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Fun feature: Ask-a-Gardener

By Melody Rose (melodySeptember 4, 2010
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Gardening is both art and science, with some luck and skill thrown in for good measure. A big part of what attracts people to Dave's Garden has always been our forums, where gardeners ask and answer questions for one another. Occasionally we come across a question that we find particularly interesting or intriguing. We hope you find these questions (and answers, penned by our admins and writers) helpful as you grow your gardening knowledge!

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If you have a question you'd like us to consider, you may pose it in the Ask-a-Gardener forum.  If your question is chosen for this feature, you can be sure you've helped others with the same question.

Question #1

Imagekarlat asks: "I have had cannas come up every year I have lived in my current home. They were planted before we moved in. I am in Texas zone 8 and the cannas are planted in almost total shade. They have always grown to about 5 to 6 ft tall and done wonderfully. This year I wanted to make my garden more butter/hummer friendly, so I put in other flowers and plants and for the first time ever I fertilized my flowers. Some of my cannas are now over 7.5 feet tall and still growing! The problem is they are starting to lean and some have broken! The tallest ones are on the outside of the bed and I know get more water than the shorter ones toward the edge of the deck.
Am I over-watering them? Is it because they are too tall and are reaching sideways for the sun and cannot hold up their own weight? Could it be a pest undermining the strength of the stems?
Thank you for your time."
Karla

carrielamont answers: "Dear Karla,

Although I live far from Texas, your problem is easy to diagnose and to solve, although maybe not this year, unless you stake the super-tall cannas. Your cannas are accustomed to the lean, dry Texas soil and have adapted by being just tall enough to flower but not so tall that they will fall over. When you gave them extra water and fertilizer, you gave them canna-Disneyland, and they reacted like kids on a sugar-high. If you return them to their usual diet, they will return to their normal size.

The real question, to me, is about the other flowers and plants you put in. Are they fancy newcomers that require fertilizing and watering all the time, or did you do that just to give them a good start their first year. There are many Texas-natives which are butterfly friendly; I would refer you to Dave's Garden articles by TexasTam. If your new plants need a constant diet of water and fertilizer, you may need to relocate them or get used to staking your cannas. But maybe the new ones aren't as needy as you think. Most perennials require less water once they are established. Try reducing their water in preparation for whatever passes for winter down there, and see how they do. You might be pleasantly surprised. If you can tolerate slower growth and shorter plants than what you had this year, I'll bet the butterflies won't mind!"

Question #2

ImageFishmang asks: "How does one post a complaint against a vendor, who knowingly sent the wrong plant, and now will not make good. Two years ago, I ordered an expensive juvenile tropical plant (Giant Miracle Fruit, S. subcordatum) from Top Tropicals on Florida's West Coast. They sent me a much less expensive plant(Miracle Fruit, S. dulcificum). I sent a leave & flower to the U of Fl for identification and it confirmed what I suspected, I'd been duped! First they said send the plant back. My reply was ripping the plant up and returning it would do neither of us any good. I said all I wanted was a refund of the difference between the rare, expensive plant for the one they sent. Two more emails have gone unanswered. I'm sure I'm not the only one that was hoodwinked by this company!"

critterologist answers:"DG's own Garden Watchdog has a valuable feedback system where you can rate a vendor and post about your dealings with them. If the problem later gets resolved to your satisfaction, you can edit your response and change your rating from "negative" to "neutral" or "positive."

I never order any plants by mail without checking recent Garden Watchdog ratings, as some old reliable companies have been recently swallowed up by larger corporations, causing problems where there had been perfect service in the past.

That said, the last time I saw anything posted in the DG forums about Top Tropicals, it was all good, so I'm hoping you'll be able to get a better response from them. Some places do want you to return a dead or wrong plant, perhaps because they've had too many customers try to take advantage of a more liberal policy.

In your case, it makes sense to me to ask as you did for a refund of the difference in price, since you're not unwilling to keep the "wrong" plant. Maybe it would help to email them with photos that show the plant you received and/or to send a copy of what your extension service said. "

Question #3

Imageqmischief asks: "These gophers have destroyed my garden. I have pets so I do not want to use a poison. Almost everything I plant now I lay several layers of chicken wire underneath the plant. They have even chewed through the chicken wire. They have completely devastated my lawn. I have a dirt patch with a few weeds now. I have purchased stakes that you place in the ground that beep and some that vibrate.They do not work! I flood the holes and have poured cooking oil in the holes which is very expensive and could not possibly get all the holes...read that in a gardening book. I would love to have a nice green lawn again with nice plants. hhheeeellllp What do I do?"

Kelli answers: We have found that the only way to control gophers is to trap them. We use the kind called "Salas Gopher Trap". It is a red, wooden box with a metal trap inside. Sometimes the gopher is caught right away and sometimes it takes a couple days, so don't get discouraged. We got our traps at Green Thumb Nursery in Canoga Park. We have not found the Macabee traps to be effective, though some people do.

palmbob answers: Gopher problems: I sympathize with you and have had dozens of nice, and even expensive plants eaten to death by gophers, when I lived not far from you in Thousand Oaks, California. I too, did not resort to poisoning, since I had dogs and being a veterinarian I had seen my share of dogs poisoned with gopher bait. (most gopher baits are strychnine, which is particularly nasty for dogs as well, causing unending seizures) I tried many different trap types that you hide in the holes, and tried flooding them out with hoses, but nothing seemed to help. (and I rarely caught one in the traps) I eventually tried road flares, which are pretty cheap and fairly easy to use... and EFFECTIVE! I was amazed. It does tend to kill the gophers, so if you are not into that, this is not the treatment for you. It is not without its hazards, however, and I did get a pretty severe burn once for not being cautious enough. (road flares are incredibly hot as they melt, and the melting product can cause severe third degree burns should you let them get on you)

So, what I did was locate a gopher hole (not difficult in my yard) and dig it up a ways until I could find where it branched out. (this was not always possible as some gopher holes were in areas where I couldn't dig, and some were among very nice plants I did not want to disturb) Anyway, you need to at least enlarge the hole and try to figure out which way the tunnel goes. The smoke of the flare is what chases the gophers away. (or kills them if they dont' run) And smoke goes uphill, so if your yard has any sort of tilt to it, start at the lowest gopher holes and stick your road flares in there.

Light the flare (usually takes a bit of effort striking it on a firm surface) and then quickly stick the hot end up into the tunnel that goes uphill. Or, if this is a dead end, but sure you put the flare into open tunnel, as shoving it into the blind end will just end up smoking you out, or you can extinguish the flare by shoving it in the dirt. (did that plenty of times!) Try to get the flare as deep into the tunnel as you can, but do NOT put your hand into a narrow tunnel, as bits of molten flare may be in the tunnel at this point and you can badly burn your hand. (did that, too) Then cover up the open tunnel with a flat rock or something that does not completely cut out the available air. If you just fill it with dirt, your flare will possibly extinguish itself due to lack of oxygen... did that plenty of times, too.

Once your flare is in the tunnel and you have MOSTLY covered up the hole you stuck it in, look for smoke to come out elsewhere... this will not only tell you where to look for gophers coming out, but it will also help you learn how the tunnel system is organized. Most of the time you don't see a gopher come out... either they have more tunnels to run down, or the have died... but they just seem very reluctant to expose themselves by dashing out of a smoking tunnel into the fresh air above. If you have about a dozen or more road flares, you can stick the next ones in the holes where the smoke from the first flare is coming out, and so on. Eventually, unless you live in a huge property, you can pretty much eliminate your current gopher problem. Your future gopher problelm is a different story, and you will probably need to do this every few months for a while. I eventually took care of my gopher problem for a good 4-6 months, though they always come back.

Question #4

Imagepeacefulplace asks: "My roses all bloomed early in the summer, but haven't bloomed again since. Why is this? "

Kelli answers:
Some varieties, especially old heirloom varieties, only bloom once a year, and there is nothing you can do about that. Hybrid hybrid teas and grandifloras, which are what most people grow these days, bloom repeatedly. This is not the same thing as blooming constantly. Many of them bloom in waves. They have periods of blooming separated by periods of little or no blooming. During the summer, feed and deadhead after each bloom cycle and water if the weather is dry. Do not feed in the fall. If you have been feeding, watering, and deadheading and still do not have flowers, it may be the weather. In my experience, even with attentive care, blooming can stop in hot weather.

 

melody adds: You can sometimes stimulate a rose by pruning, providing that it is one that does repeat bloom. Kelli is correct that many roses only bloom once each season and by doing a little research about your cultivar, you should be able to learn if yours will repeat. If you have a repeat-bloomer, after the initial flush, prune back by about one-third. Always prune at an outward facing bud and clip the stem at a slant to prevent disease. The new growth generally results in a second flush of blossoms.

Remember, if you have a gardening question that you would like to suggest for this feature, post it here. Our writers and admins will handpick a few of your questions and answer them in an upcoming Ask-a-Gardener, one of our Saturday morning features. Other questions may be moved to one of our other forums so your fellow members can help you.


  About Melody Rose  
Melody RoseI come from a long line of Kentuckians who love the Good Earth. I love to learn about every living thing, and love to share what I've learned. Photography is one of my passions, and all of the images in my articles are my own, except where credited.

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