NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5655
January 8, 1998
Ron Smith, Extension Horticulturist
North Dakota State University
Q. Enjoy reading your column in the Farm Forum. I have two questions for you.
No. 1: Is there a good way to "winter over" the geraniums to save them and make them bloom again next spring? I have been told to put them in a basement, but then what? Do I trim greenery down and how often do I water and how much light?
No. 2: I received a beautiful red gloxinia for Mother's Day. After the flowers fell off, the plant has become almost like a vine. How can I make it rebloom, or is it a one time bloomer? (Tyler, Minn.)
A. You ask for a "good way" to overwinter geraniums. Well, the best way is in a heated greenhouse with supplemental lighting and deionized or reverse osmosis water. Since that is not likely possible, here is the next best thing.
Place them in the basement and cut back to about 6 inches in length. Shake as much soil off the roots as possible. check them every two weeks and if they begin to shrivel, immerse in tepid water to rehydrate. Then, along about Feb. 1, pot them up and place in a sunny window. By the time the last killing frost passes, you can set out blooming geraniums. Gloxinias are members of a group of plants known as gesneriads, which include African violets. These need strong, bright light, but not direct sunlight. After flowering, allow them to dry down until the leaves turn yellow and dry up completely.
Store the plant in a cool, dry location for the winter and repot using fresh, pasteurized compost in the spring. Keep warm (70+ F) until the tuber starts producing new leaves, then resume regular watering, normal light and fertilizer practices for a nice summer of blooms.
Thank you for writing!
Q. I found this in a wooded spot under a tree. Is it a pest? Please advise. I'm thinking of putting it in my yard. (Milton, N.D.)
A. I believe your sample is Juniperus communis variety depressa. It is not a pest. Enjoy!
Q. Hope you can tell me what type of apple this is. The tree is usually loaded. This year there were a lot on the ground because of hail.
Love your advice each week. (Jamestown, N.D.)
A. Well, thank you for the compliment! While I was debating what the apple was, Jack Carter, NDSU Professor Emeritus and a real apple expert, walked in and spent about three seconds in identifying it. We then confirmed his diagnosis by tasting it!
Your tree is a Prairie Spy, introduced from Excelsior, Minn. The fruit generally matures between late September to early October. It stores well. The fruit is nice and large and the mild delicious flavor makes it multipurpose.
Your fruit was not as red as they normally would be because of the lack of sufficient sunlight. It was likely harvested from deep within the canopy of the tree.
Thanks for writing.
Q. Enclosed are two leaves from a beautiful, bright red tree I viewed on a recent trip to New York City and Washington D.C. The inner leaves were still green framing the deep red of the outer leaves.
No one seemed to know what kind of a tree it waslet alone whether it would be hardy here in Fergus Falls! Can you help me out? The bus driver said he thought it was a sugar maple.
If they are hardy here, and turn as brilliant as they were in DC, I would like to get one for my back yard. Any help you can give me would be appreciated. (Fergus Falls, Minn.)
A. Your leaf samples are from a red maple, Acer rubrum. The cultivars `Autumn Flame' and `Autumn Spire' would grow in your area, with latter being the better choice, as it came from the University of Minnesota research efforts. It is completely winter hardy, has a brilliant red fall color, and broad columnar form. It would get between 30 feet to 50 feet in height. Just make sure the soil is well-drained where you intend to plant.
Thanks for writing.
Q. I always like and enjoy your column, but shame on you for telling the reader from Maddock to "consider both plants a weed" (mint and buckthorn).
An 8-foot-high buckthorn is a very nice thing to see, and the fragrance from the greenish flowers in early June is heavenly. Some of the most individual specimens in Chantangua Park and Pioneer Park on the courthouse lawn here in Valley City are well grown buckthorns with gracefully arching branches.
Mint is a herb which makes delicious tea, sauces, herbal sugars, etc. I have used native mint for many purposes with much success. Mint plants cost plenty (if not a "mint") when you buy them from a nursery. Why should they be regarded as a "weed" simply because the owner didn't have to pay for them?
I would tell the reader from Maddock to enjoy his mint and buckthorn, but to keep the mint under control. (Valley City, N.D.)
A. Ouch! I accept my well-deserved shame with humility! You are right. I am too quick to condemn these two plants to a "weed" status.
Just to let you know that I am really a decent, unbiased guy, we are growing three kinds of mint in our own gardenpepper, spear, and Egyptianand enjoy them immensely. We keep them in bounds with railroad ties.
As for the buckthornyes, it does have all the qualities you describe, but I have seen where the heavy consumption of the fruit by birds leads to an unwanted planting scheme. By a very rough definition, a "weed" is an unwanted plant in that particular location.
Bentgrass, used on putting greens and tees on golf courses, becomes unwanted "weeds" when the golfer unwittingly carries seed back home and it establishes in his Kentucky bluegrass lawn.
So, by virtue of location, not necessarily the plant species, a plant is often called a weed.
Thank you for writing! You obviously know your horticulture. Any chance you are a Master Gardener, or are planning to take the course in Jamestown this winter?
I promise to not be as quick to denounce a plant as a weed in the future!
Q. Enclosed is a specimen from my Patio Rose. It did great until September when it began to slowly die. I did see some of what appeared to be spider webs on the leaves. I sprayed it with Sevin many times, but it continued to dry up. Can you give me any help? (Clifford, N.D.)
A. I could only detect some evidence of downy mildew on the leaves, and some speckling where mites may have fed.
I think that your rose is not dead, but just got zapped by too much stress at the same time. I believe you can look forward to a rebound in 1998.
You should not be using Sevin as your only insecticide. Alternate insecticidal soap, Malathion, Metasystox and Sevin for best control.
Avoid splashing water on the foliage when watering. This will help minimize disease problems.
Thank you for writing and the good sample.
Source: Ron Smith (701) 231-8161
Editor: Barry Brissman (701) 231-7866