Frequently Asked Questions
Your plants always look so much better than mine. What can I do differently?
Here are our secrets:
1. We WATER regularly—something often neglected at home. While a severely wilted plant may recover, it is stressed and has to make up lost ground.
2. We FERTILIZE daily, with dilute fertilizer. Make up a similarly dilute solution yourself by following the instructions for “daily fertilizing” on your fertilizer package.
3. We PRUNE. Deadheading is critical for continued bloom on many plants. And while it is not necessary on newer varieties like calibracoa and supertunia, they do look better if cleaned regularly.
All plants can benefit by some shaping—clip off stems that spoil the overall shape of the plant, for example.
And even though it kills you to do it, pinch when you plant--you’ll thank yourself later!
I’m dying to plant something outside in March and April, but it’s too cold.
A little frost won’t hurt Pansies or Violas; they are tough as nails. We plant pansies outside towards the end of March and only cover them if it is going to drop into the lower 20’s.
How should I deadhead my petunias?
The point of deadheading anything is to prolong bloom by preventing the plant from going to seed (and to make the plant look good)! Pinch off the spent blossom and its stem, back to the next branch. Pulling off the blossoms only will leave the seed head and unsightly stems behind.
Why do the blossoms on my flowers shrink or stop blooming in summer?
This is called “stall”. Just like us, plants shut down when the temps go over 90 degrees F. By downsizing or stopping their blossoms, flowers save energy. You can prolong the bloom on some plants by moving them into a shady spot. Look for the coding ‘S/SH’ on our sun annual list. And flowers will often come back in the cooler temps of Fall.
What are those huge, trailing petunias I see around town?
They’re supertunias. They are more expensive than regular petunias but so much more aggressive that you need only a few. Fertilize them like mad (daily or weekly) and you’ll be astounded at the results.
Define Full Sun, Part Sun and Shade.
Full Sun is generally 6 to 8 hours of direct sun per day. South and west sun is the hottest. For these locations, look for plants marked ‘S’ on our sun annual list; they can really take the heat.
Shade, on the other hand, is defined as very diffuse sunlight—under the canopy of a tree, for example—or 2-4 hours of morning sun per day. Because late afternoon sun is extremely hot, even a couple hours may be too much for most shade lovers.
Part Sun to Shade (S/SH on our annual lists) is harder to define. It can be up to 6 hours of morning sun but only 2 hours of afternoon. Many plants (pansies, violas, Martha Washington Geraniums, Lobelia and Osteospermum) do well in Full Sun through June, then stop blooming. Moving them into a shady spot will prolong the bloom.
I always kill my begonias. What am I doing wrong?
If your tuberous begonias rot off at the base, you’re probably watering them too much. They have a shallow, fleshy root. Cut back on your watering and see what happens.
VEGETABLES & HERBS
Can I grow vegetables and herbs in shade?
No. They need at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun per day. Mints can be grown in partial shade.
What tomato does well in a container?
Look for “determinate” or “indeterminate” on the variety tag. Determinate tomatoes have a bush rather than a vining habit, and thus, do better in containers. Heartland and Celebrity are varieties that do well in containers.
What tomato tastes the best?
Wow, if there was ever a loaded question, this is it. Among our staff, Celebrity is a favorite, as well as Super Fantastic, Early Girl and Champion. But ALL tomatoes get high marks from our employees because they’re always hungry! Besides, whoever heard of a bad tasting homegrown tomato?! Try the yellow varieties for less acid and great flavor.
What is that ugly black spot on the end of my tomatoes?
It is blossom end rot, and it is caused by inconsistent watering. Technically, it represents a calcium deficiency, but our soils have plenty of calcium. During the hottest part of the summer, when plants experience water stress (even with diligent watering), they’re unable to absorb calcium. This is a nutritional deficiency, not a disease or a bug, and the tomato is edible. Simply cut away the black part.
It always frosts before I get a tomato and pepper harvest. What can I do?
Start your plants outside, in April, in a wall-o-water. They really do work.
How do I harvest herbs?
The leaves of herbs are used in cooking. Dead heading, or pinching off the blossoms, will prevent them from going to seed, and will keep the leaves in the best condition for harvest.