The Magic Garden

The root of the problem can raise new questions


Why do my mums that I buy in the fall not do well? Julia, North Kingstown, RI

Garden mums are not bred for hardiness. Although some retailers do not specify if they are hardy or not, many do not realize that you cannot expect garden mums to survive in zone 6. Hardy mums should survive but can have problems if planted wrong. All mums should be planted so that the peaty soil is mixed with the surrounding soil. Peat absorbs nine times its weight in water. This means it will pull water away from the surrounding soil and create a dry barrier for the roots to spread. Another problem is drying from the wind. Mums should be cut down to the crown after blooming and covered with sand for the winter.
Lastly, drying can occur when ice forms under the root. As the ice expands, it raises the mum and it will dry out especially if the soil has not been mixed.

Is horse manure a good fertilizer to use in the fall? Pat, Richmond, IN

Absolutely, it is one of the best fertilizers. Organic fertilizers are a must for roses. Although the nitrogen content is only 2%, it creates a condition in the soil that allows release of all natural elements into the plants. Fresh manure of any kind should be piled for the winter. This will allow the manure to self sterilize. Aged manure will be free of any possible pathogens. Annual applications will soften clay soils and enrich sandy soils.

I have a hanging plant that I have been covering at night. It has tender stems and blooms constantly with daisy like flowers. Some of the branches were broken off by the storm, Irene. What can I do with it as winter approaches.
Darlene, Jewett City, CT

I would bring it indoors and treat it like a house plant. You will need less water indoor. Cut off the broken branches back to the next stem. You can add a light application of liquid fertilizer until the plant gets new growth. You probably have an annual that may make it to spring or beyond.

We brought in our tropical hibiscus again this year. It is about seven feet tall. Can we cut it back now? June, Taylorville, IL

You can cut about 18 inches off the top. Since the plant blooms on new wood, you will continue to have blooms every day and will enjoy even more blooms as new shoots develope. I prefer a clay pot and you should consider a larger pot at this time, if you have not transplanted in the last three years. Tropical hibiscus lies a lot of sun, especially a south facing window.

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