Question #1

Imagegypsysmama wrote: Because not many bees come up on my small deck garden, last year I used an artist's brush and swirled it inside blossoms of cucumber, midget melons and squash. Does anyone know a better was to aid pollination?

carrielamont answers: gypsysmama, if you're getting all those to produce off a small deck garden with no bees, you're doing fabulously. The method you hit upon is the method that hybridizers have been using for hundreds of years. On your scale, and since you're not trying to develop new varieties but just have your three varieties be pollinated, I'm afraid your artist's brush is your best friend, unless you can start attracting bees...which might be a mixed blessing in your small space. But give yourself a pat on the back for ingenuity!

Question #2

Imagenanapeewee asks: I am moving in April to Michigan from sunny, warm California and need to know about planting there. I am a novice gardener and the zone map confuses me. So I need lots of help.

Melody answers: The first place I'd check is with the agriculture department at Michigan State. They have a wonderful amount of information for the home gardener. The website can give you details on weather and successful species and cultivars pinpointed to your area of the state. You might also check with your County Extension Office for pamphlets on specific types of plants. You'll also find information there on the local Master Gardeners and other groups. Here at Dave's Garden, you can search PlantFiles based on zip code reports, so you can see what other gardeners in your area are growing. This is a free service for any member to use. Subscribers can access many regional forums at DG as well. We have a Michigan Forum and an Upper Mid-west Forum. The local state university is always a good choice, no matter where you are going.They keep records on climate, pests, disease and successful plants. Many are on the cutting edge, developing new plants just for the area.

Question #3

Imageppatti067 asks: Hi Everyone, I put my Dracaena marginata tree outside and the temperature got down to about 28 degrees. I do not know how long the temperature was that low but I assume 4-5 hours. All of the leaves have severely drooped and it does not look good. It has been this way for about 2 weeks now.
Is this plant a gonner or is there something that I can do?
Should I pull off all of the leaves and hope that it starts a growth spurt?

carrielamont answers: Funny, or sad, but that happened to mine this year, too. I cut the stem a few inches below the damaged part and I'm hoping for new growth from the cut come spring. (I may need to cut again much lower down.) The leaves are goners, but this type of plant will sprout several new sprouts from a damaged spot, and in fact growers deliberately wound them to get a fuller looking plant. Dracaenas are propagated by cuttings and air-layering, which means the information on how to be a full-sized plant, roots, stem and leaves, is contained within a piece of trunk. It remains to be seen whether either of our plants will recover from this blow, but Dracaenas are pretty sturdy as a rule. As I always say, if the rootball is alive, the plant will be ok eventually. Your new plant (and mine, too) may have an entirely different silhouette if it survives. Good luck.

palmbob adds; Frozen Dracaena marginata should be checked for soft spots (signs of rot or freeze damage) along their canes, but if none detected, it will grow back fine. Remove dead leaves though. If soft spots are detected, cut off cane below that spot. It will likely regrow or possibly even branch at that point. Otherwise, as already suggested, it will make it.

Question #4

Imagekeithp2012 asks: What causes sunflower seeds to be purple instead of black, my friend had this happen with one of her Sunflowers. I was going to ask for some but she didnt have many left if anyone has any I'd love to be able have some for my garden!

sallyg answers: The photo you provided shows a closeup of a fresh sunflower seed head. It's made up of dozens of individual tiny flowers. Some of the flower buds have not fallen, which is a clue to me that the seeds are still forming and not yet mature. I suspect that once fully ripened, they will be black or grey. I'm sorry that's not what you were hoping to hear. Don't let that stop you from growing sunflowers, though. New cultivars offer sunflowers in shades of red, yellow, and cream, and choices of tall ones or shorter stalks with multiple flowers. They're bold and beautiful, and super easy to grow from seed. Birds love them, bugs love them, and I do too!

question #5

ImageNorthSC asks: Could someone please identify this palm? What kind of palm is this?
Thanks a lot in advance for your answers and help.

palmbob answers: The palm is very young, and photos are not that great. I would guess either a Syagrus romanzoffiana (Queen palm) or possibly a Parajubaea species (though these are significantly rarer, and very marginal palms in that climate). Palm appears a bit etiolated (stretched from perhaps being grown in lower light- indoors?). Neither species listed above will likely tolerate life as an indoor palm by the way.

Melody adds: We have a great free access Plant Identification forum where helpful members will be happy to continue hunting for the answer and you'll be more than welcome to post more images.

Question #6

Imagechickensandy asks: I have started tomato and pepper plants from seeds indoors. They are a couple of weeks old and the frost date is still a few weeks away. Do I need to feed the seedlings?

Melody answers: Seedlings do not really need much fertilizer. It is the equivilent of feeding a baby steak. If your seedlings are going to be indoors longer than 6 weeks total, you could water with a half strength solution if you want. They wouldn't need an additional feeding until you set them out in your garden. You want seedlings to develop a good root system instead of top growth. Plant food will stimulate leaf production and the tiny roots will have a hard time supplying them with moisture. I prefer to let them progress naturally and even slowly, by lowering the temperature to the 60's at night. You'll get healthier plants in the long run.

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.

Sunflower image courtesy of Big_Red, palm image is by NorthSC, dracaena image is by ppatti067, container garden image is by gypsysmama, seedling and suitcase images by Melody