I live in north central PA, and am looking to grow a supply of the medicinal herb, Lobelia Inflata. I would like to know the optimal soil conditions needed for this plant and if there is anything I need to know about growing this plant so I don't run into any surprises (pests, diseases, etc)?
Lobelia is easily grown in almost all soils. It is a biennial, which means it can be planted in the fall and covered with straw for earlier spring growth. It will probably reseed itself, if enough leaves are left in the fall to cover them. Germination will be easier, if the soil is sandy. Indian tobacco is relatively free from pathogens. All purpose fertilizer can be used after the plants are established.
I started all kinds of veggies in one inch peat pots. They are up to three inches now. I usually lose a lot because they bed one too weak. Any suggestions before I move them into four inch pots?
Katie, Marquette, MI
You have a ruining start. Because you are in zone 5, you might be too early for warm weather vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and melons. Cool weather leafy veggies can be put outdoors before the last average frost date. you will need to harden off all of the plants. First you need more light. For the next few weeks, strengthen the stems with grow lights for at least three additional hours per day. Auxin, the growth hormone, will be inhibited by light. We need chlorophyl for growth but darkness produces spindly growth. Take your veggies out doors on the days that are over 45 degrees. At these lower temps cell growth will be smaller and toughen the plants for transplant to outdoors. Lettuce, kale, cabbage and other leafy vegetables can survive frosts. Tomatoes and other warm vegetables will suffer damage in the frosty weather. The average last frost date in zone 5 is May 30th. It is May 15th in zone 6. You need about 8-10 weeks to grow tomatoes, melons, peppers and other fruit veggies before setting them out. You can slow them up with more light at this time. Your lettuce and other leafy veggies can be put out a month earlier around April 15-30.
Can you recommend a fast shade tree for us here in Austin, TX?
Sycamore, Sweet Gum and Water Oak rate fast g®owing native trees that will give shade in a hurry. and grow in the hard soils in your area. Quercus nigra or Water Oak and White Ash can do very well with irrigation pipes. I planted a Pennsylvania white ash at my son's hop use in Keller, TX. It is doing very well. We added four plastic pipes that went down the sides of the ball three feet. Live oak or Q. virginian a will grow fast but the leaves are smaller will not produce as much shade quickly as the other trees.
How far back can I cut my forsythia, when it stops blooming?
Jane, Norwich, CT
You can cut it back a third after it has finished blooming. Forsythia can reroot itself, if loose soil is nearby. You could start now with selective, first pruning for forcing forsythia for vases in the house. If you cut back to much, you may have hollow stems. Stems can rot when filled with rain.
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