NDSU Extension Service
Q: I'm interested
in planting some blueberries and strawberries. My husband and I just bought
a house with a nice garden area, but I'm not a huge veggie person and
thought that some fruit might be nicer. What types of blueberries and
strawberries would be good to plant, when should I start planting and
how do we care for the plants during winter? (Fargo, N.D.)
A: Glad to help!
First, forget about the blueberries. They are not going to happen in
this part of North Dakota without a lot of hard work and luck! Instead,
concentrate on strawberries and raspberries, which can be grown and
enjoyed in Fargo. The Smiths have been doing it for years. Go to www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/hortcrop/h16w.htm
for information to get you started next spring.
Q: I recently moved
to a property that has some large pines (red). The trees are surrounded
by railroad ties and filled with soil. The soil goes a couple of feet
up each pine's trunk. I know this eventually may kill the tree, but will
removing the ties and the soil be too shocking to the tree if done at
the same time? (Ely, Minn.)
A: It will be as
"shocking" as pulling a person from a drowning situation at
the very last minute! Get on it as soon as possible. Hopefully, you
will have acted in time.
Q: I am writing regarding
your Internet article on the control of nightcrawlers. I have a method
of controlling nightcrawlers without the use of pesticides. Pour a bucket
of soapy water on the infested area. Liquid dishwashing soap works fine.
In a few minutes, the crawlers will come up to the surface for air. Pick
up the worms and place them in a small bucket. (A small boy is a great
help in catching those soapy, slithery worms.) Add a handful of moist
dirt. Take the bucket and a cane pole to the nearest bayou or creek and
go fishing! When I was growing up on a south Louisiana bayou, this was
the preferred method for controlling the local worm population. (e-mail
A: Sounds like a
good idea! Thanks for the tip, which I'm sure many of the readers will
use next spring.
Q: I have a question
about my amaryllis plant. I purchased a bulb and was surprised that it
grew. I planted it inside and was amazed at how beautiful it is. After
the blooms die, what should I do? Should I cut it down and save the bulb
until next year or can I cut it back and let it continue to grow? (e-mail
A: Glad you had
such success with your amaryllis bulb, but most people do! What you
need to do is allow the foliage to remain and keep the bulb moderately
watered through the winter. Give the plant as much light as possible.
When spring arrives and the frost warnings are past, set the bulb outdoors
(still in the pot) and allow it to flourish through the summer. At the
end of August, bring it indoors and withhold further watering. Allow
the foliage to die down and then remove it. Let the bulb stay that way
for about eight weeks, then bring it into a well-lit room and start
watering. If the bulb has stored enough energy during the previous months,
it should produce another flowering cycle. If it hasn’t stored
enough energy, it only will produce straplike leaves. To view previous
questions and answers on amaryllis bulbs, go to my Web site at
You will find a lot of information that can guide you in the care of
this beautiful, flowering bulb!
Q: I am wondering
about storing potatoes. My wife said she read that potatoes and apples
should be stored together to inhibit sprouts from forming on the potatoes.
She also read that they should not be stored together. Any thoughts on
the issue? She is hoping to store them in a cool cellar. (e-mail reference)
A: Store potatoes
away from apples and pears because these fruits release ethylene, which
hastens sprouting. Potatoes may rot faster when stored with onions,
but that is because onions store well at warmer temperatures than potatoes.
Q: What is pasteurized
soil? I bought new soil specific for cacti, but it doesn't specify that
the soil is pasteurized. (e-mail reference)
A: If the bag doesn't
say the media inside is pasteurized, then it probably isn't. If you
want to be on the safe side, moisten the soil you intend to use and
nuke it the microwave for about four minutes in an open sandwich bag.
Q: I’ve had
a rubber plant since December 2004. My husband let half of it die, but
I managed to bring it back. I left it outside and it got really cold.
I brought it in the next morning, but the leaves felt funny and now all
the lower leaves have turned brown and are shriveling. Some of the top
leaves also are brownish looking. Is the whole plant dying or is it possible
to save it? It was a plant from my dad's funeral, so I hope it is not
too damaged. (e-mail reference)
A: The plant may
be reacting to the cold temperature treatment without it being lethal.
If there was no killing frost, then it may recover in six to nine weeks.
Give it normal care and don't fertilize or give it too much water. If
the main stems turn mushy, then it is a goner and should be dumped.
Q: My wife and I inherited
an old jade plant from her grandparents. We set the plant outside, but
moved the plant inside before winter. We placed it next to a window where
it receives approximately six hours of sun a day. Within the last month
or so, we've noticed blooms. Is this a sign of a healthy plant or have
we shocked the thing into propagation? We've seen no signs of insects
or mold, but a few leaves turned brown and dropped from their stems. A
landscape architect friend of mine estimated the plant's age at 40 years
or more and described it as a "living heirloom." Is this an
accurate description? How old do these things get? I appreciate your time
and thoughts! (e-mail reference)
A: A flowering cycle
is rare with the jade as a houseplant. It simply means that it has accumulated
enough carbohydrates, along with the good care you've give it, to go
into a reproductive cycle. Yes, the plant is a genuine "living
heirloom" as your landscape architect friend said. Anything that
is passed from one generation to another fits that definition. You might
want to take some cuttings from it to pass on to your relatives to create
an "extended family." Go to my Web site on home propagation
techniques at www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf
for more information.
Q: I have a hibiscus
plant that I really like. Can I grow another plant from cuttings off my
plant? If so, how do you care for them? (e-mail reference)
A: Yes, softwood
cuttings taken in early summer work easily when treated with IBA (rooting
powder). You can read up on the technique by going to my Web site on
home propagation techniques at www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf.
You can download all or part of it.
Q: I have been told
not to put potatoes in my crisper to keep them from sprouting before I
get them all used. Why is this not OK? (e-mail reference)
A: Because the temperature
in the vegetable crisper is low enough to convert the starches in the
potatoes to sugars, making them sweet tasting. Keeping the potatoes
dark and cool (at about 50 degrees) will do a good job of keeping them
Q: I have a problem
with my goldfish plant. It has started to die off in little branches and
is losing many leaves (mostly dried up and dead). The new growth is coming
in with leaves that are curled under and don't look good. I'm afraid I'm
going to lose the plant. Is there anything I can do? I know it likes bright
light, but in the fall and winter, my window just doesn't provide that.
A: With the days
getting darker, you should get an artificial plant light to augment
what is missing from nature. The plant should get 13 hours of light
a day. If there is nothing wrong with the plant, this should push it
along to recovery.
Q: I had a large kalanchoe
plant. It was covered with small red flowers, but became so large that
I divided it into three plants. All three plants look very healthy, but
aren’t blooming. What can I do to get them to bloom? (Tappen, N.D.)
A: Try a very large
dose of patience. They usually flower in the spring when the days get
longer. Keep it in a south-facing window this winter and come April,
you may be pleasantly surprised. Once the flowers start, move the plant
to an east- or west-facing window or simply put the plants under artificial
plant lights for 13 hours a day.
Q: I am getting ready
to repot my Christmas cactus. It is definitely rootbound. I know this
is good for the plant, but should I just pop it into the bigger pot or
should I cut a small portion off the bottom of the roots? I also was told
that when the flowers die to let them totally dry and then pull off the
flower and the leaf it is connected to. They said there should be a new
bud on the next leaf. Is this true? (e-mail reference)
A: Scoring the roots
with a knife would help them move into the new media. I don't know who
your source was concerning the removal of the flowers, but I have never
heard of that practice before, so I can't tell you if it is true. If
you want to take a chance on the advice, go ahead and give it a shot.
It shouldn't hurt the plant one way or the other.
Q: My children and
I would like to grow an apple tree. We saved some apple seeds and dried
them out, but after reading some articles, I'm not sure what variety of
apple tree to plant. We like to eat apples and do a lot of baking using
apples. I saw an article on putting the seeds in the refrigerator for
60 to 70 days or until the last of April. (e-mail reference)
A: Why not just
do what Johnny Appleseed (Jonathan Chapman) did? He didn't have a refrigerator
to store the seeds. Instead, he planted the seeds in nurseries around
the Midwest and encouraged settlers to grow apples as a staple food.
Remember, there was no interstate shipping back then! Most of his planting
took place in the fall of the year using seed he obtained from cider
presses. To make things a little more interesting, my advice is to plant
the seeds in a well-prepared bed of soil that is freshly turned over
and see what comes forth next spring! Otherwise, store them in a crisper
in the refrigerator and plant them next spring. You'll have better luck
than attempting to grow and transplant them from pots that were started
Q: How do you propagate
a Chinese evergreen? A piece of a friend's evergreen broke off and I would
like to start one of my own. It has a good stalk on it. I have it in water,
but the bottom leaves are turning yellow. Can you help me out? (e-mail
A: Get the broken
piece out of the water and make a fresh cut across the base. Remove
the yellowed leaves and stick the piece in a mix of sand and sphagnum
peat moss. Keep the soil damp. It may root for you in a couple of months.
For more details, go to www.ext.nodak.edu/extpubs/plantsci/landscap/h1257.pdf.
Smith, (701) 231-8161, email@example.com
Editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, firstname.lastname@example.org