Supporting Plant Parenthood

Cycad @SanAntonioBG 2003nov30 LAH 003

When I first saw the headline, I had to snicker:

Most millennials are intimidated by plants, survey finds.

A recent poll has revealed that while millennials (aged 25 – 39) love house plants and want them in their homes, they’re also clueless when it comes to caring for them. Most decide to adopt a plant anyway, but some are so worried that they’ll commit planticide that they refuse to accept the responsibility of plant parenthood. Happily, there’s hope.

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More Better Tomatoes

tomatoes-greenhouse-2008sept08-lah-296Summer is just around the corner and the weather is (hopefully) settled. You’ve finally planted your tomato seedlings and you’re dreaming of luscious, red, ripe tomatoes—the sooner the better.

However, this is Colorado, and there’s no guarantee when it comes to growing tomatoes. Now that your plants are in the ground, what’s the best way to care for them to ensure the biggest, fastest harvest?

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Garden Advice: Don’t Prune that Crown!

Quercus_Oak_COS-CO_LAH_1854It’s a common question. You’ve just planted a new tree. In the process, the plant has lost a significant portion of its roots—sometimes up to 95 per cent! Should you prune back the crown to compensate?

The intuitive answer would be yes. We assume that with fewer roots, there’s no way the plant will be able to sustain all that foliage on top—and that’s the advice I see on website after website. But if you do decide to prune, you’ll be doing the tree a disservice. You might even kill it! How can this be?

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Uncovering New Growth

Crocus_XG-CO_LAH_6223The forecast for today is a high of 73, with sunshine and balmy breezes. Yesterday reached the 70s too. After weeks of cold and wind, the desire to be outside is overwhelming. So what can we do in the garden now?

In spite of the weather, it’s much too early to plant. The soil is cold; seeds will sit and sulk. Besides, we know that temperatures are sure to dip well below freezing in the coming weeks and months.

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Garden Advice: More Misconceptions

Here are three more cases where the standard gardening advice won’t do your plants any favors. (If you missed my previous posts on this topic, try typing “garden advice” into the search box at the top right of this page.)

B1 container-001Vitamin B1 stimulates root growth. No, it doesn’t. A study done in the 1930s showed that when disembodied pea roots were placed in a petri dish saturated with vitamin B1 (thiamine), they grew. From this, they concluded that pouring a vitamin B1 solution over newly transplanted plants would help them get established. However, the plants in your garden are not detached pea roots, and they’re not growing in a petri dish. Further research has shown that adding B1 does nothing to help reduce transplant shock, but it will have an effect on your wallet. If you want to encourage roots, look for a product containing a rooting hormone instead.

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Is It Dead?

Malus x scheideckeri 'Red Jade'_Crabapple_DBG-CO_LAH_4099-001Congratulations! We just survived one of the coldest winters in recent history. Spring has finally arrived, even here at 7,000 feet. Bulbs are blooming, trees are budding, and there’s a bit of green in the dead grass. As my perennials finally begin to sprout, I’ve been busy clearing off the dead stems and dried seed heads. One by one, they return to life, and I mentally take attendance. Catmint? Here! Blue Mist Spirea? Here! Ornamental Sage? Hello? Has anyone seen Sage lately?

Yes, some of my favorite plants are no-shows. Others, such as the Blue Mist Spirea, are producing leaves from the base of the plant, but the stems are still bare and lifeless. As I check on the woody plants in my garden, I notice that not all my shrubs are leafing out as expected. Should I cut them down? Dig them out? Or am I just too impatient? How can I tell if there’s still life left in those limbs? Continue reading “Is It Dead?”