Care of a Martha Washington Geranium

TheGardenLady received this question from Helen.

My daughter gave me a Martha Washington Geranium plant. I kept it indoors for a while then put it outside in the sun. The leaves wilted and turned yellow. I did water it before putting it outside. What is wrong with it?

When plants are kept indoors, they generally do not get the kind of intense light that they get when placed in the sun.  I imagine that your Martha Washington Geranium was kept in a bright, light windowed area of your home.  When you take a plant outdoors it should be acclimated to the intensity of the sun gradually.  You can do this by putting it out in a shady area of your garden and then gradually moving it to a sunnier location for  brief periods  of the day, until your plant is able to tolerate the full force of the sun.  And even then, though the Martha Washington Geranium needs full sun, it cannot tolerate the intensity of the  midday and afternoon sun or its leaves will burn.  So get your plant its needed six hours of morning sun.

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Larvae of Fungus Gnats

TheGardenLady received the following question from Mattie:

About two weeks ago I got a Peace Lily. Everything was going great. But then the leaves started to droop. So my friend has been giving me advice. Today I was pulling the cutting the dead roots and there were milly worms (?) in it. What should I do to prevent this and help save my plant?

Since there are no photos of the “worms” you describe, TheGardenLady thinks that you may have the larvae of fungus gnats in the soil of your Peace Lily. You either brought the plant with the larvae in the soil or your other house plants may have had the fungus gnats in the soil but the infestation may not have been so bad that you many not have noticed them.  Fungal gnats can be a major problem with indoor plants and can be difficult to get rid of – but we will try.

You are doing the correct thing in getting rid of the dead or rotting parts of your plant. Since your plant has been taken out of the soil to accomplish this, get rid of the soil completely. Do not compost the soil. Throw the soil in the trash. (Had you not removed the plant from its soil, you should still discard at least the top two or three inches of the soil.) Wash the roots of the plant while it is out of the soil and repot it in sterilized potting soil. You can add some sand to the potting soil. The larvae do not like gritty soil.

You can buy and use a fungicide for fungus gnats – there are many different brands, so follow directions for their use. This Garden Lady does not like to use chemicals indoors and has heard that many of the safer fungicides really do not do a good job in getting rid of fungus gnats; but many sources still suggest using them. So you have to decide whether to go this route or not.

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Non-Perky Knock Out Roses

TheGardenLady received this concern from Cammi about her Knock Out Roses:

1. I live in middle of CT.
2. Soil is clay
3. I just planted knock out roses in mid to late May 2018
4. We added bone meal to soil and then planted bushes then, put weed mat and mulch over the Matt around each bush.
5. I just added Rose Tone fertilizer
6. Base of plant watered 5 minutes per day , twice per day. I put my finger in to make sure the soil around each Bush was moist.
7. Green parts look fine
8. Not blooming. The early flowers have almost disappeared
9. Old buds falling off
10. New buds look ok
11. I can send a photo if allowed
12. Overall, plants don’t look perky. Appear a bit wilted due to no flowering.

Concerning your roses –

Your location in the middle of CT is fine for roses but not having your address I am not sure if you are in Temperature Zone 5 or 6. Knock Out Roses say they are hardy to Zone 5 .

TheGardenLady’s Knock Out Roses are planted in clay soil that had been amended with compost when the roses were planted. I hope you have planted your roses in a sunny location. Most roses need at least 6 hours of sun, though Knock Out Roses will tolerate some partial shade.

TheGardenLady never adds anything to new roses when I plant them and nothing but water for that first year. I have read that adding bone meal to the soil does not help and may hurt the new plants. See here.

TheGardenLady and her gardening friends uses the Espoma products that is the Rose Tone Fertilizer brand I believe you used. Though TheGardenLady does not add any fertilizer to a new rose, if you followed the directions on the bag of Rose Tone, TheGardenLady is assured that Espoma knows what they are telling you to do. Still, they are in business, so whether that initial fertilizing is necessary or not, I do not know. What a gardener should do, before planting anything, is to have a soil test done of the soil where one is planting a new plant. If the soil test is done through your Master Gardener office or agricultural extension office, it should ask what you want to plant in the location and recommend if any amendments to the soil are necessary before you plant. This way you may save money and will know exactly what is needed.

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Many weeds were plants brought from Europe with the early settlers as food but have become invasive and what we call weeds. So many weeds are edible, like dandelions or purslane. Some weeds are toxic, check out the link below, after the video on Queen Anne’s Lace and the second link on Queen Anne’s Lace lookalikes.

This is the Queen Anne’s Lace that some consider a weed but I love it.

There are some lookalike plants that are REALLY problematic like poison hemlock that you have to avoid – check out the next video. I tried to plant the seed of daraammi, not successfully, that is also in the carrot family but the flowers that look like Queen Anne’s Lace are purple.

Poison Hemlock usually does not grow in gardens. I have only seen it along hiking trails where I don’t see Queen Anne’s Lace. But I sent the link so you should know the difference.

This is the weed that I could not recall the name. The first year I think its leaves are pretty the first year. But this is a real nuisance in the garden- get rid of it.  However, it is edible.

Many weeds are being hybridized so that the flowers are larger and are now sold for gardens. Mullein used to be found in dry areas like along train beds and is now sold as garden seeds – I think the flower is larger in these seeds. However, what had been considered weeds a few years ago have now become garden plants because people are more sensitive to the needs of the environment- weeds are good for bees and birds as well as other beneficial insects.

Hope this is helpful.

Helping Hydrangeas Turn Blue

TheGardenLady received this question from Cookie:

Is it too late in the season to add aluminum sulfate to my hydrangeas to make them blue?  How much would you add to each plant as I have a row of 29.  The blooms are starting to come in but are very light blue at this point.  Would you recommend something else to add to make them blue.  I am always worried I will kill them by adding too much.

It may be a little late  to get the color Hydrangea you want, but it is never to late to start.

The first thing you should do is to test your soil to find out what the soil pH is. Blue hydrangeas like a soil acidity of between 5.2 and 5.5. You can buy a soil test kit at your local hardware store or get the kit through your Master Gardener office of your local agriculture extension office. This will give you an idea of how much  you want to amend your soil with things that bring up the acid level. You should have this test done every year to be sure your soil is as acid as you need it to be. Before you start amending your soil,   you want to check to see what other flowers are near the hydrangeas to know if they are also acid loving plants.  Here is a list of some acid loving plants.

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TheGardenLady’s 2018 New Years Resolution: Become More Vegan

It is 2018, TheGardenLady hopes your New Year’s resolutions includes gardening.

Catalogs are arriving in my mailbox and my wish is that I could add more vegetables to my garden. Living on a wooded property means that there is limited space for sun-loving plants, especially vegetables. Most of the sun in this garden is near the street. I am afraid of growing anything edible near this street where there is exhaust from the cars that drive by.

Because this GardenLady is trying to go vegan, I would love to grow and eat my own vegetables.

Why is this GardenLady trying to go vegan? More and more evidence is that a plant-based diet is the healthiest diet one can be on. But more important than my health is the health of our wonderful planet. There is more and more evidence that animal agriculture is polluting and causing harm to our environment.

TheGardenlady knows how difficult it is, in our meat-based culture, to become a vegan. However, with the growing global population, according to scientists, there may soon be so many people living that there will not be enough food to go around if we continue raising and feeding so many animals for food.

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Pouring blended waste directly on growing vegetables


TheGardenLady received this question from Oliver at Lloyd’s Landscaping:

Is it safe to pour blended food waste (vegetable leftovers, bones) directly on growing vegetables?

Gardening friends have bought used blenders at garage sales just to blend their kitchen waste to use in their compost bins. It speeds up some of the process of composting. But they never, never chop up bones of animals. And you should never use bones on your vegetable beds. Bones, meat or fat can attract unwanted pests like rats or insects.

To answer your question about safely putting blended vegetable food waste directly on your vegetables. It is safe. But why do it? It might look unsightly if enough of the mushy vegetables are on the ground. And if you live in a city or town, neighbors might complain. And the odors given off as the vegetables decompose might entice some unwanted animals to your garden.

Why not start a compost pile or bin so that the food waste is out of sight until it has decomposed into beautiful friable soil that will look good in your vegetable garden. There will be no chance of odor to attract animals or insects to a compost pile or bin if the composting is done correctly.

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Do tulips have to be planted annually?


When I was a child, people had tulips in their gardens that returned every spring to everyone’s delight. Is there anyone who doesn’t love a tulip? Then about 30 years ago I spoke to a landscaper who told me tulips were treated as annuals to be sure they bloomed the next spring. This didn’t make sense to me who always thought of tulips as perennials. Why should a plant that I was used to seeing each spring as perennials now have to be planted as annuals? Was this becoming a racket to make people buy tulip bulbs every fall?

I knew that tulips were native to the dry rocky soils of Turkey where they are its national flower. Were we getting too much rain these days that made the tulips rot in the ground? We may be getting more rain these days, but the tulip bulbs we plant, esp. the big hybrid ones, come from the farms in the Netherlands where they have as much rain as many parts of the US has. So the wetness of the soil should not be the cause.

The other day, I attended a lecture given by a lady who runs the seed and bulb company Harvesting History. I asked her what has happened to tulip bulbs that they have to be planted annually. She said the reason is that today the growers of tulip bulbs clone the plants. I guess they do this to insure the customer that he or she will be getting what was ordered. But cloning weakens the bulb and therefore it is not as strong as an un-cloned bulb. A cloned bulb will not return reliably every year. She said scientists are working on this problem.

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2018 Garden Catalogs

If you are a gardener who enjoys getting garden catalogs in your mailbox, here is a list of some catalogs for seeds and plants for 2018. This is not a complete list by any means. It is a list of some of the more unusual catalogs. TheGardenLady does not endorse or recommend any businesses though TheGardenLady has mentioned when she ordered from a catalog. You are on your own if you order from any catalog. This list contains just suggestions of catalogs that look interesting to this GardenLady. The fact that many of the companies have been in business for many years is a good recommendation of the quality of the companies. Note that besides plants, some catalogs sell heirloom seeds, some sell organic seeds, some sell exotic seeds. Order a bunch of catalogs and “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” while you are snug indoors dreaming of Jonquills peeping through the snow, or having a phantom smelling of the fragrance of the English Rose ‘Graham Thomas’ voted the world’s favorite rose  or day dreaming about the taste of your ripe Cherokee purple tomato fresh off the vine.

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