The Magic Garden

Cutting back and turning a new leaf


My gardenia has lost some of its leaves. I brought it indoors in November. Does it need to be in a new pot?
Eleanor, Old Lyme, CT

You may have brought in indoors too late this year. Normally, you would have brought the plant indoors in September. The cold nights may have induced dormancy. I would put the plant into new soil and a two inch larger clay pot. Cut off any black or brown roots and use a soil mix of 2/3 potting soil and 1/3 coarse sand. Cut back the ends of the plant and place the repotted plant in an east or west window. When the plant starts to show new shoots, you can resume fertilizing with a higher middle number like 5-10-5.

When is the best time to prune Cherry trees?
John, Charlestown, RI

You can prune and trim in the winter or mid summer. Winter pruning will stimulate growth in the spring and summer. Summer pruning will affect the total fruit. All shoots that go straight up should be removed. If you want more fruit, cut the ends and clean out the middle of the tree. A scaffold of five main branches will produce many flower bearing branches. Lateral branching should be encouraged.

How far back should I cut back my banana?
William, New Orleans , LA

Bananas will send out sucker shoots like the bromeliads. Bananas last only two years at the most. Cut back the banana to a foot, when a new side sucker starts to grow. When the new sucker is larger than a foot, then you can cut the old stump back to the crown within an inch of the new plant.

What is the optimum amount of tilling for a garden?
Todd, Waterford, CT

If possible, you should till as often as you can. Tilling helps incorporate the sub soil into the loam and increase the depth of the humus. If tilling is not possible after the initial turning in the spring and late fall, you can cultivate with a hoe or clam rake to keep the weeds from getting a start. Cultivation of the surface will create a barrier of loose soil over the more compact soil and actually prevent water evaporation from the soil. Besides creating a sense of humus, there are so many benefits to tilling that you need to till until you can not till any more.


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