Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sunday Special: Reader's Questions

May and June. Soft syllables, gentle names for the two best months in the garden year: cool, misty mornings gently burned away with a warming spring sun, followed by breezy afternoons and chilly nights. ~Peter Loewer

I missed last Monday's blog but had some questions and answers to share, so I thought I would make up for it today when I had a little quiet time to myself.

Kammi needs tips for growing in sandy soil and she also found an ant colony next to her strawberries and needs advice on getting rid of them.

Sandy soil can be amended pretty easily, and everything I came across said once this was done you can grow just about anything. So what can you add to sandy soil? The best things are well-rotted compost or manure (not fresh), pine park humus, composted leaf mold or peat moss. If you think your soil is too acidic add some lime with those things too. A few weeks ago I was reading an article about a couple who moved into a dry, infertile desert area, and by bringing in top soil, adding compost and using raised beds they were able to grow anything they wanted to! Oh, and you should also mulch well when the soil is sandy because the soil dries out faster.

I think ants are harder to get rid of then the sandy soil is to fix! Next time try planting mint with the strawberries--they work well together and the mint is suppose to repel ants. Also, doing some research it seems that strawberries might attract aphids, which in turn attract ants. You might try a soap spray as mentioned last week and see if the ants go away. Also, if you see the ant nest itself try pouring boiling water slowly into the nest. You'll have to dig up the one strawberry plant that is over the nest, but the boiling water should help. These are some of organic methods to try, since it seems like chemicals wouldn't be a good idea on edible plants.

My husband just brought home a coleus and gardenia plant for the yard, do you know how much watering and sunlight they may use? ~Robin

Gardenias should be planted in good, fertile soil in a partially shady area. They are fairly picky about temperatures. For the plant to form buds they need night temperatures of 60 degrees or so, and about 10 degrees higher during the day.

Coleus plants are grown for the foliage and it's much brighter and more colorful if they are planted in partial shade. They need to be kept watered, but not soggy. Also it's very important that you pinch off any flowers that start to form.

I have African Violet plants, they grow and bloom nice, but 2 of the plants look like they are growing up and not out like the other ones. I have them in a long pot with another violet and it's growing flat or out. It also looks like you can see the root on top of the soil. What can I do about this, is it normal? ~Ruth

Violets, like a lot of other flowering plants, need to be repotted once or twice a year with fresh soil and a pot that is just slightly bigger. Violets don't like too much space around them or under the roots. Make sure you cover the bare part of the stem-the part that looks almost woody-with soil. That may be Ruth is talking about when she says it's root is on top of the soil. I have an article with pictures on how to repot violets here:


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