Ask-a-Gardener: Your Gardening Questions AnsweredBy Melody Rose (melody)
December 22, 2012
Marlinp55 asks: How early should I plant my tomato, and other spring vegetable seeds for good size plants by spring planting time here in East Texas and can you start bean seeds and transplant?
Melody answers: The first thing you should do is find out your predicted last frost date and we have a wonderful tool to help you with this task. Our Frost and Freeze Finder helps gardeners determine the beginning of their growing season and also its end. Once you have your last frost date, count back six weeks. Tomato plants are the most successful when transplanted at six weeks of age and most experts agree that older plants aren't always the best way to go. Peppers do best at eight weeks. You should start your seeds so that your plants will be at these ages by last frost. I usually calculate to the week after last frost, just to be on the safe side. You asked about beans as well and I just direct seed them in my garden. They grow so quickly that they should never be left in a container over 2 weeks. By the time they acclimate to the outdoors, their direct-seeded brothers and sisters are just as big, if not bigger. I direct seed my beans, squash, corn and cucumbers, as it is hardly necessary in my Kentucky garden to take the time, expense and seed starting space for these quick-growing veggies. I grow several varieties of tomatoes and peppers each year and I feel that concentrating on them gives me the best returns for my seed starting efforts.
bulb2005 asks: Transplanting strawberries...Someone please try to answer my question !! HELP!!! I took 3 plants out today ... cut the bottom off one plastic pot & put other in bottom of gallon milk jug ... bottom cut off with paper towel over hole ... dug them into garden box & covered with straw ... hope this works .. SNOW here & snow on garden box ... anyone know of how to transplant these house growing strawberries outside so they get cold???
adinamiti answers: Bulb2005, you should have transplanted your strawberry plants outside before it snowed, as long as the temperatures were over 30F, so the plants could have become established until the first frost.Or, you could have just transferred the pots in a garage for the winter, where you would have needed to water them a bit every week. My advice is to get them out of the garden now and keep them in a garage, then transplant them in spring. If you don't have a garage, just leave them outthere and
pray they won't die. The strawberry plants are usually hardy, but only if they are growing outside in the ground. My climate is similar to a 5b zone. I'm keeping the strawberries outside in the garden all year round, without mulching during winter and they are doing very well. They also survived to very high temperatures and severe drought last summer, with very little watering.
JanPan asks: I am making a new patio off the south wall of my Southern Calilfornia home, with a 6' high stucco wall on the southern edge of the patio. I want to extend a hedge above the wall for privacy. My plan is to prune the trunks until they reach the top of the wall and then keep the hedge pruned to 2' high above it. I am thinking of dwarf citrus, or camellias, or something more than just green leaves. But I will need something that will not be wider than 2' after pruning. I will also want straight trunks. Thank you for your suggestions. ... I just discovered this is called pleaching. Lots to learn!
sallyg answers: I just did some research on pleaching and found it interesting. The website Ivyclad.com, has a number of lovely photos of pleached trees. That site recommended a visit to The Royal Horticultural Society, which also gave some pleaching advice. For the uninitiated (like myself, until a half hour ago) pleaching is a pruning and training method. It is used on trees and shrubs, restricting their branching in order to fit confined spaces or create walkways.
I believe you could do this with citrus or camellias; I found references to the pleaching of both of these. I'd recommend you visit a knowledgeable nursery to discuss your plan before you buy. Maintaining the pleached greenery will require pruning, will you be doing that, or hiring someone? If you'll do it yourself, bear in mind that you will have to be able to prune the top of this growth, at eight feet. If you're hiring, I suggest you find a skilled garden service to discuss the plan BEFORE buying and planting any greenery. I agree that pleached citrus or camellias COULD look elegant along that wall. But I'd caution that those trees or shrubs could quickly get out of hand, and become overgrown, without skilled and dedicated care.
Can I be honest? My gut tells me that this is a professional level gardening adventure, and it just may be quite a challenge for someone like you, or me, who has just learned of its existence. I wish you luck but do feel you should talk to local professionals who will be supplying the plants and possibly doing the work, before committing to this plan.
May I suggest a possible alternative? You might like the look of some sort of trellis atop the wall, dressed by vines. This plan will not require the skilled pruning that pleached trees will. And if you are sure you want greenery only in the two feet above the wall, I think a vine on a trellis will be more easily kept within that range.
Question # 4
Dazzeee asks: I have recently aquired some Flame Tree seeds and want to start them off, but i'm not sure when is the best time, can anyone help? I live in Cyprus, which i 'think' is maybe zone 11...?
Thank you in advance.
Carrielamont answers: I assume you are talking about this tree.
I was lucky enough to view the spectacular vermillion blooms of the orange/red Poincianas in early June in Cancun, Mexico a few years ago. No wonder you want to plant them! PlantFiles contributors suggest that these will sprout readily in your climate, particularly if you help the outer coating to soften by soaking your seeds overnight. Read the many comments about the scarlet flame tree for more tips.
Melody adds: Perennial shrubs and trees in your warm climate zone can be started from seed at most any time, but most gardeners will plant their seeds while it is still cool, in late winter or early spring. Waiting until the season heats up might cause young seedlings to struggle. If you plant your seeds directly in the ground, make sure that they have consistent moisture, but no soggy conditions that could promote rot. Many gardeners report that these trees are quite easy to raise from seed, so your chances of success are excellent.
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 tomato image is my own. The Flame Tree and Strawberry images are courtesy of members Dinu and Weezingreens and PlantFiles. The retaining wall image belongs to JanPan.