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Ask Pete

  • How do I get my Christmas cactus to rebloom?

    Getting your Christmas cactus to flower will require forcing the plant into dormancy. Much like a poinsettia, a specific schedule should be followed. Place the plant on a cool windowsill and cut back on your watering. You’ll also need about 15 hours of darkness- this is crucial and any light during that time can potentially break the cycle. You may even consider keeping your plant in a closet for this amount of time each day!

  • Can I plant now (fall) or should I wait until spring?

    Fall is an excellent time to plant! The biggest benefits being that the ground is still warm and workable from the summer and the cooler fall temperatures are much less stressful on plants. Trees and shrubs planted in the fall are well acclimated for the coming spring and summer- this means less work for you and a higher success rate for all your new plantings. Pest and disease problems are much less prevalent at this time as well. Try to get your planting done earlier in the fall while the ground is still warm, and remember not to fertilize too heavily as this will promote new foliage growth that is susceptible to frost damage.

  • What plants can I use to deter mosquitoes?

    The best plants to have around your outdoor living spaces to deter mosquitoes and other insects are fragrant herbs. Consider using mint or creeping thyme in your beds close to the house. Use basil, lavender, lemon verbena, or lemon grass in containers around your deck or patio to keep the pests away. The incredibly popular Pelargonium, also known as “Mosquito Plant” or ‘Citrosa’ Geranium, is effective when the leaves are crushed and applied to the skin but will not repel mosquitoes by just sitting there. It is a great thing to have around, along with these other plants, giving you quick access to a natural mosquito repellent.

  • The leaves of my roses are being eaten by bugs! What can I do to treat this problem?

    Roses can be susceptible to a number of damaging insects.  This year in particular we have seen extensive insect damage, perhaps due to the mild winter we had.  Among these are aphids, scale, mites and thrips.  Leaf damage early in the season is most likely due to rose slugs (sawfly larvae).  Later in the season, Japanese Beetles feast on leaves, buds and blooms.  Both of these pests can be controlled by handpicking the insects off your plants.  Regular application of insecticidal soap and horticultural oil is a safe way to combat these pests.  Safer End All is an excellent product that combines horticultural oil, pyrethrin and soap spray.  In addition, regular application of fungicides and fertilizer will encourage a vigorous plant better able to withstand insect damage.  Roses can be challenging, but well worth the effort!

  • My yard is overrun with buttercups! How do I get rid of them?

    The buttercup weed you refer to is actually Ficaria verna or Lesser celandine.  It is in the Ranunculaceae family of plants and, like many invasive plants, was introduced from Europe as an ornamental. It does very well in moist areas but, as you know, it seems to grow anywhere!

    It is a spring ephemeral that emerges late winter/early spring and competes with desirable plants. The fact that it spreads by its roots, bulblets and seeds make it a difficult plant to control.

    Remove clumps by digging deeply to reach the bulblets. When necessary, herbicides are an option but use them properly and with caution as to not damage desirable plants. Covering areas with a landscape fabric may also help, but you will need to keep the fabric on several seasons.

  • What can I plant in the early Spring for color in my pots?

    The early harbingers of Spring pots are those that emerge early and can tolerate frost. Pansy, primrose, and forced bulbs are the first annuals you will see available. Some more unusual early annuals are stock, cyclamen and ranunculus.  Filler plants like ivy, vinca, and creeping jenny can spill from your pots. I like to incorporate perennials and herbs into my pots. Lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme are hardy plants that can be put out early. Perennials such as Hellebores, Phlox subulata, Tiarella cordifolia, and Dianthus sp. look great as early as March! Don’t forget shrubs which have early color like Pieris, Rhododendron and Dwarf Forsythia.

  • I am excited to grow my first vegetable garden. When should I plant?

    Planting times vary according to which vegetable you want to grow and whether you want to start from seed or from veggie starts. Some crops are suitable for cool weather in both spring and fall. Members of the genus brassica are called ‘cole’ crops and include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and collards. Leafy greens such as lettuce, kale and spinach can also be grown in cooler temps. Seeds for these vegetables can be started as early as the end of February indoors or in the middle of March when sowing directly outdoors. Cool weather vegetable seedlings can be planted outdoors in mid to late March and another crop can be planted for the Fall. Warm weather vegetables include beans, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and more. Their seeds can be started indoors in early Spring and they will be ready to place outdoors after the frost date, which is typically mid-April in the city and end of April in surrounding counties.

  • What is a good office plant if I have no windows and only artificial light?

    Monstera, Philodendron, Zamioculcas (ZZ plant), Sansevieria (Snake Plant), Pothos, and Dracaena- These will do well with just artificial lighting. Just be sure not to overwater!

  • Help! I have an insect infestation on my indoor plants. What can I do?

    Prevention of insects is the best way to avoid an infestation. Always monitor your plants, especially new ones, for problems. Yellow, steaked or sticky leaves are a clue. Webbing is an indication of spider mites. Odd bumps could be scale.

    The first step at home is to isolate the infested plant. Move the plant to a room with similar conditions, as to not shock it further. Try to identify the insect first so that you can properly treat it. You can bring a sample in a sealed bag to us or send us a close up picture. Non-chemical controls include washing the foliage of a plant in the sink or shower to knock off the insects and dust. Hand cleaning with a soft tissue or a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol works well on cacti and succulents. Using sticky traps also helps to collect flying insects like fungus gnats, whiteflies and aphids. Pruning the plant can also remove the worst parts. If all else fails, dispose of a badly infested plant.

    Aphids, fungus gnats, mealy bugs, scale, spider mites and thrips are of the most common indoor pests. Identify and treat with the correct insecticide. We recommend insecticidal soap, pyrethrins, plant oil extracts like neem or clove oil, and horticultural oil. These are all safer options to use. Clean plants first and spray as directed on label. Several applications may be necessary. Using stronger chemical sprays should be done with careful consideration. Always spray all chemicals in a well ventilated area, preferably outside if temperatures permit.

  • When should I cut back my perennial plants?

    A simple answer to this question is to trim back dead growth from the previous season before new growth starts. This makes room for new growth. There are exceptions. Cut back invasive seed spreading perennials before the seeds mature and spread everywhere you don’t want them! (This is a task done any time they have seeds formed!) Leave up dead stems, foliage and seed heads of beneficial native plants. These can be a valuable resource for insects, birds and animals which use them in a variety of ways. Their food, shelter and building materials are derived from plants. Trim as late in the season as you can and save any seeded stems by sticking them in bare ground after you trim.

    Some woody perennials may not need a pruning every year if you prefer them to be larger like Buddleia and Caryopteris. Be careful with some of the woody perennials like Peony as there are herbaceous and woody varieties. Do not cut your woody or tree peony, Paeonia suffruticosa.  This is a small shrub that does not need yearly pruning.

  • What is the best way to deter mosquitoes this summer?

    First, there are preventative things you can do to control mosquitoes. This includes removal of standing water that may serve as a breeding ground for potential larvae. Beyond that, control can be achieved organically by planting repellent plants. These include citrosa geraniums, marigolds, lavender, lemon thyme and lemon balm. Most of these plants prefer a sunny, well-drained location to grow properly.  Consider putting them in pots and moving them near you when you are outside. Proper air flow through the garden is also essential for deterring mosquitoes, as damp dark leafy areas are perfect spots for them to inhabit. Try to trim overgrown shrubs or lighten up the density of your plantings as much as possible.

  • What kind of bulbs can I grow inside this time of year?

    The fall and winter are great for forcing bulbs. I would consider paper white narcissus. They are the easiest, and cultivars like ‘Ziva’ and ‘Inbal’ need no pre chilling. They can be forced in potting medium in a pot or stones in a bowl. They will bloom either way in four to eight weeks from starting.

    Amaryllis are the other easy bulb to start that require no pre chilling. They too can be grown in stones or soil. Use soil if you plan to keep the bulbs viable from year to year. I make no guarantee as to when they will bloom but usually in six to twelve weeks form starting depending on how they are treated.

    Warm bottom heat tends to accelerate growth and cooler temperatures will slow them down. This may help a little with timing them for special events. Keep them evenly moist when in soil.

    For a little more of a challenge, try potting up hyacinth, crocus, or tulip bulbs in soil. Put them in a cool environment (refrigerator or outside) for 12 weeks to simulate winter. Bring them in to a warm environment and they will break dormancy, grow, and bloom!

  • How late in the season can I plant?

    We continue to plant all throughout the summer as long as our customers are able to keep new plantings well watered until established. The ideal time to plant is in cooler months such as early spring and fall. It’s easier on the plants and easier on you- you won’t have to water as much. With that said, don’t be afraid to make some additions to the garden in the summer if you can commit to watering daily for a couple weeks after planting.

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