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Ask-a-Gardener: Your Gardening Questions Answered

By Melody Rose (melodyJune 9, 2012
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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!

Gardening picture

Question #1

Imagetwin90s asks: I bought a blooming canna in a glass vase with water and stones at the base. It's finished blooming and continues to put out beautiful leaves. Would like to put it out in Zone 10. Is that possible with success? Area has little top soil but much coral rock about 3 inches down. Other choice is a big pot. Advice please?

Melody answers: Cannas are some of the easiest garden plants to grow, especially if you live in a warm climate. They tend to like moist conditions and if your area is easy to keep watered, it could be a possibility. However, cannas are very happy to live in containers and if you have a large pot, that might be your best choice given your shallow soil. They can be left outdoors all winter in your area too. I live in Kentucky and my cannas stay in the ground through the winter just fine. When choosing a pot for your canna, make sure it has room to expand. A small canna tuber (root) will easily triple in mass by the end of the season. I've had to break a pot just to remove the roots when I wanted to divide my container plants. Something else you might consider is to raise the depth of your soil in the area where you'd like to plant your canna. Make a small raised area bordered by landscape stones or timbers and fill it with 5 or 6 inches of good topsoil. This will give your canna a bit more soil for its needs and you can amend just a couple feet of your yard to accomodate it.

Question #2

Imagecyrhinehart asks: I started my cukes and squash indoors in March... set them out a month ago when temps were consistantly in the 70s.  and they have not changed one bit since I transplanted them.  They are not dying... they look fine but are just not growing.  One squash had 3 blooms, all male on this tiny plant.  I added composted manure to the plot when it was tilled and also added some kelp meal and watered with fish emulsion at transplant time, but a month later still nothing.  I have kept them watered every other day at about 2 inches.  Any suggestions?

Melody answers: It sounds like you started your plants too soon. Cucumbers and squash should only be started indoors no more than two weeks before setting them in the garden. They stress easily and this forces them to bloom early. The premature blooms are the plant's way of trying to reproduce before it dies. These vegetable plants should only have the cotyledons and a very tiny set of new true leaves showing when planted in the ground. The images to the left show cucumber seedlings as big as they need to be before transplanting. If your plants have blooms before you transplant, they're too old to produce well. Direct-seeded brothers and sisters tend to catch up with them quickly anyway. Since you are in Georgia, just go ahead and remove these and plant your next ones right in the garden. There's plenty of time for a new group of plants. The only time I would start these types of plants indoors is if I lived in a climate where the season is short, or where I planted them in the garden at no more than two weeks from germination. Save your space and time indoors for the tomatoes,eggplants and peppers. They benefit greatly from an indoor start.

Question #3

ImageRenzoToronto asks:  The Black-leaved Thrift is a perfect plant for our deck. When they say dead heading, do you actually remove the whole head? I have tried rubbing the head so that the tiny petals fall off. I think I should be cutting off the whole head? Help. I have attached a photo. You will notice the ones that don't have the little purple flowers. Do I cut the heads completely, cut right down at the base of the plant (at the point where the little bush is) or just rub the heada so the dead little leaves fall off? This is a perfect plant for our deck and want to see them thrive.

Melody answers: Dead-heading means to remove the whole head or stalk. You can just nip off the head, or snip the whole stem down to the first set of leaves. Dead-heading is to fool your plant into thinking it hasn't produced any seeds yet. This stimulates it into sending up new blooming material. If you're just rubbing the petals off, chances are, there is still something communicating with the rest of your plant, telling it that it has accomplished its purpose and is now producing seed. Here is an image of my coreopsis, 'Jethro Tull'. In the image, you can see fresh blooms on the plant and the spent flowers in my hand where I've dead-headed them. If you look carefully, you'll see the empty stalks where the spent blooms once were. (a product of my lazy deadheading) On plants that produce a stalk of blooms, such as salvias, I snip the whole stalk as soon as it starts looking tired. There may still be a few blooms that haven't opened, but it keeps the plant looking tidy.  It will also send up a new blooming stalk. Dead-heading serves an important purpose other than keeping your garden neat. It prolongs blooms,whether it is marigolds, zinnias, your thrift or my coreopsis.

 Question #4

ImageROSES_ARE_RED asks: If a fairly early blooming flower (ex: verbascum southern charm, which is blooming now in early June) is planted as a seedling in mid June (mine will be ready to put out then), will it bloom this year or does it "know" that its bloom time has passed.   Thanks for whatever help I get.

Melody answers: Your verbascum will more than likely bloom this year, just a little later. Plants don't go by calendars, they have an internal clock that tells them that they are mature enough to reproduce...so they bloom. A few plants bloom by the amount of daylight they receive and those might wait until the correct season returns, but given how early it is in the year, I believe your verbascums will probably go ahead and bloom. Many gardeners time successive plantings to ensure blooms of some species all season. Others time the planting of specific flowers so the blooms coincide with a special date, such as a wedding or reception. When planting perennials later than usual, you'll probably get a later than usual bloom, but then they will return to the normal cycle after a winter dormancy. Northern gardeners often experience an early bloom on plants shipped from southern areas, but they settle in and return to a predictable schedule by the next year.

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 big thanks to Big_Red for his cucumber seedling image.


  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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Cat Whiskers titanicwoman 2 16 Jun 11, 2012 4:46 PM
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