Ask-a-Gardener: Your Gardening Questions Answered
vj2651 asks: I germinated some tomato seeds and they are already getting very leggy. They are planted in seed starter soil. I have them located in a south facing window with lots of sunlight. The temperature in the apartment is about 75 degrees. From what I've read about leggy seedlings they need more light. Any one have opinions on best light for a small indoor grow area? My window sill is about 2 ft wide so I was thinking of getting this fluorescent fixture.
Should I get standard fluorescent bulbs for this fixture or some sort ofgrow lights? Specific links to products would be great appreciated.
Terry answers: Window lighting is rarely sufficient for starting seedlings. (I've doneit myself, but the lanky seedlings are not as adaptable to transplanting as they could be with better growing conditions.)
If you have a few weeks to spare, repot them into slightly larger cells and bury the stems almost up to the lowest set of leaves and let them grow on for another few weeks before you set them out.
Any fluorescent light will do; a cheap 4-foot shoplight with one cool and one warm bulb will provide your plants with the full spectrum of lighting. I rig mine to a PVC lighting stand or to a knock-together plastic plant shelf. The units look tacky, but they are only in the house for a few weeks in late winter, when we rarely have guests. And my friends love getting some free tomato seedlings, so they tactfully refrain from commenting on my shelving set-up if they happen to stop by.
For detailed instructions on a DIY seed starting shelving unit, here's a link to an article by our own Jill Nicolaus.
blugrnlg asks: So, I have a rusting old pipe, not sure what it was for, buried under a garden box where I grow veggies. It is a foot down from the veggies so I felt ok with leaving it there and planting. But this year, needing more room, I want to plant squash right next to the end of my garden box, straight in the ground and the pipe is only a couple inches down. My question is, does the rusting metal with veggie plants planted right on top of it present any harm?
Thanks so much for any help on the matter. I have searched and found nothing on the topic.
Melody answers: As long as the pipe doesn't contain a harmful chemical or substance, it should be fine. Old water lines or sewer lines shouldn't pose a problem at all. If it is part of an old exhaust system, or from a chemical or industrial area, it probably wouldn't harm the plants, but I'm not sure If I'd eat them. Old farms have some interesting archaeological finds. I grew up on one and we were constantly finding things turned up in the veggie garden. Old rusty buckets, pieces of wagons, tools and what-not. Rust is ok; chemicals may not be. I'd do a little research on your area and see if you can determine what may have been there before you were gardening. As long as the pipe isn't part of an industrial complex of some kind, I'd pobably chance it.
scarletbean asks: This weekend I bought some plants for my hummingbird and butterfly garden. Most will be going in the ground soon,(salvia guaraniticas,agastache,monardas bradburiana and a couple of asclpias) however I need a bit more time for the major wheeler honeysuckle. Can I plant this in a decent size container with some kind of support or trellis until I choose its permanent place this summer? Thanks in advance for any advice. Also suggestions for other plants are welcome.
Melody answers: Yes, many gardeners plant vines in containers, especially if they aren't hardy in their area. As long as you give your honeysuckle a comfortable container and something to climb on, you should be fine. My Aunt Irma kept a bougainvillea for years, here in Kentucky. It was in a huge container with wheels and had a little trellis attached. Each autumn, she'd trim it back and roll it indoors. You might not want something that elaborate for your honeysuckle if you plan to put it in your garden, but you might consider adding some of the more tropical vines if you have the room to overwinter them in the future. As far as suggestions go, I added pentas to my butterfly and hummingbird garden last year and they loved them. The flowers put on a great show and stayed attractive all summer. They were so popular with the critters, I plan on getting some more this season. check out the pictures in my article about the Gronomics elevated planters.
lamarion asks: Does the use of commercial fertilizers kill the earthworms in the soil ??
Melody answers: Anything improperly used will harm the ecosystem, but commercial fertilizer will not kill earthworms as long as applied with common sense. Fertilizer isn't a 'more is better' thing. Generally, you can feed at half strength with much the same results as package directions recommend. I grew up on a farm and part of the spring ritual was to spread fertilizer on the garden patch. The bags came directly from the farm store and were comercial 10-10-10. This was the 1960's when organics were barely making any news at all and most everyone used commercial fertilizer. The garden was where we went to get our fishing worms too. It was easy for kids to turn the ground over and pick out the fat earthworms and there were plenty of them. We could fill our coffee can bait tin in just a few minutes. As long as you practice good gardening habits, you should be fine. Earthworms leave an area because the ground is compacted, nuitrients are depleted, or the topsoil has disappeared. This is sometimes true in large commercial farming operations and that's what caused folks to come to the conclusion that fertilizer killed earthworms.
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.