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All Past Questions and Answers Library   |   March 2010

This month's questions concern:

Lily of the Valley in Containers
Banana Plant Not Fruiting
Early Girl Tomatoes Inderminate or Determinate?
How To Sharpen Pruning Shears?
When To Prune Heavy Branches on Apple Tree?

Please scroll down to read the answers.

Question #1:  Lily of the Valley in Containers

Question:  How many Lily of the Valley "pips" should we put into a 3 inch (7.5 cm) pot? I am keen to plant some up after reading your February Issue. Also can I dig some out of the garden since they are not showing any life at the moment? Many Thanks.

 Irene Wakeman, Lincoln, Lincolnshire, UK


ANSWER:  Hi Irene! Thank you for your question because this is very important! We have updated the story online, but just so you know, you should plant your pips about 1-1/2 inches (3.75 cm) apart. So in a 3 inch (7.5 cm) pot, you would be able to fit one or two pips. As for your outdoor plants that are not doing anything, if they have flowered in the past, you could dig a few up and plant them in pots. Just remember, by forcing them early, they won't flower again for another year or two. Hope this helps!

Question 2:  Banana Plant Not Fruiting

Question:  I have dwalf banana plants which I have had for the last three years. They look good but have never produced any bananas. What do I need to do to help them produce?

 Vicki Pittman, Joplin, MO, USA


ANSWER:  Hi Vicki! Well you certainly have had your banana plants long enough to have gotten some fruit by now. The three things I would look at are: light, warmth, and fertilizer.

Bananas need a huge amount of light and very warm temperatures in order to stimulate fruiting. Bananas, being tropical plants, like lots of bright, indirect light, so a good southern exposure would be ideal. Provide maximum sunlight and warmth, with 12 hours of bright light being ideal for most varieties.

Temperatures should be quite warm for them too, They need constant warmth - the ideal night temperature would be 67� F (19� C). The day temperatures would be in the 80s�F (27� C).

Lastly, bananas require regular fertilizer, at least once month with any type of good balanced fertilizer, like a 5-5-5, or 10-10-10.

Check to see if you are meeting all these requirements and adjust anything that is out of balance and I think you will see bananas starting to form quite soon.

Question 3:  Early Girl Tomatoes Inderminate or Determinate?

Question:  I grow 2 plants of Early Girl tomatoes every year from plants purchased from one of the local nurseries or home stores. I get hundreds of tomatoes, much more than I can use. Now here's the rub. My plants (pictured) grow so tall they end up over the eaves of the house. I have to use a ladder to harvest or prune the vines late in the season. They produce heavily untill killed by a frost, usually in October. After the frost I will still have 50 + green tomatoes which I take inside and allow to ripen. I always grow Early Girl tomatoes. In the February online magazine I read where Early Girl tomatoes are a determinate type. Is this a typo or am I just lucky when growing tomatoes? Mine get up to about 10 feet (3 m) tall every year. Here's the picture of my Early Girl tomatoes.

 Mike Lenaghen, Boise, Idaho, USA


ANSWER:  Hi Mike! Thank you for sending in the picture with your question, it is always very helpful.

Early Girl tomatoes are indeterminate meaning they will continue to grow until weather or other conditions slow them down. The fact that they were listed as determinate was indeed a typo, but that doesn't mean you are not great at growing tomatoes, which by your picture you most certainly are!

Good job and thanks for the question.

Question 4:  How To Sharpen Pruning Shears?

Question:  How do I sharpen my pruning shears and loppers?

 Jane Altmann, Venice, FL, USA


ANSWER:  Hi Jane! This is a great question because so many people think that sharpening gardening tools is hard or time consuming.

On the contrary. I touch up my pruners and loppers all the time and it only takes a couple of minutes. For a step-by-step tutorial with pictures see our past article by clicking this link: Revitalize Your Pruning Shears - How to clean and sharpen ANY pruning shears in 10 minutes or less!

Just follow the steps and you'll have super sharp shears in no time.

Question 5:  When To Prune Heavy Branches on Apple Tree?

Question:  When do I prune my apple trees as they are getting very heavy branches?

 Elizabeth Keeley, Belfast, Northern Ireland


ANSWER:  Hi Elizabeth! There are two times I will prune an apple tree. I will prune and thin an apple in the winter or very early spring while the tree is still dormant, and I will thin again in the summer if I see too much fruit is being set.

If I understand your question correctly, your tree is loaded with older heavy branches and needs to be thinned and headed back. For a step by step tutorial read our past article by clicking this link: How To Prune An Apple Tree

If it were I, I would prune my tree now while it is still dormant. By lightening your tree branches it will grow better and in time produce more fruit for you. Good luck!

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