NDSU Extension Service
Q: I am looking for
a book on raised gardening techniques to give to my older parents for
Christmas. I am thinking that you referred to one in a column in the past
year or two.
What is the name of
it or can you give me names of some good books on this subject? Also,
we have a newly acquired farmstead. We have about 3/4 of an acre that
was planted to corn or beans in the past. We sprayed with Roundup and
worked up the soil to plant grass. Is there a slow-growing grass that
will grow? Someone told us we should seed after the first snowfall so
we can see the seed. Thank you so much, I read your column every week.
A: The book is the
new, revised edition of "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew.
The new edition has some good information on raised gardening techniques.
Yes, the grass seed can be seen after the first snowfall. However, the
seed also will be seen by birds. The birds will thank you for supplying
supper! It does work somewhat, as most efforts to seed do. You can get
inexpensive seed, such as fairway or western wheatgrass. Sow it heavily
to compensate for the bird feeding and you will get some growth next
spring. You then can reseed the thin spots when germination is evident
and you have mowed a few times.
Q: I just inherited
a fig tree that has waxy buildup. If I take the leaves off, will they
regrow? Is that a good way to fix my problem? I am allergic to chemicals,
so I would like to use a natural ingredient. (e-mail reference)
A: I have no idea
what you are referring to when you say waxy buildup. If you can find
it, Schultz's Fungicide 3 is a natural (neem tree) product that has
fungicidal, insect and mite control. If you pick off all of the leaves,
there may or may not be a regrowth. It all depends on how much vigor
the tree has. In most cases, it will grow new foliage in four to six
weeks using grow lights set at 12 hours plus per day.
Q: What soil should
I use to repot my Christmas cactus? When do I know that I have to repot
the cactus? I've had it for years and never repotted it. It's flowering
and looks great, although only half of the plant has flowers, which is
kind of weird. Last year, the whole thing flowered at the same time. (e-mail
A: You are better
off purchasing a high-quality, all-purpose potting soil mixed with about
30 percent sand or what is known as a bromeliad potting soil mix. Whatever
product you select, be sure it is a quality product that is pasteurized
or sterilized. Try to resist the temptation to repot this plant! It
thrives on being pot-bound to flower. If you think it needs soil, add
some to the top of the pot. If you do repot, do not step up to a larger
size. Wait until the plant stops flowering and then refer to the details
on my Christmas cactus culture and care Web site at www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/houseplnts/xmascctus.htm.
Christmas cactus needs more than 12 hours of continuous darkness every
24 hours. Very likely the part of the plant that is not flowering was
exposed to low-level light that kept it from setting flower buds.
Q: I just received
a peace lily from the company I work for as condolences for a loss in
my family. I have never had a peace lily before. This particular plant
is huge, so I am concerned that it may need to be split and replanted.
However, I am not sure how the plant will take to the replanting process.
I would appreciate any tips you could send my way. Thank you in advance.
A: This is an easy
plant to care for. The fact that it is flowering is an indication that
it will begin to wane in vigor and move into a dormant or rest period.
When this starts to become evident, don't attempt to push it by overwatering
or fertilizing. Back off on the watering and allow the soil to dry between
each watering cycle. Sometime in early March, divide it, repot and start
watering as normal. It should flower for you during late spring or early
Q: I have a large
willow tree in my backyard. I am considering building a stone ring around
the base and then putting a couple of feet of topsoil in it to create
a flower garden. I feel this will help cover the large exposed roots and
cut down on the weed trimming. Is this OK? Will it expose the trunk or
roots to rot? (e-mail reference)
A: Willow is one
of the more tolerant species to this kind of treatment, so with some
modification, you may be able to get away with this. You will need to
build a wall around the tree trunk to keep the soil from the trunk.
Give yourself a clearance of at least 12 to 18 inches. Spread sandy
loam over the area you want to turn into a garden. You will need to
wall or edge the area in some way to keep the soil contained. Do not
use more than 6 inches of soil. The feeder roots are out to or beyond
the dripline of the tree, so the impact will be minimal.
Q: I recently repotted
my hibiscus plant and moved it indoors for the winter season. However,
I'm concerned because the plant is starting to look stressed. The plant
has several yellow leaves, has stopped blooming and a few branches look
wilted. I repotted the plant in Miracle-Gro potting soil and used a very
large pot. I am concerned I chose the wrong soil. If I have, what should
I do? Do you recommend mixing sand/perlite into the soil? Will this stress
the plant? (e-mail reference)
A: The yellowing
of leaves and leaf drop can be expected when the plant is moved from
the great outdoors to an interior environment. The soil should be OK,
unless you simply used garden soil from outside. Houseplants need designer
soil, which is pasteurized or sterile and has been modified for optimal
drainage. Having the plant in a container that does not freely drain
(a hole in the bottom) could be part of the wilting problem. Also, keeping
the soil too wet results in anaerobic conditions. I would suggest getting
some artificial light. Run the lights about 13 hours per day. If any
of the above applies, correct it as soon as possible.
Q: I had two healthy
plants on my deck this summer, but they are not doing well indoors. The
miniature orange tree is dropping leaves consistently and there appears
to be no new growth. There are white spots on the leaves. The hibiscus
leaves are yellow and falling off. There are some webs present at the
base of some of the leaf stems. How can I correct these situations? (e-mail
A: Get plant lights
for both. Keep the lights on for about 13 hours a day. Keep the plants
away from forced air heating vents, mist frequently with distilled water
and avoid drafts from doors opening to the outside. Leaf drop and cessation
of growth are normal, so be patient. New growth adapted to the indoor
environment should appear shortly. If misting does not eliminate or
at least reduce the spider mite infestation on the hibiscus, get some
of Schultz's Fungicide 3, which is a neem tree product that has fungicidal,
miticidal and insecticidal activity.
Q: I wanted to buy
soil to grow tulip bulbs indoors, but I ended up buying white sphagnum
peat instead of soil. What would happen if I grow my tulip bulbs in peat
instead of soil? If I do have to buy soil, is it OK to mix it with peat?
I do not have a garden, so I need to use the peat somehow. (e-mail reference)
A: Tulip bulbs will
grow and flower without soil the first year, so it doesn't make a difference
what medium you decide to plant them in. The bulbs will grow in soil,
sand or peat. Enjoy!
Q: We have a lot of
brush and trees to clean out of our grove. What's the best way to keep
whatever stumps are left from regrowing? Is there a certain time of year
that is best to do this? We'd like to do it during the winter. (e-mail
A: Winter is the
best time to begin the attack because you will not be fighting insects
and you can get into the site (generally) and see what you are doing
much better than at other times! As spring comes, there will a flush
of growth that can be treated with a brush herbicide or a strong dose
(according to label directions) of Trimec or Glyphosate (Roundup). You
will get kill-back and most likely regrowth, which you should attack
again. Depending on the species and their vigor at the time of removal,
a couple of applications or more through the summer may be needed.
Q: I am a faithful
reader of your column. We have a problem with walnut trees. When we moved
to our present home, the lot next door had small walnut trees in a windbreak.
Our garden is adjacent to these trees. As the trees have grown, our garden
is producing less and less. Someone told us that walnut trees emit a type
of poison in the soil that prevents the growth of plants. The only plants
that will grow are rhubarb and peas. Each year, as the trees get bigger,
we are losing more and more of our garden. What is the solution? Please
advise us before we talk to our neighbor about removing the trees. (Milbank,
A: I seriously doubt
that you will get your neighbor to remove some black walnut trees because
they are too valuable. However, you do have some options. Locate the
garden somewhere else if possible. Plant your garden in raised beds.
This is easily done by taking 1-inch by 6-inch or 1- inch by 8-inch
boards and placing them on edge. Then bring in some topsoil from another
location away from the walnuts. Garden soil doesn't need to be much
deeper than that. You can try container gardening. This is a fun way
to grow vegetables, assuming you are not going after acres of them.
Using containers, you can concentrate your tender loving care, and by
using pasteurized potting soil, you won’t have to worry about
weeds, diseases or soilborne insects. Walnut trees give off a substance
known as juglone from the leaves and as an exudate from the root system.
This is phytotoxic to other plant species that fall within the root
system or canopy spread of the trees. Some species, such as the nightshade
family, is more sensitive than others to this compound.
Q: When and how often
should I fertilize my Christmas cactus? What fertilizer should I use?
The cactus is blooming at this point. Should I fertilize it now or wait
until the flowers fall off? (e-mail reference)
A: I have a Web
site exclusively dedicated to Christmas cactus at www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/houseplnts/xmascctus.htm.
Basically, wait until the flowers cease. During the spring and early
summer, fertilize every 14 days with a 10-10-10 mix or with something
Q: I'd be interested
to know if someone in southeastern North Dakota has a wodarz apple tree
to harvest some scion wood. (e-mail reference)
A: I have no idea.
Perhaps some readers will respond. If they do, I'll link you up with
them and you can go from there.
Q: I recently was
given a spider plant. I have cats and was told these plants are poisonous
to cats. Is this true? What other plants are dangerous to cats? (e-mail
A: There are textbooks
on poisonous plants, so it would be impossible to list all of them in
this column. Some of the more popular plants that one needs to be cautious
about are oleander, amaryllis (or any lily), croton, Jerusalem cherry
(or any other member of the nightshade family), English ivy and poinsettias
(or any other member of the spurge family). People need to be cautious
with dumbcane because of the milky exudate found in the plant tissue.
Common plants, such as ficus (rubber plants) and jade, are not poisonous.
Smith, (701) 231-8161, email@example.com
Editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, firstname.lastname@example.org