Gardening Question of the Day

Ringling Brothers gives away elephant manure when the circus comes to Atlanta. Is pachyderm poop good for my garden? What is the best manure for gardening?

Assuming that the circus elephants are American born (there are no federal restrictions on their waste, although manure from imported animals must be burned or buried), elephant manure can be as useful as any other. However, we do not know the nutrient content. Horse manure is generally regarded as the best; it's rich in nitrogen, and it ferments easily. Cow or horse manure applied in the early spring is best for flower gardens; chicken, cow, or horse manure applied in the spring and fall is best for vegetable gardens; cow or horse manure applied in the fall is best for potatoes or root crops. For acid-loving plants, cow or horse manure should be applied in the early fall or not at all. Never use fresh manure. Another excellent manure is sheep manure. Sheep chew their cud so finely that there are no weed seeds being inadvertently applied to your garden bed. Make sure all manure is aged or composted.

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Last 7 Days

What's the best way to keep pigweed from coming back in our garden in Michigan?

Cover your garden plot with a winter mulch, then till the garden shallowly in early spring. When you till you may bring up some pigweed seed so it's best to mulch again. Cover the soil with five layers of wet newspaper and cover that with 3-6 inches of mulch.

How do I overwinter a plumbago? I live in the Northeast.

Plumbagos, deciduous shrubs with beautiful blue flowers, are generally grown indoors in the Northeast. These flowering shrubs can reach 18 feet tall. The ideal overwintering conditions are in greenhouses with temperatures from 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep a plant going over the winter, whether you have a greenhouse or not, be very careful with watering. Let the soil dry out almost completely between waterings, then give it a good soak. Don't prune the plant until February or March, and remember that plumbagos like to spread horizontally, so plant them 18 inches deep and in a space 2 to 3 feet across.

I planted a Norway spruce and now it seems to be leaning. How can I straighten it?

Depending upon how long ago you planted it, you can still adjust it if it was very recently. You can remove some of the surrounding soil and resettle the root ball. Gently repack the soil in around the roots when finished and water thoroughly to aid in the resettling. If you think it's been in the ground long enough for the roots to have attached to the native soil, you may consider just leaving the leaning tree alone. Its top will grow straight up toward the light and in a few years will at least appear straight. We wouldn't recommend staking unless the tree is in an overly windy spot.

I've been trying to grow mint indoors, in containers at a south-facing window. Can I keep them indoors year-round and how best can I keep its nice aroma?

The mint will do better if it does sit outside for a summer. Make sure your soil, indoors and out, is moist and well-drained. Your room temperature should be fairly cool and consistent for best growth. Keep pinching them back as they grow so that they remain compact and in their pots. The nice smell, however, will do best if the mint is kept outdoors. It really needs the living soil and elements to maintain its nice aroma.

How do you plant true lilies?

True lilies (Lilium species) should be planted in the fall or early spring. The site should have cool, moist, well-drained soil and protection from wind. Plant lilies among azaleas, ferns, or other shallow-rooted perennials to provide wind protection and shade for their roots. Choose 4- to 4 1/2-inch bulbs that have some fleshy roots attached at their bases. Dust the bulbs with fungicide to prevent rot. Lily bulbs also are easily bruised, so handle them with care. Dig beds at least one foot deep and add plenty of organic material, such as compost or humus. Level the bed, set the bulbs in the ground at a depth three times their height, and then cover them with soil. Add a layer of mulch to maintain moisture and coolness. Divide lilies every year or two for optimal flower yield. There is one exception to these directions: Plant Lilium candidum and L. candidum hybrids in late summer or early fall. Cover them with no more than one inch of soil.

I want to start some seeds indoors this spring. How soon can I sow broccoli and tomato?

For broccoli, start eight weeks before the last spring frost. The seed will sprout in three to 10 days at 70 to 80 degrees F. Then cool seedlings to 60 to 70 degrees F. Tomatoes require less time, from five to seven weeks before the last spring frost. Seeds sprout in six to 14 days at 75 to 80 degrees. Grow seedlings at 60 to 75 degrees F.

I've noticed my houseplant leaves dripping, even when I haven't watered them lately. What is happening?

Some houseplants will do something called guttation-almost like perspiration for us humans. The plant is trying to rid itself of excess water. Guttation makes a plant vulnerable to disease-causing bacteria, so you'll want to avoid this problem by reducing the amount of water you're giving the plant, especially in these winter months. Also, watch those drips because they contain salts, sugars, and other organics that could stain whatever it is they're dripping on.

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