Posts tagged containers

Stop the killing! Take care of those seedlings

You’ve planted your seeds indoors, waited for them to sprout and one day find a container of tiny, droopy plants.

    What went wrong?

    Damping-off could be responsible for the collapse and death of your seedlings.

    The gardening experts at Iowa State University Extension note that damping-off is caused by several different fungi. Environmental conditions usually associated with damping-off are poorly drained potting soil and overwatering.

    Damping-off can be prevented by using clean containers, a sterile, well-drained potting mix and by following good cultural practices.  Previously used containers should be washed in soapy water, then disinfected by dipping in a solution containing one part chlorine bleach and nine parts water. Flower and vegetable seeds need an evenly moist potting mix for good germination.  After germination, allow the potting soil to dry somewhat between waterings. 

 

   I’m getting a later than usual start on my seedlings, having just planted my first round today. The earliest I’ve planted seeds indoors was in late January – I had flowers blooming by the end of March. Some plants, of course, need more time to grow than others. The ISU gardening experts also offer this reminder on the starting times for seeds: The crop time (number of weeks from sowing to planting outdoors) for several popular flowers and vegetables are as follows: 10 to 12 weeks – geranium; eight to 10 weeks – petunia and impatiens; six to eight weeks – marigold, pepper, and eggplant; five to seven weeks – tomato, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower; three to four weeks – cucumber, watermelon, muskmelon and squash.  Always check the seed packet if unsure of the correct sowing date. 

Advertisements

Comments (3) »

Your Questions: answers, and a new one

Tom from Cedar Rapids left a question that hopefully someone in this area can answer. He asked the following:

I’m looking at harvesting some of the water that comes off my roof, but I haven’t found a good source for rain barrels in the greater CR, IA area. Where’s a good place to get one?

Thanks!

If you have an answer for Tom, leave your comment below.

 

 

Pam and Leora last week asked the following:

 

   I have started a flower garden in the front of my home which is facing east but does get some south sun on part of the garden area. I love flowering plants but I have not done a good job with finding appropriate plants. Does anyone have ideas of various plants that are perennials to put here?

 

 How soon should you start trimming the fruit trees: apple and pear? What other tips should I know to get the trees ready for spring? I have heard a lot about spraying the trees so what should I use?

 

 We have heard of growing potatoes in tires, but need to know the procedure. We have two big tractor tires to work with. Please help us.

 

Gardeners can be a shy bunch, but Bev Lillie, Master Gardener coordinator for Linn County, was able to get answers from some of the Linn County Master Gardeners.

Here’s what they said about the pear and apple trees: prune fruit trees in late winter/early spring.  Apply a fungicide/insecticide, e.g., home orchard spray biweekly after the blossoms drop.

As for what perennials to plant, if the site is in partial sun or shade, you can find suggestions at the Iowa State Extension Web site by searching on partial shade plants:  www.extension.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/

Some of my favorites include Japanese iris, which flower in early to midsummer; turtlehead, which grows 2-3 feet tall and has pretty pink or white flowers in the fall, and for foliage plants lungwort or pulmonaria and the groundcover lamium, which stays green almost year-round and flowers during the spring, summer and fall. 

 For the potato question, Ed Hume Seed’s Web site: http://www.humeseeds.com/index.htm offered some possibilities. My mom has had success with the first method, which uses straw and might work in large tires, as well.

Straw: For centuries, Scandinavians have grown potatoes in stacks of straw or other mulching material. Potatoes are planted above ground in the straw, and as the vines begin to grow, additional straw` or mulch is mounded up around the base of the plants. This results in a yield of very clean potatoes. New potatoes can be harvested easily even before the potato vines mature completely.

Under plastic or in plastic garbage bags: Garden soil or a commercial potting soil can be used to grow the potatoes in the bags, Fold over the top half of the bag, fill with soil, and plant a certified seed potato that has been cut in half. The plastic bag can be set above ground wherever it’s convenient. Punch holes in the bottom of the bag for drainage.

You also can plant potatoes under black plastic. Cut open a piece of the black plastic, and plant a potato piece. The potato tubers will develop as they would in the open ground. However, the tubers that develop close to the surface of the soil are shaded by the black plastic and should not develop the green inedible portions that often are found on other tubers. The black plastic also will aid in controlling weeds.

Garbage cans or containers: Old garbage cans, or wooden or fiberboard-type containers are suitable for growing potatoes, if they have adequate drainage. You can conserve space by growing them in this manner. A word of caution, though: The plants tend to dry out more rapidly when grown in containers, so additional watering will be needed. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up with misshapen tubers.

Pulmonaria, or lungwort, in bloom

Pulmonaria, or lungwort, in bloom

Comments (5) »

Starting seedlings

The following is by Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith:

 

It’s February.   It’s nearly spring.  Never mind that the ground hog saw his shadow, now is the time for all gardeners to commence gardening preparations. 

Following is one of the most popular questions that Master Gardener volunteers are asked on the Hortline:  when should I start seeds indoors for transplanting to the garden?  The often used phrase “it depends” applies to this question.  It does depend on what plants you intend to grow.  The number of weeks from first sowing the seeds to planting outdoors may vary from flowers to vegetables.  Seed start time for some popular ones are as follows:  Geraniums—10 to 12 weeks; Petunia and Impatiens—8 to 10 weeks; Marigold, pepper and eggplant—6 to 8 weeks; Tomato, cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower—5 to 7 weeks; Cucumbers, watermelon, muskmelon and squash—3 to 4 weeks.

If sowing seeds in flats or trays, fill the container to within one inch of the top with your planting medium.  Firm it down, water thoroughly, let it drain.  Fine seeds are sown on the surface and lightly pressed into the medium.  All other seeds are to be covered with planting medium to a thickness of one to two times of the seeds diameter.  Then water from the bottom (submerge) until the topsoil is wet then allow to drain.  Or you can water from the top with a bulb syringe.  Keep the soil uniformly moist, cover the container with a clear plastic food wrap. 

Always purchase good quality seeds.  Use clean containers.  Provide ample space for the seedlings to grow.  Air circulation should be good.  Follow planting directions on the packages and fertilize accordingly.  Adjustment to the out of doors should be a gradual process:  spending some time on the deck or porch before transplanting to beds would be wise.

My daughter and two grandkids are excited to plant their second garden.  Maybe we’ll try planting seeds and see if they get as excited as I do when sprouts commence popping through the soil.

 

Comments (1) »

Forcing daffodils

The following is from the Iowa State University Extension gardening experts:

To successfully force daffodils indoors, you’ll need high quality bulbs, a well-drained commercial potting mix and suitable containers. Containers for forcing can be plastic, clay, ceramic or metal. Almost any container can be used as long as it has drainage holes in the bottom.

Begin by partially filling the container with potting soil. Then place the daffodil bulbs on the soil surface. Adjust the soil level until the tops of the bulbs are even or slightly below the rim of the container. The number of bulbs to plant per pot depends on the size of the bulb and container. Typically, three to five bulbs are appropriate for a 6-inch-diameter pot. A 6-inch pot also will usually accommodate five to seven bulbs of miniature varieties.

Once properly positioned, place additional potting soil around the bulbs, but do not completely cover the bulbs. Allow the bulb tops (noses) to stick above the potting soil. For ease of watering, the level of the soil mix should be 1/2 to 1 inch below the rim of the container. Label each container as it is planted. Include the name of the variety and the planting date. After potting, water each container thoroughly.

In order to bloom, daffodils and other spring-flowering bulbs must be exposed to temperatures of 40 to 45 F for 12 to 16 weeks. Possible storage sites include the refrigerator, root cellar, or an outdoor trench. During cold storage, water the bulbs regularly and keep them in complete darkness.

Begin to remove the potted daffodil bulbs from cold storage once the cold requirement has been met. At this time, yellow shoots should have begun to emerge from the bulbs. Place the daffodils in a cool (50 to 60 F) location that receives low to medium light. Leave them in this area until the shoots turn green, usually four or five days. Then move them to a brightly lit, 60 to 70 F location.

Keep the plants well watered. Turn the containers regularly to promote straight, upright growth. On average, flowering should occur three to four weeks after the bulbs have been removed from cold storage. For a succession of bloom indoors, remove pots from cold storage every two weeks.

Leave a comment »

Love me tender

James Romer, Iowa Master Gardener Coordinator at Iowa State University Extension, offers the following on tender perennials:

Tender perennials are an integral part of many home landscapes in the Midwest. Most have a long blooming period and put on excellent displays of color until it freezes in the fall. The biggest problem with tender perennials is that they will not survive Iowa’s harsh winter weather if left outdoors. The following tender perennials should be dug in the fall and stored indoors until spring graces our doorsteps once again.

Tuberous begonias (Begonia xtuberhybrida) come in a wide assortment of colors and types. Some of the flower forms include camellia, cascade, carnation, picotee and non-stop series. Container-grown plants can be brought indoors for winter enjoyment. Those tubers left outside should be dug after a killing frost. To properly condition the tubers for storage, place them in a warm, dry location for approximately two weeks. Then bury the tubers in a box or sack filled with sphagnum moss or vermiculite. Store them in a cool, dry location.

Caladium (Caladium xhortulanum) is a great plant in the shade. The caladium is grown for its colorful foliage rather than its flowers. When the foliage dies back in the fall, carefully lift the tubers out of the soil and find a warm, dry place to cure them. Typically the process is complete in two weeks. Store the tubers in dry sand, vermiculite or sphagnum moss in a cool (50 F), frost-free area.

Gladiolus (Gladiolus hybrids) is stunning in the garden and in arrangements, but they need to be dug and tucked away for the winter months. The gladiolus or glad develops from a growing structure called a corm. A corm is a short, thickened underground stem where food is stored. When the foliage has yellowed, lift the corms carefully, cut off the foliage 1 to 2 inches above the corm and allow drying for a week in a sunny location. Corms can be treated with a fungicide to prevent disease while in storage. Remove and discard the remains of the old mother corm located at the bottom of the large, healthy corm. Place the corms in old onion sacks or nylon stockings. Then store the corms in a cool, dry, frost-free location until spring planting occurs.

Though calla lilies (Zandedeschia spp.) are tropical in appearance, they can be successfully grown in the Midwest. After the foliage has been damaged by a frost, cut off the tops about 2 inches above the soil line. Dry the calla rhizomes in a warm, dry location for one or two weeks. Bury the rhizomes in vermiculite, sawdust or peat moss, and store in a cool (45 to 55 F), frost-free area.

The large, banana-like foliage of the canna (Canna xgeneralis) stands out in the garden. Some can get to be about six feet in height, while others top the two to three-foot range. After a killing frost, cut the stems back to about 3-4 inches above the soil. Carefully dig up the rhizomes, let them dry for a few hours, and then place them in crates or mesh bags. Store at 35 to 45 F.

Dahlias (Dahlia hybrids) stand out like beacons in the summer garden. With more than 40,000 varieties to choose from, it’s difficult to not like at least one. After a killing frost has destroyed the foliage, the top of the dahlia should be cut away, and the tubers should be carefully dug and labeled with the variety name. Wash the tubers with water to remove as much soil as possible. This lessens the chance for soil insects to destroy the tubers while in storage. Dry the tubers in a site protected from strong winds and out of direct sunlight. When the tubers become dry to the touch, remove any portion of the stalk that remains and place the tubers upside down in vermiculite to ensure that any water in the remaining crown tissue drains out.

Although all of these plants require more work to keep than your average perennial, their attractive flowers and foliage are well worth the extra effort.

Leave a comment »

What bugs you?

    Something under my back porch steps caught my eye. That one piece of plastic from a backyard toy led to the discovery of other “treasures” half-buried by grass: a golf ball, broken rain gauge, half of a plastic Easter egg and an empty plastic cup. Make that, partially empty cup. A tiny amount of rainwater had trickled inside, offering the perfect breeding spot for mosquitoes. In fact, any of those items, except the golf ball, could potentially provide what mosquitoes need to multiply. It doesn’t take much.

    Ken Holscher, associate professor and extension entomologist for Iowa State University, said he wasn’t precisely sure how much water is needed for a mosquito to complete its life cycle, but said if there is at least 1 inch of water present for 7-10 days, (or as long as it takes to complete their immature development) and sufficient organic material to serve as a larval food supply, that’s all that’s needed to produce a batch of mosquitoes.

   Holscher said mosquito larvae are considered to be “filter feeders” that use their mouthparts to filter and feed on bacteria and microscopic bits of algae, fungi, and other organic detritus in the water.  Cleaner water will typically produce fewer mosquito larvae.  However, the standing water that collects in outdoor areas during the summer will usually have enough organic material to produce at least some mosquitoes.

   The Culex species of mosquitoes that can carry West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis and other diseases that cause brain infection, like to breed in containers, such as mine, or old tires.

   It didn’t take long for me to pitch the half-buried treasures. I’ll keep a closer eye on my bird bath and fountain, as well, to make my yard less hospitable to these unwanted summer pests.

 

Leave a comment »