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Your common questions about gardens and outdoor plants, answered

Outdoor plants illustration
We found the questions people ask most frequently about gardening and outdoor plants and went to local experts in Southern California to get some answers.
(Liana Jegers for The Times)
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The lovely thing about asking Google a question is that there’s no judgment; no one to roll their eyes or pronounce your query really dumb.

So when we went searching for the top questions people are asking Google about gardening and plants, we felt confident we were mining the things people really want to know but were maybe too embarrassed to ask out loud.

Things like: How can I tell if my tree is dying? What’s the difference between an annual plant and a perennial? How should I feed them, water them or choose their soil?

And what the heck is a xeriscape?

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We found the 10 questions people ask most frequently about gardening and plants and went to local experts in Southern California to get some answers. Yes, we suffered a few eye rolls and sighs, but — truth be told — we learned a lot too.

The thing is, even seasoned gardeners have questions because the rules about planting and landscaping keep changing. For instance, experts urge us to feed our soil these days, rather than fertilize plants. Most plants do better with infrequent deep watering instead of the traditional short daily sprinkles. And responsible landscaping today is more about creating habitat than decoration.

We’ve started with 10 queries, listed below, but we plan to add new questions and answers every month, because ultimately, we’ve learned that gardening is one sure way to save the world.

So please, send us your questions. We’re in this together, and we promise not to laugh.

How often should I water my plants?

What’s the best soil to use?

How often should I fertilize my plants?

What are annual plants vs. perennial plants?

How do I know if the tree in my yard is dying?

Which plants attract pests?

What are good plants for kids?

What is xeriscaping (and why should you know about it)?

What plants help bees and butterflies?

How do I spend less money on plants/gardening?

How do I improve the soil in my garden?

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Jeanette Marantos has been a writer for the Los Angeles Times Homicide Report since 2015 and the Saturday garden section since 2016, a yin and yang that keeps her perspective in balance.