Fun feature: Ask-a-Gardener
Photo by Melody

Fun feature: Ask-a-Gardener

By Melody Rose (melody)May 14, 2011
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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

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Dolphin1252 asks: I just purchased seeds of Cascade Apple Blossom Vinca. Directions say to sow indoors before Spring frost keep covered and germinate with seed starter. However, I live in Florida, it is now April and all danger of frost has long passed. Do I still have to sow indoors and keep covered until the seeds germinate or can I sow them outside and what do I use for seed starter.

carrielamont answers: As a disclaimer, I have only gardened in New England. However I can clarify the instructions for your impatiens seeds, which have two main parts. First is the sow inside until ALL danger of frost has passed part. Impatiens are fairly sturdy once established (as long as they get enough water) but the just germinated seedlings are more fragile (especially if they've spent their lives in a nice warm house) and might be endangered by a hard freeze. It sounds like you don't have to worry about that part! The second part is the "keep covered" part. They mean to keep the seeds covered with seed-starting mix; these seeds (and many many others) need DARK to germinate. Sunlight, lamp light, flashlight, any kind of light will impede or even stop germination altogether. Covering the seeds with 1/8-1/4" of soil keeps the light out and lets the germination process continue as it should. You could use "sterile seed-starting mix" or, since you'll be doing this in the germ-filled outdoors anyway and can't hope to be sterile, just potting soil. I would start with little cubicles (note-what do they call those? flats?) and plant them out when they're a few inches high. That will probably be faster for you than it would be for me. :( Good luck! They sound lovely.

Question #2

Imagemollyn59 asks: I used super phosphate in my soil when I planted this year. Do I still need to use plant fertilizer like miracle grow that you spray on the flowers?

sallyg answers: Good question, (meaning I wasn't sure and was curious myself.) I knew who WOULD know something--darius, a DG writer, who's written articles on all of the major and some of the minor plant nutrients. I encourage you to read her article to understand phosphorous. You don't want to waste money on too much of any one plant nutrient as that may not have any benefit and can upset the chemical balance in your soil. I bought a "bloom enhancer" kind of fertilizer but have read that the extra dose of phosphorous forces the plant to bloom all at once and then it must rest anyway. In lieu of a soil test, I agree that you can use a balanced all purpose fertilizer such as Miracle Gro. The one I have on hand has an analysis of 24-8-16, which is a good balance for general plant health. It also shows six more elements (micronutrients) in much smaller amounts. A fertilizer with this ratio (3-1-2) of the major nutrients (N-P-K) and some micronutrients should serve very well. So will adding compost or other organic material to maintain good soil biology which keeps nutrients available to the plants.

Question #3

Imagejuiletomblin asks: I have a bridal wreath in the front of my home. its been here for some time considering the size of it. its never been pruned or maintained it didnt produce very many flowers. i had it completely cut down to the lowest branches to maintain the size. i love the bush and dont want to get rid of it. about how long will i see it start to come back to life. it gets plenty of sun and water. any suggestions or advise would be wonderful. thank you

carrielamont answers: We call this one bridal veil in my family, but I think you're talking about Spiraea prunifolia, which everyone else calls bridal veil spirea. (Typically, it's my family that's a little off the mark here.) Anyway, generally you DON'T prune this until after it's bloomed, such as other spring-flowering shrubs like forsythia or lilac. If you're not getting ANY blooms, then by all means, go ahead and cut it way back like you did; this is called rejuvenation pruning. Read the article here.
My husband generally comes out in April with the loppers, saying "OK, I'm FINALLY here to prune your tree, how much do you want off?" which is a full month before the bush blooms. (But THAT'S when I should sic him on the forsythia, though!)
It's pretty much impossible for anyone to predict how long it will take your particular plant to recover. It depends on too many uncontrollable variables like how much you took off and how old the bush is and what the weather is like this year and how many siblings your father had. (Joke.) These shrubs are pretty tough and it WILL be back.

Question #4

ImageStony asks: I'm trying to cover a cinder block wall. What perenial can I plant on top of the wall (just behind it in the flower bed) to fall over the front of it?

sallyg answers: There are some things I'd like to know before making any suggestions. How tall is the wall or how far down do you hope things will trail? How much area do you want to cover on the TOP of the wall too? Sun or shade, and which way does the wall face? Zone? Moist or dry?
Think about these variables as some will rule out certain plants. Here's a list of plants I am either familiar with, or sounded like candidates when I looked through my Encyclopedia of Annuals and Perennials. The most common and most trailing choices are the perennial Vincas, both major and minor, also called periwinkle. Those send runners out every year which will hang down two or three feet. Other very common trailing perennials are Ajugas, the Lamiums and the Lysimachia Creeping Jenny. Saxifrage might trail over the edge; I haven't grown it myself. Phlox subulata and trailing rosemary will sort of billow over the edge and more slowly trail down. And that brings me to suggest you consider a few shrubs which also would hang over the wall, such as winter jasmine or wintercreeper Euonymus.
Consider the variables I asked about. Either research the plants yourself then go to a general, hardware, or big box store and buy what you've chosen, OR go to an independent nursery and ask them to tell you more about what they have from the list above. You can read DG member feedback on almost any plant by checking the PlantFiles.

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.

A special thanks to member synda for sharing her lovely image of the Bridal Wreath Spirea with us.

 


  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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