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Volume XVII, Issue 4 - January 22 - January 28, 2009
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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Frank Gouin

Wintertime Houseplant Care

They’ve slowed down; you should, too

Most houseplants are tropicals, so they do not go dormant like trees and shrubs growing outdoors. They continue to grow in winter, when they need special care.

Here’s what you’re working with: In winter, daylight hours are shorter and temperatures are cooler than during the summer months. Both of these conditions have a direct effect on plant growth. The rate of growth of tropical plants in our climate is considerably reduced due to our shorter days and cooler temperatures.

Here’s what those principae mean for you: Slow-growing plants don’t require as many nutrients or as much water as rapidly growing plants. Over-watering slow-growing plants can result in root rot. Over-fertilizing slow growing plants can result in the accumulation of fertilizer salts in the soil, resulting in the dehydration of roots or root burn.

In place of irrigating your plants every day as you do during the summer months, watering your plants well weekly or even once every two weeks might be adequate. Instead of fertilizing your plants every week, as you probably do during the summer months, you should reduce your fertilizer applications to monthly and at half the concentration.

The best way of determining if the plants need to be irrigated is to press a finger deeply into the rooting medium to test the moisture content. If the rooting medium feels cool and moist, don’t irrigate. If the rooting medium feels warm and dry, irrigate well so that an excess amount of water flows through the rooting medium.

However, don’t be fooled if the water flows immediately through the container. If the root ball of the plant has become so dry that the rooting medium has shrunk away from the inside wall of the container, you will need to irrigate the root ball by submerging the container and root ball in a pail of water. Allow the root ball to soak for 15 to 20 minutes before removing it and allowing it to drain.

Not-So-Golden News for Apple Growers

Q I have a golden delicious apple tree (16+ years old). Ever since we’ve lived here, the apples have been infested with worms. I was told I would never get decent apples unless I sprayed the trees. I don’t want to do anything to harm the environment. Are there any safe ways to get good apples from my tree?

–Tina Preece, Tracys Landing

A No. Golden delicious apples are susceptible to every common insect and disease that affects apples. Cut the tree down and grow persimmons, pawpaws or Asian pears if you want to grow fruit without having to spray.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly.
Please include your name and address.

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