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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The blackening and dying of an avocado


TheGardenLady received this question from Manuel:

My [avocado] fruit is falling off the vine. The avocado is turning black. My tree is ten years old sits on a hill. I always get a lot of fruit. What can I do?

Like most plants, avocados have their problems. Some problems can be treated and other problems, science has not found the cure. Avocados have a number of problems that growers know about. See here.

But as an online garden blog that tries to answer plant questions, some of these questions are difficult to figure out with such a brief description and so few photos. Also, the best place to ask certain questions is the area where these plants are grown in quantity.

TheGardenLady recommends that the person or anyone who has a serious avocado problem, call the California Master Gardeners – not to email them – and then you can talk directly to someone about your problem, giving all the details you think are pertinent and also to answer their questions about the plant. The people who answer the calls are horticulturists who have studied the plants in their area. If they tell you they cannot answer your problem about the blackness of the tree and its subsequent death, ask them to give you the telephone number of the agricultural extension where you could get answers. Here are some numbers to connect you to a qualified person to help you.

You can also buy a kit to test your soil to see if there is a soil problem for growing avocados or other plants.

And if you want to spend the money to find out what your specific problem is, if Master Gardeners cannot identify it from your phone call, there is a fairly expensive kit you can purchase to be filled with samples from your dead avocado tree or any other diseased plant that you cannot identify, that can be mailed to a research lab for scientists to determine the problem. If you want this kit, ask the Master Gardener you are speaking to about it and how to buy it. Usually people get the answers to their questions from the Master Gardener horticulturalists before having to resort to this last test.

TheGardenLady’s Garden: 2017

Paeonia Japonica – woodland peony

Laura’s Photography

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” from Ode
on a Grecian Urn by poet John Keats

Though the poet, Keats, wrote these lines about the paintings on a Grecian Urn, this GardenLady likes to think they could be said about a garden. And this spring the garden flowers have seemed especially beautiful. Or does TheGardenLady say that each and every spring when the flowers seem to take one’s breath away with their beauty?

This year, in my garden, it seems that flowers have been opening a month earlier than I remember. I always thought lilacs opened at the end of May on my sister’s birthday. This year mine gave me the most lavish display but are now already fading in the first week of May.

Other flowers that have put on a spectacular show for me this year: I have a wisteria that is trained to grow as a tree and this year it has a head full of the flowers; my dogwoods, all wild or self seeded are having an incredible show with amazingly large flowers and my bulbs seemed to outshine themselves: from the crocuses, to the hyacinths and grape hyacinths, the tulips to the Hyacinthoides (bluebells) and camassia. It is breathtaking. I feel like my garden will soon look as beautiful as the artist Monet’s garden since I have most of the same flowering plants.

And because this year, after many years of sitting supposedly still in the small clumps where I planted them, this year the flower plants have spread tremendously either by underground rhizomes like my Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley ) brought from my parents’ farm over 30 years ago or by sending out seeds like my hellebores have done – hellebores that a friend gave me about ten years ago. I have always been impressed when I visited people’s splendid gardens and they told me that certain of their beautiful flowers were “self-seeded” – they had not planted them. I never had this happen to me until recently, after years of amending my soil with top soil and mulch. Now my garden is a garden where plants want to move in. Also this year with the weather so warm, so many of my plants have multiplied. So this spring when there was a request for plants for a plant sale, I had many plants to donate. I also have many plants that I want to put in other locations on my property.

Interesting to this GardenLady is that because the property my house was built on had been a woodland property before my house was built, the first ever built on this site, the plants that seem to be happily expanding have been the woodland flowers that I planted or that planted themselves. I have a large patch of trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) that have come into my garden from their woodland location, a flower I had never seen until I moved here; I have a very large area in the shade where woodland poppies grow with their bright yellow flowers taking over after the daffodils die (Stylophorum diphyllum); Jack-in-the pulpits have come to the front of my house and are happily living under some yew bushes; woodland or snowdrop spring anemones (Anemone sylvestris) this year have had more flowers than ever before and also sent out a number of baby plants: and primulas now seem happy in my garden including primula vulgaris that has made a large clump. I do not know what it is about woodland flowers that make them among the most charming of flowering plants so that I delight in their filling my garden.

TheGardenLady wonders how your spring garden has been looking. If you take photos, could you share them with TheGardenLady readers? Send them and TheGardenLady will try to post them to show the beauty of your gardens.

Gardening with toxic materials

Someone left a comment on this site say in which they say they use old C and D batteries in their garden to make the soil more acidic. TheGardenLady would NEVER recommend gardening with toxic materials. And old C and D batteries are toxic according to the US government (see here).  In fact the DC govt site writes “Batteries pose a special issue since they may contain harmful metals that can be dangerous to the
environment and toxic to humans and animals.”

Dogs could be poisoned if they found those batteries and chewed them. The Pet Poison Helpline writes “Batteries can be very dangerous when
ingested by dogs. When a battery is punctured or swallowed, there is risk for the alkaline or acidic material to leak out, resulting in severe corrosive injury.” Read more on their website about the danger of pets chewing batteries

Why would someone want to put something so toxic in their garden when one can buy products that are safe for the plants and for the environment? Flower gardens especially are supposed to be beautiful. What kind of an aesthetic is it to put non-biodegradable junk in a
garden? It sounds more like a trash site than a garden site. And I am surprised that this person’s town wouldn’t this person for putting batteries in their yard.

The first thing a gardener should do before adding anything to the soil is to have it tested to see if the pH needs altering. If you have your soil tested through your Master Gardener organization or through your agricultural extension office, they will tell you exactly what is needed or not needed to grow your acid loving plants. And they certainly won’t tell you to use old batteries.

If you need to add acid to your soil, there are many products on the market that are safe for the environment and for the home gardener to use. A favorite of this GardenLady and her friends is the Espoma brand. But check out your local or favorite garden store to see what they sell
and read the labels carefully before using.

TheGardenLady’s Birdhouses

[Disclaimer: The birdhouses in this video are not TheGardenLady’s birdhouses]

This GardenLady has been trying to “decorate” her garden with birdhouses. I have had birdhouses for a long time, but I keep looking to add more.

The curious thing is that not all my birdhouses have attracted birds. For example, my son nailed a half dozen unpainted nesting boxes to as many trees. I never saw a bird even look them over let alone move in. But my squirrels sharpened their teeth on them so now even if there were a new bird in town, he or she could not use them. (see here)

I then bought a darling ceramic birdhouse. It did not have a removable roof or base or any way for me to clean it out. I had read that it is important to clean out birdhouses. But because it was so charming, I hung it on a branch outdoors anyway. One little bird had the same aesthetic as I and moved in immediately, filled it with twigs and had her family in it. A bird moved in each year after that until I saw that the twigs the birds had brought in reached almost to the ceiling. So, helpful me, I got tweezers and pulled out of the small entrance opening as much of the nesting material as I could reach so that, I thought, birds could fit back in. That year I cleaned it, no bird moved in. But the following year (was it desperate?) another wee bird brought twigs in and rebuilt the nest inside that darling birdhouse. I learned my lesson and never helped with the housekeeping of that house after that. Birds continued to live in that uncleaned ceramic house until the chain rusted and broke and the birdhouse fell. (see here)

Continue reading “TheGardenLady’s Birdhouses”

Great Websites about Holiday Plants

Holiday Season is here and many readers are getting their houses and properties decorated.  Some good websites about holiday plants.

Haven’t bought your Christmas Tree yet and want the best for your home decor? Check out The National Christmas Tree Association.

There is a  website that tells you where to go to cut your own tree.   Each state should also have a listing, like this one for NJ.

And you can find out if the place you are getting your tree sells ORGANIC trees. Here is one list of Organic Christmas Tree nurseries. (If you are going to have the family fun day of cutting your own tree, call the nurseries before you go to be sure they are open and have the type of tree you want.)

If you are decorating your house with holiday flowers there are some good websites for caring for these flowering plants.

Rutgers Master Gardeners of Mercer County has a good website for gardening all year long. And now they have information for holiday plants.

If you want to take care of you Poinsettia all year long check out this site.   And for an interesting article about the history of the Poinsettia as a Christmas flower read this.

Have a beautiful holiday and a Happy, Healthy New Year.