Garden Questions of the Month: July 2008

Over the past month quite a few people have hit this blog searching for information on various topics. Sometimes their searches are in the form of a question and I thought it would be fun to go back and answer the questions. Most people looked for information with the word "how" but a few used "what"even fewer used "where" and "when" while no one was looking for "who"! That's enough of the who, what, when and where's now let's see what people were asking!

The Most Frequently Asked Garden Questions of the Month:
These three were by far the most commonly searched for questions that found The Home Garden. Most people were looking for information on propagation, my kind of questions!

Q. How do you propagate Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia)?

A. I like to take softwood cuttings of the suckers that emerge from the base of the plant. Then I strip all but the top 4-5 leaves, treat the base with rooting hormone and put in a mix of sand and peat. I've found that putting peat in the bottom of a container with sand on top is very effective. The cuttings grow into the peat and create strong roots while the sand gives the cutting stability and helps reduce rot because of the improved drainage. Please see this post for more information: Crape Myrtle Propagation by Cuttings.

Q. How do you propagate Russian Sages (Perovskia atriplicifolia)?

A. I take stem tip cuttings of new growth. Then I use the standard method for taking cuttings but make sure that the cuttings are immediately treated. Any wait time in hot weather will cause the new little sages to wilt. Spring time is probably the best time to take cuttings while they are actively growing new growth but cuttings can be taken throughout the summer on stalks that aren't flowering. Fall may not be as good of a time for cuttings since they will need time to grow a sufficient root system and harden off for the cold weather.

Q. How do you propagate Japanese dappled willows (Salix integra)?

A. Willows of any kind are notoriously easy to root but the Japanese dappled willows are one of my favorites. I like to take cuttings of about a quarter of an inch in diameter and about 6-8 inches in length. Smaller cuttings can be successful but once the larger one's root they grow faster. Once I have taken the cutting I can do one of two things, either stick it directly in dirt so that the majority of the branch is under the soil or I can put it in a jar of water and wait for roots to form before I plant it. Either way works. One bonus tip, if you want to grow it into a tree form then make sure you plant it so that the top bud is exposed and the rest are underneath the soil. Alternately if you want it to become a shrub then leave 3-4 leaf buds exposed. With the tree method you will have to prune back suckers on occasion as well as any unwanted side branches but that's OK since you can make more dappled willows!

The Fun Questions:

These questions I just found as just as interesting as the ones above but in a more humorous way. They ask good questions but in a rather quirky way. If you found my site with these phrases please don't be offended as this part is only intended to bring out some good natured humor!

Q. What varmint would eat squash out of my garden?

A. There's all kinds of varmints who might wish to partake of a succulent squash. Aside from myself it could be rabbits, deer, voles, groundhogs, and possibly your next door neighbor! If it were the vine having problems I'd say it could be the squash vine borer. Now there's a nasty varmint! Without personally seeing any signs of damage it could be hard to tell but my bet would be on the rabbits.

Q. What does Nandini domestica eat?

A. You can rest assured that your small children and pets are safe from the appetite of the fearsome Nandina! A little compost worked into the soil around the nandina will go a long way or you could go with a general purpose organic fertilizer. Don't fertilize in the fall or late summer since you don't want new growth to get hurt by early frosts.

Q. How can you tell if you blew up your lawn mower?

A. Trust me, you'll know but...

You might have blown up your lawn mower if your next door neighbor brings a marshmallows and a long stick to help you with your yardwork.
You might have blown up your lawn mower if smoke is rising above the ashes that used to be attached to your lawn mower handle.
You might have blown up your lawn mower if homeland security comes by to ask about your illegal use of explosives.
You might have blown up your lawn mower if you shot it with your short barreled shotgun. (definitely not recommended!)
You might have blown up your lawn mower if you no longer have eyebrows.
You might have blown up your lawn mower if you are me!