Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on witf’s 89.5 and 93.3.

Listen to Smart Talk live online from 9-10 a.m. weekdays.

Hosted by: Scott LaMar



Smart Talk Friday is a fast-paced program featuring thoughtful and engaging conversations about the politics, policy and people who are shaping Pennsylvania’s future. Host Matt Paul and witf Capitol Bureau Chief Mary Wilson invite your multimedia interaction before, during and after the program.

Hosted by: Matt Paul and Mary Wilson



witf introduces 'Smart Talk Friday' radio program

Radio Smart Talk: Let the gardening begin!

Written by Scott LaMar, Smart Talk Host/Executive Producer | May 3, 2013 11:33 AM

Radio Smart Talk for Friday, May 3:

garden vegetable.jpg

Are you ready to get the hands dirty and dig? 

Friday's Radio Smart Talk is typically one of the most popular programs of the year.  Erica Jo Shaffer, the nursery manager at Highland Gardens in Camp Hill joins us to answer all your questions about gardening, planting, and maintaining your flowers, plants, and trees.

The early bloomers were a little later than usual this year in Central Pennsylvania due to the colder temperatures that seemed to hang on longer.  But the last two weeks has seen spring in all its glory punctuated by the perennials that came up and brought the color back after a gray winter.

Early May is a good time to think about annual flowers, vegetable gardens, trees, shrubs, and your lawn.

garden rabbit.jpg

Pests that can take a toll on your plants are also starting to get rejuvenated too so you may need to think about your strategies for dealing with them as well.

Do you have a question for Ms. Shaffer?

Send us a photograph of your colorful flowers, plants, or trees and we'll post them on our website! Email them to smarttalk@witf.org.

Listen to the episode below.

View a slideshow of garden photos from Radio Smart Talk guests, as well as photos of Erica Jo Shaffer on the show, below.

Tagged under , , ,

back to top

Post a comment

Comments: 40

  • John Orris img 2013-05-03 08:12

    I have one simple question, why are Paw Paw trees so difficult to get. I've only been able to find them online.

    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:21

      We ordered them this year, not at HG yet. You may also try the online company "Stark Brothers" who has all sorts of fruit trees. You can call HG and leave your name in case we get them in, I could call you. 737-8633. Thanks! :) Erica

  • Julie img 2013-05-03 08:21

    I want to grow edibles organically. What fruit or nut trees grow well in central PA that don't require pesticide sprays?

    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:25

      Many pests and diseases seem to be attracted to fruit trees. You can do organic type sprays (dormant oils. lime-sulphur sprays) and also keeping the trees healthy (proper planting, soil, watering. fertilizing) goes a long way with helping a tree stay as pest free as possible. Plus a spot or two on a fruit does not make it inedible, only not perfect for the eye to judge. :) Thanks! Erica

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:30

    Email from Diane

    In the past 2 years a highly invasive weed that looks very much like a strawberry plant has started growing anywhere in our yard where there is bare soil. Do others have this problem? What do you recommend to deal with it?

  • Marsha Uber img 2013-05-03 08:31

    There is a grass-like weed that looks a lot like broadleaf grasses. It develops a leaf every few inches ant grows all summer, as much as 4-6 feet. and if not constantly cut will overwhelm most things.
    It has small attractive pink-to-purple flowers on a stalk about 2" high. It is just sprouting now and the initial leaves are round-to-oval.

    It has taken over some of my berry patches.
    Broadleaf weed killers don't seem to touch it and I don't want to have to use RoundUp if possible.

    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:29

      It sounds like it might be Quack grass, bring a sample to HG and I can confirm. It is very, very difficult to get rid of without totally killing the whole area off and starting again. :(One little piece of root left in the soil and it just starts again. Thanks! Erica

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:32

    Email from Nancy

    I first read this post a few weeks ago but have thought of it often.

    Probably because I have that weed. I do hand pull it. And pull it. And pull it.

    Are you saying that pretty much no matter what I do I won't be able to get rid of it? Or even lessen it? Spraying weed killer on it will not kill it? Putting preen down won't stop it from germinating?

    I think when people ask "Are you sure?" They aren't doubting you but need a little more information. Like when, EXACTLY, should I do something and what should I do?

    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:32

      Hopefully the response on the radio answered your question. If not entirely, please bring me a sample and we will figure it out. "Are you sure?" is an often response to my answers to questions I am asked. It was meant to be lightly tongue-in-cheek, but you might be surprised how many times a day I hear it. :) Thanks! Erica

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:33

    Email from Pattie and Tom

    bought a lilac three years ago, it's alive looks good, but just green leaves, no lilacs. Minimum 5 hours of sun, I've never fertilized it. How come no lilacs?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:34

    Email from PAT

    I've been successful with most vegetables, but carrots have alluded me.

    Planting rows of seeds usually yields an occasional plant with lots of empty spaces between.

    I know soil needs to be deeply cultivated, and I have even mixed in sand.

    I wonder if the tiny seeds are washing away during watering.

    A friend also told me that carrots needed to be planted in early spring or late summer; is that correct.

    I would hesitate to plant carrots in late summer fearing they might not have a long enough growing season.

    I would appreciate any help.

    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:34

      Haha! I had this very same problem and blogged about it twice (check our website www.highlandgardens.org, key word carrot) It seems to be that as they are young seedlings/new seeds, you need to water them every day to get the root systems going. Thanks! Erica

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:35

    Email from Craig

    Erica mentioned using organic ferilizer a few minutes ago, can she recommend organic fertilizer brands to use for vegetable gardening?

    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:36

      I love Espoma brand fertilizers, and if you want to use liquid, then fish emulsion/ liquid seaweeds, available under various brand names. Thanks! Erica

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:35

    Email from Peter

    I have a plot of grass and weeds in my yard that I would like to turn into a garden. What is the best way to get rid of the grass and weeds without ruining the soil?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:35

    Email from Karen

    I have a plot of grass and weeds in my yard that I would like to turn into a garden. What is the best way to get rid of the grass and weeds without ruining the soil?

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:36

    Facebook Comment from Paula

    How do you choose the plants Highland Gardens offers?

    Why is it bad to mound mulch around the base of trees?

    I see it so much around "professionally maintained" businesses.

    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:40

      Plants are chosen by how successful a gardener will be if they choose the plant, with a strong undercurrent of searching for geeky plants for the addicts! :) Mounded mulch under trees (looks like volcanos) is bad for several reasons. 1. It can rot the growth ring of the tree away, which was never meant to be moist all the time. The death of that layer will cause death to the tree. 2. When we get rains, most of the water can't penetrate this too-thick layer, and also runs down the slope of the "volcano" to areas where the roots are already stressed. 3. Piled deep enough, it makes a lovely home for critters who will chew the bark away. I joke that the so-called professionals who mulch trees this way have misplaced their rakes. *grin* Thanks! Erica

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:36

    Email from John,

    I have one simple question, why are Paw Paw trees so difficult to get. I've only been able to find them online.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:37

    Email from Marsha

    There is a grass-like weed that looks a lot like broadleaf grasses. It develops a leaf every few inches ant grows all summer, as much as 4-6 feet and if not constantly cut will overwhelm most things.

    It has small attractive pink-to-purple flowers on a stalk about 2" high. It is just sprouting now and the initial leaves are round-to-oval.

    It has taken over some of my berry patches.

    Broadleaf weed killers don't seem to touch it and I don't want to have to use “RoundUp” if possible.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:50

    Email from Mikki

    Since 2004, lumber is no longer being treated with arsenic. Please correct your statement. Thank you!

    Here’s more info…

    “Manufacture of CCA-treated wood for residential use was halted December 31, 2003, through an agreement between manufacturers and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”
    – from Public Health And Social Services in Thurston County Washington Website

    http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/ehhm/cca.html

    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:42

      Mikki-
      Thank you for that correction! I believe there are other chemicals that could leach into the soil of a raised vegetable plot. That one unfortunately, and incorrectly, hopped out of my mouth. Thanks! Erica

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:50

    Email from Ken from Middletown

    My mother always told me that dandelions are Gods gift to children. I use to give her bouquets all the time and she proudly put them in a glass of water.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:51

    Email from Marcia from Womelsdorf

    How can I keep squirrels from eating my hibiscus leaves? I put the trees on my deck in the summer and squirrels pull off the leaves and throw them around. I have tried putting dog hair around the plants and also used fox urine as a deterrent with no avail.

    I really do not want to hurt the wretched squirrels.

    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:44

      There is a hot pepper spray that you could put on the leaves that will burn their little wretched mouths! Thanks! Erica

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:51

    Email from Jordan

    I've been wanting to plant wisteria in my backyard to grow up a trellis over the back porch. But, I've heard horror stories online about the root systems destroying foundations of houses, is this true?

    Is there any way I could still plant wisteria?

    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:45

      Try planting our native Wisteria, which isn't as aggressive. It's name is 'Amethyst Falls'. Still robust, but about 1/2 the beef of a Japanese or Chinese Wisteria. Thanks! Erica

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:52

    Email from Donna

    I have Crowned Vetch invading my Juniper beds. How do I remove it without killing the Juniper?

    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:47

      There is an applicator that you could carefully swipe a weed killer onto the foliage of the crown vetch without harming the juniper (as long as you don't drip on the juniper.) Prepare for a battle, it won't be easy. Thanks! Erica

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:55

    Email from a Listener who sent a photo says: Please have Erica on every Friday in the spring !!!

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:56

    Email from Jon

    Picture [in the slide show above] of kalmia latifolia, mountain laurel, which is PA's State flower.

    This is not a flower that you'd typically find in the woods. I've been hybridizing it for over 20 years, and this is one of my plants.

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 08:57

    Email from Denise and Glen Morrison

    We have a mature hemlock in our yard that has up until recently been missed by the woolly adelgid. We would hate to lose our tree, yet we do not want to use chemicals to try to fight the adelgid.

    Can you recommend an organic solution to our problem? Are we too late to win the battle?

    Thank you so much for doing the show on WITF!

    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:52

      An oil spray (usually referred to as Dormant Oil, but can also be used during the growing season) can be used to suffocate the adelgid. If they are only showing up, they are most likely only on the lower part of the Hemlock so it should be easy for you to spray. Also Holly Tone spring and autumn, to give nutrients, and water during the dry summers to keep it from stressing. A 2-3" deep layer of good bark mulch. A stressed tree is more attractive to insects. Thanks! Erica

  • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:06

    Email from Nathan

    You had mentioned gypsum is good for soil. I am a contractor with access to scrap drywall and was wondering if this could be recycled into my landscaping. If so, is there a "best practice" to follow?


    • Radio Smart Talk img 2013-05-03 09:54

      I don't believe you can recycle that into the soil. I am not sure if there are any other chemicals added to building grade gypsum which would not be present in horticultural grade gypsum. Not sure how or if you can do that. Thanks!Erica

  • Adrienne Boullianne img 2013-05-03 18:00

    i was somewhat dismayed to hear erica shaffer suggesting to plant butterfly bushes, b/c they are on the invasive list for this area. there are far better native shrubs that could be planted which would be better for the environment. research is mounting showing the benefit of planting natives, and it would be helpful if experts would steer people in that direction whenever possible.
    erica was so knowledgeable and informative! i am going to relisten, now.
    great show!

  • marvin.israel img 2013-05-03 18:42

    How do I get rid of crown vetch which has invaded my garden in a major way? Also how do I get rid of quack grass?

Smart Talk Sponsors

CBC300x75
pinnaclehealth300x75

witf's Public Insight Network

Support for witf is provided by:

Become a witf sponsor today »