Gardening Daily Tips August 7

Sunday August 7, 2011

Kale, Flowering (Brassica oleracea)

Today’s Featured Plant
Kale, Flowering (Brassica oleracea)

Read the full profile of this plant at

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Q&A: Storing bulbs for the winter

Question: I have dahlia, canna, elephant ear and calla lily bulbs. When I stored the dahlia and elephant ear bulbs in saw dust the dahlia bulbs shriveled and many of the larger elephant ear bulbs rotted. I store the bulbs in sawdust in a Michigan basement where there is no light.

Answer: The sawdust may be drawing out all the moisture. Instead of sawdust, try this: Pack in a cardboard box lined with a perforated plastic bag filled with dry peat moss, vermiculite, or wood shavings. Make sure bulbs do not touch, so that if one develops rot, it won’t spread easily. The temperature should be comfortably cool, around 50-60 degrees. Punch enough holes in the plastic so that moisture can escape, but not so many that the roots will dry up. Check on them every month or so. If  they appear to be shriveling, mist them with water to help keep them hydrated. Hope this helps!

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Q&A: Encouraging Poinsettia to Bloom

Question: I’ve kept my poinsettia growing all summer. How do I get it to bloom again in time for the holidays?

Answer: Poinsettias are induced into blooming by shorter daylength. In late September begin placing the plant in total darkness for 13 to 14 hours every night. The spot must be really dark — no streetlights shining in, no occasional visitors turning the lights on. A dark, unused closet is a good spot. Each morning, bring the plant out and place it in bright light for the remaining 10 or 11 hours, placing it back in the closet each evening. This will give them the short days they need to trigger the response to color up in time for the holidays. Keep and eye on the plant, and when the bracts have started showing color again — usually about 4 weeks — you can stop the nightly ritual and treat them like any other houseplant. Place then in a bright spot and keep soil evenly moist but not soggy.

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Q&A: Encouraging Second Bloom on Old Roses

Question: I have an old-fashoned climbing rose that has likely been growing in my yard since before I was born. It is very vigorous and has huge canes at the base. I am not sure of the variety, but it is a very pale pink with a nice fragrance. I understand that many old rose varieties will rebloom in the fall — in addition to their usual spring or early summer bloom period. Is there anything I can do to encourage mine to bloom twice? I have been deadheading; should I also be pruning in any special way?

Answer: There are several types of climbing roses with various bloom patterns. Some older types of climbing roses — the “ramblers” — produce a profusion of relatively small blooms all at once, usually starting in early summer. This show might last amonth or so, then blooming is over for the season. Another group of roses is the large-flowered climbers. These generally have flowers over 2″ in diameter, and bloom for a longer period but much less profusely than the ramblers. Some varieties of large-flowered climbers bloom continuously over the growing season; others bloom once in early summer and have a second flowering later in the season. There are also climbing hybrid teas, climbing floribundas, and pillar roses. Generally, genetics determines whether a rose bush will bloom just once or will repeat bloom in the fall. Removing hips will help encourage a repeat bloomer to put more energy into the second bloom, but it won’t force a one-time bloomer to put out more flowers. Keep your bush adequately pruned and fertilized, and it will fall into its natural blooming pattern.

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Tip: Check for Spider Mites

. Check landscape plants for spider mites, some of the most damaging hot weather pests. These sucking pests — smaller than the head of a pin — can be found in colonies and leave a fine webbing on the undersides of the leaves. Mites can be particularly bad in dark, dry places, such as the interior of evergreens. Spider mites will succumb quickly to a forceful spray of water and homemade soap sprays.

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Tip: Keep Bird Baths Filled

Birds need a consistent supply of water, so keep bird baths full and clean. Put the birdbath in a protected, shady spot and replace water every few days.

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