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Ed Hume Answers Your Gardening Questions

Ed Hume cannot answer all of the garden questions he receives, but questions of general interest will be answered here every month.  Email your questions to HumeSeeds@aol.com.  Please note: we do not accept attachments.

Before submitting a question, be sure to check the index of previous questions and answers or search our site using key words.  Many questions have already been answered here on the site.

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Poinsettia Problems

Q I was given a beautiful poinsettia more than a month ago, & surprisingly it is still beautiful, something unusual for me. But there must be some kind of a bug eating at it. I have not seen anything on it, but many of the red leaves are getting all crinkled up & I see a few wholes in some of the leaves. What should I spray on it. Would the bugs live in the soil?

A Possibly! Leaves will sometime wrinkle if one rubs against the plant or the leaves are being blown by a heating duct. If it was mine I would take the plant outside on a warm day, treat the soil with a 'Houseplant Dust or spray', then take it back indoors. Make certain it is a spray that can be used indoors and apply it according to label instructions.

Red Thread in the Lawn

Q We are experiencing a large amount of Red Thread in our grass. Do you have any suggestions for getting rid of it?

A You can use a lawn fungicide to help control Red Thread or you can feed the lawn with a high nitrogen fertilizer to help control it. My recommendation would be to feed the lawn now with a high nitrogen 'organic' type fertilizer. The organics are slow acting, so if you use a fall or winter type of organic lawn fertilizer it should help control the 'Red Thread' and at the same time green-up the lawn, without causing excessive growth.

Seedlings Under Growlights

Q I have failed at growing my own seedlings every year, last year I bought a growlight but still failed. The seedlings start out fine, then get spindly fall over and die. I know that we are to start indoor seeds shortly but how close to the lights should the trays be kept? And how close should the seedlings be kept to the lights as they grow? Also, how often should they be watered? My Husband has a tendency to flood them.

AWe have the best success if the lights are about 6 to 8 inches above the seedlings. We keep the lights about the same distance above the trays, before the seeds germinate. Watering probably has one of the biggest effects on seedlings, moisten the starting media, but do not drown the young seedlings. The lights should be kept on for about 12 hours a day. When the seedlings are about 1 to 2 inches tall, they should be separated and transplanted.

Houseplant Pests

Q I am very new to the houseplant realm. I have two peacelily's and a Dragon Tree. All have recently had tiny little visitors take up residence. I have these very little flying pests flying all around my house, but mostly in and around my plants. What are they and how do I get rid of them?

A The two most common flying insects are 'white fly' and 'knats'. The 'knats' very often come from the soil and can easily be controlled. My wife likes to take a piece of peeled fruit, like an orange, place it in an open zip-lock bag, then once the bugs settle on the fruit, she zips-it-up and throws it away. Then replaces it with another, until the insects are gone. Houseplant sprays can also be used, but they will need to be used once a week, for three weeks in a row. If it's 'white flies' try using a bright yellow card, covered lightly with sewing machine oil. This insect is attracted to the yellow, lands on the card, and gets stuck in the oil.

Update on Mason Bees

Q I read your article on the orchard mason bee in which it was stated that the holes should be cleaned out (using a ramrod type tool) after the bees emerge so that the bees will reuse the holes.

How do you know when to clean out the holes? The bees do not all emerge at once. Some of the early bees are already refilling some of the holes while others are still emerging. To try to clean out the holes would destroy some of those yet to emerge and some of those already being filled for the next year. Just how do you know when to use the ramrod?

A I just talked to one of the man that is doing research on this bee, and he feels it is not important to clean the holes. I think that's a wise opinion, because who would clean their natural nesting places? He has several dozen hives and has cleaned some, while not cleaning others, and says it does not seem to make any difference. Sorry to mislead you, but cleaning was recommended when I wrote the article.

See Also:  Orchard Bees for Better Pollination

Genetically Modified Seeds?

Q I would like to know whether any of your seed varieties have genetic modifiers. There are so many seeds available now that have been altered chemically and it is a worrisome issue for many of us.

A No, none of our seeds are genetically modified. Our seeds are from the current crop and are not treated with pesticides either.

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