Fun feature: Ask-a-Gardener
Photo by Melody

Fun feature: Ask-a-Gardener

By Melody Rose (melody)November 27, 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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Question #1

Imageeli8319 asks: This is the first time I've grown dill. I started it by seed. The seedling are presently under lights in my grow room. The foliage on the seedlings is turning yellow/redish. Is this a problem? If it is a problem what can I do to help these seedlings?

carrielamont answers: Since you're growing 'Bouquet Dill', which is NOT a nice compact bouquet but a back-row border plant of up to 6 feet tall, and since it's now late November and you live in Maine, unless you re envisioning an entire basement herb garden, I suggest you congratulate yourself on your germination and cultivation success and start again 6-8 weeks before your last frost date. Dill is an annual herb, and would die if you planted it out, if your outdoor soil is not already frozen.

Dill was the 2010 Herb of the Year, and there is a Dave's Garden article about it here.

 

Question #2 

Imagesherman99 asks: I am reading an herb book and it mentions several times certain plants that grow well in disturbed earth, but they never say what that is. Could someone explain please?

Melody answers:  Disturbed earth is where there have been previous plantings or activity. If you've pulled up any shrubbery or removed a tree stump, the earth has been disturbed.

Another common disturbed earth spot is where a hole has been back-filled. A previously tilled area qualifies as well.

The soil is generally looser and drains a bit better than the surrounding undisturbed earth. That is why herbs tend to do better in these areas. They do not like their roots standing in water and it tends to drain away quicker where the soil has been loosened.

 

 

Question #3

Imagecelticlune asks: I know there may not be such thing as a self maintanence plant, but what is the closest thing to a self-maintaining plant???

sallyg answers: As you suggest, "easy to care for" is a pretty subjective term. So much of plant health depends on individual situations, and individual gardeners' methods (and madnesses: some love to water, others neglect for weeks.) Not knowing whether you are looking for a potted plant for indoors, or a garden plant, I'll give you a couple personal favorites:
Potted plant: Blunt leaf Peperomia--This thing never wilts, grows in light or darker situations, grows slowly, doesn't drop leaves, and has looked generally healthy no matter what I did. If too big, it can easily have some tips cut off and rooted for a new plant. it was so dependable that I got tired of it and gave a small new one back to my MIL to keep, while I experimented with other exotic choices. (see it here )
Perennial: Happy Returns daylily-- Daylilies are very dependable. This one is one of the newer types with more than one bloom period per summer. The only thing that ever stops my daylilies bloom has been drought. Read lots of feedback here.
Annual: Pansies are the one annual I buy every year. I buy them in September and plant them in a sunny spot for blooms all winter as long as the weather is not too cold or snowy. For a summer annual I'd have to say an annual Salvia. I grew Salvia coccinea 'Coral Nymph' and 'Forest Fire' from seed, and now they plant themselves every year: I find several of each coming up in June.
My image is of Coral Nymph flowers.

carrielamont adds:  Check big-box stores to see what grows well in your area; that's a clue to plants that are carefree and rapidly reproducing. It will also give you an idea as to the varieties that are reliably hardy in your zone. I will always remember the mid-west for the HUGE clumps of irises in every yard. They came back every year without fail.

Question #4

ImageGrossmutti asks:  I planted a beautiful white butterfly bush some years ago, and it disappeared over the winter, never to return. When I mentioned this to a Master Gardener I know, she said, "Sometimes the young ones need winter protection." This spring I planted a 'Black Knight' and it still looks quite vigorous. How can I protect it during its 1st winter? I live in Maryland Zone 6. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Melody answers:  Butterfly bushes are generally pretty tough when they have had a year to settle in. I'd trim it back pretty hard( to about 12")and mound up leaves or mulch over the stems this first winter. Buddleja blooms on new wood so you're not harming next year's blossoms when you prune like this. The frozen ground  tends to be brutal on new root systems, so if you mulch well, it keeps the temperature of the soil a few degrees warmer than unprotected ground. In early spring, (late February/early March) pull the mulch back from the stems and your butterfly bush should put out new growth.

 

 

Question #5

ImageBossMareNY6a asks: I'm not sure what is best to do in this situation:

We were supposed to move to a new home early Oct but closing has been postponed :((
I have 100+ perennials in pots ranging from 3" diameter to 5gal sitting in my driveway, the sunniest spot in my yard.
Its just starting to freeze at night here in 6a (upper 20s).
Is it safe to keep everything in pots in a hard freeze, which will be coming soon?
Should I sink them in ground in their pots (alot of work)?
Can I leave them in pots on top of ground and mound extra soil that I have around the pots? I would have to move them to a shady spot to do this---most have not died back yet?
Oh, and once we move, if I can't put them in right away, is it OK to put everything in an unheated garage?
Is it detrimental to put them in-ground at the new house in winter (Jan, Feb, etc)? Should I wait til spring?
Any advice is greatly appreciated. These plants are like family :))

adinamiti answers: It depends on what perennials you have. If it's about big plants like conifers, they might survive and you will be able to plant them later in the ground if it isn't frozen.The best thing you could do to protect all your pots from freeze is to cover them with a plastic foil or with some sheets. You need to cover/wrap up all plants including the pots, so their roots won't freeze.But that should be only temporary, not all winter. And you need to watch the temps while they are still outside.
If you want to keep them in an unheated garage, it will be OK as long as it's not a deep freeze outside and if it's only for a few days.Otherwise they will die from freeze and from lack of light.
You won't be able to plant perennials at this time of year because they need at least a month to get accustomed to the new place and root.They don't act like perennials in pots. Better wait till spring and, in the meantime, find a place for them inside your home.

Melody adds: Large sheets of bubble wrap can be had for free if you visit an autobody or collison shop. Bumpers, fenders and many other parts come wrapped in it. Some of these sheets are 3 or 4 feet across and are perfect for wrapping pots and plants. Wrap the pot and plant, leaving it open at the top. It creates a windbreak and protects the roots at the same time. These sheets just go in the dumpster and they are so handy for a gardener to have.

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.

The Coral Nymph salvia image is sallyg's and used with her permission.


  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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Discussion about this article:
SubjectTopic StarterRepliesViewsLast Post
carefree plants MedHerb 3 28 Dec 3, 2010 8:17 AM
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