Gardening Question of the Day

I got some bulbs late last fall and didn't find time to plant them. They've been in my barn. Can I plant them in the spring?

Your bulbs have missed out on the opportunity to root underground during the winter, so don't put them directly into the ground. Pot them in pots immediately, water them heavily, and leave them in the barn. When they start to sprout, bring them indoors, let them bloom, then plant them outside when the weather warms up and the bloom is gone. From there, they'll continue growing for years. Go luck.

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Last 7 Days

What is the best way to rid my lawn of grubs?

Please check our Garden Advice section for a complete discussion of combating this lawn nuisance. We have a feature called "Safe Cures for Lawn Troubles" there. In short, the key to preventing grubs is to have the healthiest lawn possible, which requires proper watering, mowing, and fertilizing. The key to getting rid of them may be handpicking.

What is a Heat Zone Map?

Hardiness Zone Maps for gardening show the cold ranges in the United States to help folks make planting decisions. Heat Zone Maps are relatively new. Dividing the United States into 12 regions, this type of map indicates how many days of the year temperatures go above 86 degrees F. This is the temperature at which most garden plants start to suffer. The zones range from Zone 1, with less than one "heat day" per year, to Zone 12, with more than 210 "heat days" per year. Heat Zone Maps will start appearing on seed packets, in catalogs, and elsewhere this fall.

Is it best to propagate cacti by using cuttings?

This method does provide larger plants more quickly than propagation by seed, but not every type of cactus can be propagated this way. Cacti that are columnar or pad-forming, and those that have segmented stems such as a Christmas cactus, are easily started from cuttings. Spring, when most cacti emerge from their winter rest and initiate new growth, is the best time to take cuttings. The most important point in ensuring success is that the plant you take the cuttings from is very healthy. The primary problem encountered with cactus cuttings is fungal soft rot.

Does Vermont have a long enough growing season for red peppers? The green bell type are no problem. How about okra?

We are very doubtful about growing red bell peppers in Vermont. If they're planted in a sheltered valley, if spring comes early, if the summer is hot, hot, hot--then maybe. We don't advise growing okra either. This plant requires a warm soil and climate, which is why it is associated with the South.

I read the term pleaching in a gardening book and couldn't figure out what they meant. What is it?

Pleaching is a method of shearing planted trees and shrubs very closely into a high wall of foliage. Generally, maples, sycamores, and lindens can be used for this effect. It's something not seem often in the United States because it's very time-consuming, but it has been a popular idea in some formal European gardens.

How can I make my nearly pot-bound clivia bloom? It's about 12 years old and has never flowered.

If the plant hasn't bloomed in 12 years, it may be impossible to get it to do so, but we'd certainly try. Keep the plant cool; it likes temperatures around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. Water it sparingly, and don't worry about fertilizer. Clivias like to be root-bound, so repot it only when absolutely necessary. Should you get the plant to flower (which will occur toward the beginning of summer), place it outside, where it can enjoy the sunshine and heat (water it well), then bring it back inside in the fall and follow the low-water, cool-temperature routine. If you'd like to experiment, try dividing the plant. We don't know if this will help it flower, but it's worth a shot.

I have a cereus cactus that has never bloomed. It just keeps sending out shoots, getting long and leggy. How can I make it bloom?

Cereus cacti have spectacular, fragrant blossoms, but they aren't known for blooming very often. We don't think the legginess has anything to do with your plant's inability to bloom, but perhaps you can trim some of the excess growth back and root the cuttings. To get your cactus to bloom annually, give it a mixture of equal parts water and 20-20-20 fertilizer monthly during the spring and summer. Don't feed it at all during the fall and winter, and let the plant go a bit dry between waterings. Since this plant prefers to be root-bound, don't repot it too often.

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