Q: We're looking for advice to help our young crabapple tree. Several winter storms and heavy snow weighed down a branch and caused a split down the main trunk. Is there anything that can be done? The tree has sentimental value—Peggy Klocke, Carrington, N.D.
I love gardening phrases. As a small boy, when Mom said Aunt Margaret had "taken a slip," I thought she had fallen on the ice. Actually, she had snipped a coleus stem to start a new plant from a cutting, sometimes called a "slip." Likewise, "cutting back" doesn't mean you've given up cupcake calories at snack time. Cutting back is a garden phrase for reducing the height of a plant for a specific purpose. Early March works well for cutting back plants because they'll have about two and a half months to regrow before the outdoor gardening season begins in mid-May.
Q: I want to share what I found yesterday with our perennial sedum. I don't know what might happen, but I'm guessing we will get too cold again for the little shoots that are starting to grow.—Dick Sinner, Casselton, N.D. A: This winter's extended warm period has coaxed some perennials to begin growing dangerously early, which might cause problems. When early extended periods of warm temperatures arrive in late winter with little insulating snow cover, soil freezes and thaws multiple times, causing continual expansion and contraction.
Do you know what my most frequently heard gardening statement is? "I just don't have a green thumb." My answer is always: "Yes, you do." All of our thumbs turn green when we do many small, simple things properly. I was reminded of this recently while working with our houseplants. I noticed two spider plants that had been started at the same time a year ago, but now they look very different.
You can always spot a gardener because they save stuff. Our garages have a section dedicated to used cell-packs, plastic nursery pots and a stack of old flats that we're keeping because we might need them someday. If gardeners are so thrifty, how do we reconcile our yearly plant expenditures? It's easy. We convince ourselves that since we don't party on the French Riviera, own a yacht docked in Boston harbor or drink Dom Perignon, we're justified in buying plants.
Q: Is there a garden center in town that stocks all of the recommended vegetable seed and plant cultivars based on the yearly updated North Dakota State University Extension list? It would be so much easier if I could purchase them all in one place versus driving around town to look for them at various garden centers.—Kari Forster, Fargo.
Q: I'm having problems with a gardenia tree. We kept it in a planter, and it appeared to be doing all right in the summer. Then some leaves began to turn dark and fall off, along with some blossoms. I also saw what looked like white mold on some of the wood.
What's more popular than televised sports, shopping, playing golf or watching movies? Gardening, of course. Vegetable gardening, flower-growing, lawncare, tending backyard fruit crops, caring for houseplants and enjoying a home's landscape engage more people worldwide than any other hobby, pastime or pursuit.
Q: I have a large jade plant that sits outside during summer and early fall and indoors the rest of the year. It has developed some holes in leaves near the bottom; they look like they might be from something boring through them. Could you offer an opinion?—Margaret Dahl, Battle Lake, Minn. A: Jade plants aren't overly insect prone. Sometimes they'll attract white cottony mealybugs, but those are easily noticed. Many leaf problems with jade plants can be traced to moisture troubles.
Remember when teachers told us tests were wonderful learning opportunities and quizzes were valuable ways to assess our knowledge? Most students didn't seem to enjoy exams quite as much as teachers enjoyed giving them. Compared to questions about supply-side economics or Newton's laws of physics, gardening quizzes are fun and refreshing. Don't bother cheating by looking up previously published quizzes; today's questions are fresh and can be answered in a few words. Oh, and keep your eyes on your own paper. Questions