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Past Questions and Answers | July 2011

Question #1

Question:  I have several railing planters on a second floor balcony. The floor of this balcony is a black flat roof. In the past the radiant heat has caused the plants to struggle. Can you suggest plants that could thrive in this scenario?

  Sheila Morra, St. Catharines, ON


ANSWER:   The black roof is creating a micro climate that is considerably warmer than the surrounding area. First, make sure that the planters are watered enough to stay moist but not too wet. If the roots dry out, the plant will struggle. Too dry, and the plant dies.

Second, look for plants that are usually found one zone below the zone in your area. It appears from maps that you get days in the mid 80s F most summer days. Look for plants adapted to the low 90s, such as periwinkles, petunias, and verbena. You will not be able to keep them alive when it starts to get cold, but you can replant with winter color then.

Question #2

Question:  Our potatoes are planted in trenched and all have not grown enough yet to hill. We've been having rain every day and the trench is filling with water. Will the potatoes tolerate this and for how long, or should be siphon out the water? Thanks !!!

  Luba Burkell, Conneaut, OH


ANSWER:   You are overwatering your potatoes and they will rot if they have not already done so. Normally, you water two or three times a week, an inch a time. Watering daily keeps them too wet and allows blight to set in.

Question #3

Question:  Why have my sunflowers got black spots spreading across the leaves? seems to be on one variety more than the other. thanks Rich

  Richard Mottram, Wales, Pembroke


ANSWER:   There are a number of fungal diseases that cause black spots on leaves. Without a sample of the leaves, it is impossible to know which one your plants have. In general, wet leaves make plants more susceptible to fungal infections. Water in the early morning and apply water to the base of the plant and roots, rather than using a sprinkler to water.

Question #4

Question:  I just transplanted my green peppers to a planter outside and the leaves are turning yellow? Is this normal?

  Kay West, Bonney Lake, WA


ANSWER:   No, it is not normal. Did you water the peppers when you planted them? Plants rapidly become dehydrated when transplanted into dry soil. The other common problem is a failure to harden off the plants before transplanting them. It is necessary to take a week and gradually increase the time plants are in the sun and wind from a few hours to all day before planting them in the ground. Otherwise, they tend to get transplant shock and die.

Question #5

Question:  I have the biggest beefsteak tomato plant I have ever grown. It's gorgeous. But now all the flowers are drying out and are turning to dust. What has happened. NOT overfertilizing, plenty of sunshine and water. PLEASE advise before I don't get a single tomatoe. Purchased as a three inch plant. Used good soil and growing in a pot.

  Lauren Robinson, Port Richey, FL


ANSWER:   The tomato put all its energy into growing foliage and did not try to reproduce until after it had gotten too hot for the fruit to set. Once it gets to be 90 degrees or so during the night, the flowers bloom and look beautiful, but do not make a single fruit. That is why tomatoes can be tricky to grow -- they should get good soil, water, and fertilizer, but too much of any one can make the plant grow so much it doesn.t set fruit.

Question #6

Question:  This Spring our pink dogwood has brown leaves and branches with green leaves and flowers only at the very ends. What does it need? Will it survive?

  Kathy Vonderlinn, Renton, Washington


ANSWER:   That sounds like herbicide damage. Did someone apply a herbicide to the grass around the tree, or to plants near it? The other possibility is cotton root rot, which kills from the roots up. In either case, the tree is unlikely to survive. An arborist can diagnose the tree for sure and tell you what, if anything, can be done.

Question #7

Question:  What's the best way to keep beetles off my plants?

  Scott Coal, Douglasville, GA


ANSWER:   In order to give advice about a pest problem, it is necessary to know the following information:
  • What plant has the problem
  • Where on the plant the problem exists
  • What does the problem area look like -- splotches, growths, holes, chewed parts are important to know about
  • If a bug is present, what does it look like
  • The location of the plant (city, rural, pasture, yard)
Without this information, it is impossible to tell you how to eliminate your problem, or even what the problem is with certainty.

Question #8

Question:  My 7.5' W X 23'L vegetable garden is infested with yellow nutsedge. Currently I'm digging to approximately 8 to 10" down and sifting the dirt. I remove the nuts, roots and the plant. I'm also not replacing the little stones I sift, as the nuts look like little stones. Would you have any suggestions concerning this weed? My back and I would truly, appreciate it.

Thank you

  Marcel R. Turcotte, West Warwick, RI


ANSWER:   Herbicides labeled for home use, and especially for home garden use, are not effective against yellow nutsedge. You are doing what is recommended. You just have to persist until you have gotten all the nutlets out or they have starved.

Question #9

Question:  Is watering deeply vs/ shallow better in high altitude,windy areas. I often try to water either early or evening time?

  Jennifer, Prescott Balley, AZ


ANSWER:   It is always better to water deeply than shallowly. You want the roots to grow as deep as possible. This stabilizes the plant as well as gives it the structure to pull in all available ground water and nutrients. Watering in the early morning is preferable as the plant is not wet all night -- something that can let fungus and other diseases take root.

Question #10

Question:  We made cuttings of our especially beautiful geranium last year and also kept one bare root. They are now thriving, but they have not had any blooms. They are putting all of their energy into leaves. What can we do?

  Frances Flournoy, Crosbyton, TX


ANSWER:   Geraniums need at least six hours of sun a day to flower. They are also heavy feeders and need monthly fertilization with a 20-20-20 fertilizer for best growth. Lack of sun or the extra nutrients needed to reproduce might be the problem.

Question #11

Question:  My husband and I have a Topiary tree which we think is a cedar but the bottom half of the tree is not growing very well. It is done in four tiers.The bottom two tiers are getting sparse and dry to the feel. Could you please tell us what would be wrong with the tree and what we could do about it.

  Todd Rogers, Nanaimo, BC


ANSWER:   Many trees self prune. That means that as the tree gets older, the lower branches drop off so that the tree.s energy is most available to the growing top. Your tree could be doing that. It could also have a disease that attacks from the roots up, such as cotton root rot. An arborist can tell you exactly what is making this happen.

Question #12

Question:  I have brown spots on the leaves of Hydergina and Crepe Myrtle. What can be the reason and how to get rid of them

  Pam, Spotsylvania, VA


ANSWER:   Both powdery mildew and Cercospora leaf spot can cause the symptoms you describe. Both are fungal infections made worse by hot, humid conditions. A fungicide containing azoxystrobin can be used to treat both plants. Be sure to read and follow the label directions. The rate of application may differ for the two plants.

Question #13

Question:  I have an apple tree I bought 3yrs ago. It has blossoms every year but never produces fruit can you please help.

  Scott Friend, Tinley Park, IL


ANSWER:   Apple trees are not self pollinating. You must have trees of two or more varieties that bloom at the same time in your yard or you will not get fruit. Plant trees recommended for your area or they will not do well.

Question #14

Question:  My knockout rose bushes bloomed with multiple roses this year. However, within a week or two they appear pale with some leaves dying. What can I do other than pruning to bring them back?

  Betty Whitlock, Westland, MI


ANSWER:   Didn.t Michigan have an unusually wet year this year? Roses do not like wet feet. They want soil moist, not soggy. As to saving them, reduce watering to no more than one inch per week, including rain, and allow the bed to dry out some. Mulch with fresh mulch to suck some of the extra moisture off the roots and hold it for when it is needed.

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Growing Caladium

Caladiums grow from tubers sold in the spring.

You can buy the tubers and plant your own, but buying a full-grown plant is the easiest way to know what color the leaves will be.

Give your Caladiums high humidity or the leaf margins may turn brown.

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