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Past Questions and Answers | December 2013

Question #1

Question:  I know jacaranda flowers are poisonous but can i use the dead flowers in my compost heap?

  David Peacock, Sydney, Australia


ANSWER:   We do not recommend composting poisonous flowers because most home compost piles are not hot enough to degrade the poison safely.

Question #2

Question:  Can I use twig roses this time to use for next year for new rose bushes

  Jaime, Desoto, Texas


ANSWER:   I am not sure what you are calling twig roses. If you are asking if you can root twigs off your roses to make new rose bushes for next year, yes you can. When you prune your roses you can save the prunings and root them, as well.

Question #3

Question:  When is the best time to prune my Wistria. I am afraid it will no longer flower if I do it at the wrong time!

  Jackie Holland, Lee Summit, MO


ANSWER:   Wisteria needs to be pruned each summer and winter. The pruning is rather complicated, but Ohio State University has a pamphlet that explains it well. You can find that here:

Question #4

Question:  When is the best time to divide my agapanthus?

  Kathleen Allen, Austin, Texas


ANSWER:   Divide between spring and early summer, or in the autumn after they have finished blooming. Divide only once every four to six years for optimal plant health.

Question #5

Question:  Set some cabbage plants out after weather cooled & they look healthy, tall, and with large green leaves: However, no heads have ever formed! I was wondering why?

  Avery Bumgarner, Hudson, North Carolina


ANSWER:   This is caused by overcrowding or dry soil. Give cabbage plenty of room between plants and plenty of water while growing.

Question #6

Question:  Is it advisable to add used coffee grinds to flower/vegetable beds?

  Masako Dougherty, Hastings On Hudson, New York


ANSWER:   Coffee grounds are highly acidic. They can be used sparingly around acid loving plants to acidify the ground. However, they are best composted with lime, wood chips, or ash to neutralize their acidity before being used in flower beds or vegetable beds.

Question #7

Question:  We have an ongoing heated discussion about ground cover.

We are a condo complex in Central Florida [Port Charlotte] and over the past 25 years have Mulched the common areas around the buildings and flower beds, possibly total of 5 times [2 to 4 inches] and it beautifies the gardens tremendously and is said, to help control pests.

BUT the argument arises that the rotted Mulch has increased the height of the ground therefore changed the drainage. We the majority of owners say that when the Mulch disintegrates over the years that it turns into a fine dust that literally washes away in a large part, with the 6 months of relatively heavy rain [May thru October], year after year. And we think we are right.

Could you please confirm we are right or suggest an alternate solution?

We have 3 areas that have been upgraded with a 3/4 inch rock cover about 4" deep, but as a complex with a total area, some 25 acres, with beautiful common areas, the cost would be prohibitive, plus some believe that the rocks will absorb the summer heat and cook the bushes and ground.

I thank you in advance and look forward your input.

  R. Bright


ANSWER:   We recommend three inches of mulch in flower beds to cut down on weeds, hold in water, and retain soil. Every year, the bottom inch of that mulch composts into dirt. So we recommend adding an inch of mulch a year to keep the mulch level constant around the plants. So, if done correctly, the mulch will add three inches to the level of the flower beds. Over years, it could add additional height to the flower beds, but the benefits outweigh the disadvantages for the gardener.

We do not recommend rock around the flower beds for the reasons you mentioned, it makes the soil too hot in the summer, does not absorb water, and does not necessarily keep out weeds or other pests.

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When to Harvest Squash

Winter squash is ready for harvest after the rind hardens and surface color dulls.

The vines will have dried and the skins are hard and can't be scratched with a fingernail.

Make sure you get them in before the first hard frost.

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