden, off my lawn and from relieving themselves on said garden and lawn?

— Carmie DeAngelis,


DEAR CARMIE: Cats have an aversion to the scent of the herb rue (Ruta graveolens,) so planting it around your property, particularly where you see the most feline activity, should help deter visits. Be aware, however, that some people experience photodermatitis, a blistery rash, after touching wet leaves and exposing skin to sunlight.

Cats also aren’t fond of water, so setting a motion-sensor sprinkler in the area is sure to run them off, as well.

A few years back, I caught flak from a couple of cat-loving readers after I suggested sinking plastic forks, tines facing upward, into soil surrounding plants to protect them from cat damage. I, too, love cats, and I stand by the advice and assure it poses no harm to them, excepting freak accidents, of course.

If you are concerned, here are the reasons I offered at the time:

Animals typically paw at foreign objects or obstructions before proceeding, and if they don’t like the feel of something, they back away. It would be impossible for cats to walk on the forks — which should be sunk into the ground with their tines facing up and about half their handles visible — and unlikely for any injury to occur. In fact, it’s possible some cats might even enjoy rubbing up against the forks. Still, if it makes you uncomfortable, plastic spoons or Popsicle sticks might offer some level of protection. The goal is to provide an unpleasant obstacle, not to cause any harm.