Gardening Question of the Day

Can I grow watermelons in western Illinois?

Watermelons are not frost hardy and require a long growing season with relatively high temperatures. Daytime temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees F and nighttime temperatures between 65 and 70 degrees F are ideal. Watermelons grow well in both humid and semiarid areas, but you may find foliar diseases a problem if you have a humid summer. You might consider using black plastic mulch to conserve moisture, suppress weed growth, and warm the soil. Plants or seeds should be spaced two to a hill, three to four feet apart, on the strips of plastic placed on five-foot centers. Start your seeds in peat pots or pellets about four weeks before the anticipated planting time. Watermelons also may be direct-seeded through holes cut in the plastic, but this may delay the harvest.

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Last 7 Days

Can I root a coleus cutting in water?

Yes. Coleus is easy to root in water. You can also dip the stem in rooting hormone (found at most garden centers) and stick it in soil a couple of inches deep.

Is there a homemade solution to get rid of black ants? I have large ant hills in my garden and lawn.

Try this homemade ant hotel. In a bowl, mix 1 cup borax, 1 cup sugar, and 3 cups water. Place a loose wad of toilet paper in each of four screw-top jars. Pour the mixture into the jars until it is about one inch from the top. Screw the lids on the jars, and with a hammer and nail, make four to eight holes in each lid. Place the jars in areas where you have ants (but keep them away from children and pets). The ants will come marching into the jars.

Why does my cherry tree bear wonderful fruit one year and nothing the next?

As a general rule, a fruit tree's production depends on the overall health of the tree, its environment, its fruiting habit, the variety, the rootstock, adequate pollination, and good cultural practices. If just one of these conditions is off, the annual yield can be reduced or nonexistent. Apples are notorious for this kind of behavior. You may increase your chances of a good yield by early thinning of heavy fruit.

Why won't my cucumber plants produce fruits?

You may just need to be patient. Cucumbers, like squash, pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, and many other plants, produce male and female flowers separately on the same plant. They often begin producing male flowers several weeks before the females appear. The males make pollen and are necessary, but they do not produce fruits. Look to see if there is a little cucumber behind the flower. If you see a baby cucumber, you have a female flower. If you just see a slender stem going right up to the back of the flower, you have a male flower. If your plants have female flowers and the fruits still aren't setting, be sure that the plants are not excessively dry. The leaves may wilt on hot days, but they should recover as the temperature drops in the evening. If they are still wilted by morning, you are not watering them enough, or you are watering too shallowly and too often. Excessive nitrogen fertilization also could be a problem. If the nutrients are unbalanced, the flowers will drop. Also, if there are no bees to pollinate your cucumber flowers, you will have to transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers by hand. Use a cotton swab or soft-bristle paintbrush to transfer pollen.

Should any attempt be made to rid a lawn of angleworms? We have so many of them that our yard is difficult to mow.

Well, you could sell them for bait! An ordinary acre of land may contain as many as 53,000 angleworms. They prepare the soil to receive seeds, so, without them, many plants would become extinct. You can force angleworms to come above ground by pouring warm soapy water on the soil.

When is it best to plant silver maple trees? Do they grow fast?

As soon as the frost is out of the ground in spring is the best time to plant these trees. The soil is moist, the climate is mild, and the trees can establish themselves quickly. With a full growing season ahead, they'll get a head start on competing weeds and brush. Planting any forest tree in the fall is often less successful.

What is the trick for getting gladiolas to stand upright?

Usually when gladiolas fall over, they are planted too shallowly. You can stake them with simple wire hoops. These are available at some garden stores, or you can make them yourself. Use a straight wire 18 inches high with a small loop at the top.

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