NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
August 10, 2000
Ron Smith, Extension Horticulturist
North Dakota State University
Q: I have a question about the germination of pea seed. I have tried soaking the seed before planting, and I tried using a substance that is suppose to aid the germination. I plant the sugar snap peas, radish and carrots about the end of April or first part of May.
The carrots and radish do fine but the pea seed germination rate is about 5 to 10 percent. The seed seems to rot and shows no sign of germination.
Another problem is with my yellow wax string beans. The seed germinates, but when I check the garden I often find only the stem or sometimes half of the bean seed and the first leaves missing. I am wondering if black birds or robins have a taste for bean seed. I do not find any cut worms. I have had to place grass clippings over the rows of germinating sweet corn to keep the black birds from digging up the seed and the plant with it. Should I try that on the beans? (Faulkton, S.D.)
A: You've got me stumped about the pea seed not germinating. I don't have any idea why they wouldn't. Any time I have ever planted them they took off without a hitch. Perhaps the soil is too cool for germination to commence? I don't know.
Yes, black birds, flea beetles and rabbits love bean plants in the sprouting stage. If your grass clippings work with the corn, try the same with the beans.
Q: I am trying to locate a plant called Linton Rose (Hellebrous orientalis). It is an evergreen plant and that is the extent of my knowledge. Can you help me with the correct name of this plant so that we can find a place to purchase it. (Lanesville, Ind., e-mail)
A: Thanks a million for the botanical name. The common name I have listed is the Lenten rose. A letter or two difference in spelling makes a big difference!
Anyway, the Lenten rose is related to the Christmas rose--H.niger. The leaves are more glossy green and serrated than those of H.niger. Flower colors vary from a dark maroon, to pink, and a cream color. Lenten rose self-sows abundantly which makes it a good plant for naturalizing among shrubs or trees that are deeply rooted. Lenten rose is hardy to zone 5, which makes it hardy where you live. Enjoy!
Q: We have a Canadian red cherry tree that is very healthy. Underneath the tree are all sorts of sucker roots that come to the surface and begin to sprout. I cut them with the mower every time I mow, but they are a real bother and very uncomfortable to walk on. Is there anything we can do to eliminate these roots without hurting the tree? (Bloomington, Minn., e-mail)
A: If I knew, I'd be a millionaire! That is a typical characteristic of this tree species, unfortunately. Concrete, blacktop or a very big bed covered with impervious plastic and covered with bark mulch 3 inches thick are the only ways I know of to keep the suckers from coming up.
My only suggestion is to remove the tree. Even then, you will have two to three years of fighting suckers from the roots that were left behind. Because of this, I have a hard time recommending this tree for anything but shelterbelt situations.
Q: I want to know if spider plants are poisonous as I would like to put some baby spider plants in my turtles aquarium. Please let me know if they will hurt her? (e-mail)
A: Nope, spider plants--Chlorophytum spp.--are not listed as being poisonous in any of my references. Should be safe for your turtle.
Q: I was wondering why I can't get my otherwise healthy looking sansevieria to stand up straight. The leaves fall over like they are tired. I've had the plant for years. What am I doing wrong? (e-mail)
A: Sansevieria tipping over is quite common because of a poor root system or a vascular disease. I'd suggest taking leaf cuttings and rooting them for some new, more vigorous plants. Or, you might want to consider repotting the plant in a clay pot the next nominal size larger. If you don't want to do this, you could simply topdress the plant with a sand/potting soil mixture which will help to keep the plant in an upright position.
Q: I have recently taken an intense interest in gardening and am quite puzzled as to how to remove the grass from the peonies growing along my roadside. They are beautiful, healthy bushes, some 2 feet in diameter. They are unfortunately marred by grass growing as tall or taller than the peony itself. I am tempted to spray something on them to kill the grass but am very afraid I will kill the plant itself. What should I use, or do I need to dig them all up and start from scratch? (Centralia, Ontario, Canada, e-mail)
A: Try Poast, an excellent grass herbicide that should leave your peonies unharmed with proper application.
Q: Could you tell me if perennial geranium (Cranesbill) will flower all summer and, if so, do I need to deadhead it? (e-mail)
A: The cranesbill geranium will flower a couple of times during the summer but not all summer. No perennials I know of do that: they all have periods of bloom--spring, summer or fall--and in some cases like the perennial geranium, spring and late summer. No deadheading is needed, although what I did once by mistake was to mow one down after it was flowering, and it came back a better plant and flowered beautifully.
Q: I have a list of questions for you:
1. I have several different kinds of monarda and have always grown them with no problems. This year several of the varieties have many leaves turning brown and curling up. What is it and what should I do to stop it?
2. I noticed that many of the ash trees in our shelter belt have leaves that are full of bright orange spots. Is this something they will recover from?
3. I have two Memorial Day peonies (the fern leaf kind), one of which bloomed beautifully this year and the other did nothing. The buds turned brown and never bloomed. Both are plants that I have had for many years. Any idea what would prevent the one from blooming?
4. We have many very large silver maples in our yard and they usually produce a huge amount of seeds that litter our yard. The lawn actually looks brown some years from all the "helicopters." However, this year there were very few seeds. What is the reason for this? I hope the trees aren't in some kind of decline because they provide wonderful shade to our yard and are more than 50 years old. (e-mail)
A: I am always happy to answer your good questions.
1. With the weather we have had thus far this spring, it could be a fungal disease like leaf spot or downy mildew. Try spraying with bordeaux mixture to control further development of whatever it is.
2. The orange spots on the ash trees are likely ash rust--Puccinia sparaganoides. The alternate host is a marsh grass. It is usually more cosmetic than destructive.
3. Probably early bud rot--Botrytis paeoniae. Clean up the plant this fall, completely removing all plant litter. Next spring, spray with bordeaux mixture as the new growth begins and repeat in 10 days.
4. Just the opposite. The plant is likely under less stress this year than last. Usually when a plant goes into a heavy reproductive cycle, is an indication that death or near-death stress is coming on. Part of nature's assurance of survival of the species. Also, when many trees have a very heavy year of bearing fruit, the following year is usually a skip or very low fruit production. So, as long as the trees appear healthy otherwise, you have nothing to worry about.
Q: A recent column of yours included a discussion about baby corn. Let me relate my experiences. The first time I planted several rows about 20 feet long. The more you pick it, the more it produces. I'd get a big wheel barrow full at a time. You can't husk tiny, tender ears. It's best to cut a slit down to the ear and lift it out. Out of that wheel barrow, I'd get only about two quarts. It was too time consuming to continue all summer, so I pulled the stalks before they had a chance to produce the 40 ears, as advertised. The next year I planted 15 seeds, just enough for a meal at a time or to freeze for a meal. They need to be picked every second or third day. (e-mail)
A: Thanks for the input on the baby corn. I have seen those miniatures advertised but knew that the same basic end result could be achieved via my method. It is wise of you to cut back on your planting the following year. It is one thing to like something, but to be overwhelmed with it is no pleasure!
Q: Is there a natural way to repel gophers? We don't have the heart to kill them, so we are seeking a natural way to repel them. (e-mail)
A: Have-A-Heart traps may work sometime if you can find suitable bait, like pieces of apple to get them to move in. Once inside, the trap closes, and you can then relocate the gopher to another area in the wild or natural environment.
Another method is to flood the gopher run. First, locate both holes; then insert a hose in the other end and turn on the water. If the gopher is in there he will try and scramble out the other hole. They can move pretty fast above ground, so if you are going to catch it, you need someone or something right there on the ready. Be sure to handle any cages (or the caught gopher) with heavy leather gloves for your own protection and to prevent human scent from being left on the traps.
One other approach is to bury hardware cloth with quarter-inch openings about 18 inches deep around the area you want to protect from damage. This exclusion method will allow you to observe the creature without suffering its damage directly.
Q: The leaves on my pin oaks are curling up but not turning brown. I can see raised tunnels in the center of every leaf. Whats wrong? (e-mail reference)
A: A member of the red oak group, the pin oak is subject to gall damage, which in most cases is just cosmetic. It sounds like yours is the vein pocket gall. Generally, there is nothing one can do to control these galls. Unless other problems start to manifest themselves--premature leaf drop, discoloration or attack by other foliage destroying insects--you can sit back and enjoy one of the small wonders of mother nature. In the fall, rake up and destroy all the fallen leaf litter to help break the cycle of reinfestation.
Q: We are going to build a home at our lake place, which has a very old oak tree about 30 feet tall. Since our building space is very limited, we would like to get as close to this oak tree as possible and still not hurt the tree. How far away do we need to be when digging a foundation? The contractors estimate they may have to dig about 12 to 16 inches for the foundation. The oaks drip line is about 17 feet. Do we need to stay out that far? (Minnesota e-mail)
A: The farther the better. I would say the drip line should be the minimum. Be sure that the contractors make clean cuts on the roots they need to remove. Many just rip them with either a backhoe or trencher, which opens the door to many problems.
Equally important, avoid compaction around the root system as much as possible. To do this, have the contractors lay down 4x8 sheets of plywood or steel plating where they are going to be driving heavy equipment over the roots.
If it is maltreated, the oak tree will not die right away but will gradually decline over several years, eventually dying three to five years after the construction is completed.
Do you have a gardening or houseplant question? Write to Hortiscope, Box 5051, NDSU Extension Service, Fargo, ND 58105 or e-mail to Ron Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: Ron Smith (701) 231-8161, email@example.com
Editor: Gary Moran, (701) 231-7865