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Hortiscope: Neighbor's maple tree helicopters can be sprayed

Q: I live in an apartment that does not have good lighting. I was wondering what types of indoor plant lights you would recommend for my spider plant.

A: Any light that is labeled for plant growth and that you can put on a timer for 12-plus hours. There are several on the market at a wide range of prices. A combination of a cool/warm light from fluorescent sources will do a satisfactory job.

Q: I have two neighbors who each have two maple trees. I get all the helicopters, so they are growing in the mulch in my flower and plant beds. I end up pulling thousands of seedlings out of my mulch, but I'm getting too old to do that. I tried raking them out, but that didn't work. There has to be something I can do to stop the helicopters from growing. Please give me some ideas.

A: I have a few suggestions you might want to consider. Look for a simple knock-down herbicide on the market that is labeled RTU (ready to use). It will not remain in the soil but will be lethal to the seedlings. However, you need to take care that you do not hit the desirable plants in your planting beds. Another idea is to get a material called Preen and incorporate it into the beds before the seeds scatter. This may work to keep them from germinating, but it will not be 100 percent effective. Other than that, if you can find a teen to come in and lightly hoe or cultivate the seedlings out in exchange for a batch of chocolate chip cookies (I would do it for that!), then I have nothing else to suggest.

Q: Several years ago I purchased some blue spruce trees from a big-box chain store. I have two left. One looks normal, but the other tree is thin and tall. I have used fertilizer stakes in the past. Is there anything else I can do to make the tree wider?

A: Considering the source of purchase, these probably were seedling spruce trees. What you are seeing is individual variations occurring from sexual propagation (seed sowing, not by cuttings or grafting). Save your money on the fertilizer stakes because they do very little good. Spruce and other evergreens seldom need fertilization unless a specific nutrient deficiency can be identified.

Q: I have a winter lawn question. What is your opinion on clearing snow with a snowblower across a strip of lawn and using that as a pathway to walk on during the winter?

A: It shouldn't hurt the lawn to any great extent unless you or someone else is planning to use the strip for wind sprints during the winter! Your idea certainly is better than trudging through deep snow.

To contact Ron Smith for answers to your questions, write to Ron Smith, NDSU Department of Plant Sciences, Dept. 7670, Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 or e-mail