Getting geraniums to blossom in winter

Garden Q&A

September 14, 1997

I have one geranium that grew beautifully this summer in a pot on my deck. A friend told me I could bring it indoors and keep it going through the winter. Is there some trick to this?

You can cut your geranium back and place it in a sunny indoor location. You might want to repot the plant and add fresh potting soil.

But why settle for one plant? You can take stem cuttings of 3 to 4 inches each from your geranium, remove all but the very top leaves and plant the cuttings in a loose, soil-less growing medium. Keep the medium moist, and the cuttings will begin to (( root in two to three weeks. They can then be transplanted into pots and placed in sunny windows around your house. They should bloom over the winter if the lighting is adequate.

I moved into a house this summer that has some pear trees in the back yard. The former owner didn't know which variety they are. They seem to be in pretty good shape, but I don't know when I should harvest the fruit.

Pears ripen from the core out, so a pear that appears hard and green on the outside may quickly become over-ripe. Pears are ready to pick when the background color changes from a dull green to a greenish-yellow color.

You'll also notice that the little breathing pores on the fruit, called lenticels, will turn from white to brown when the pears are ready to pick.

Keep your stored pears refrigerated. Bring them up to room temperature in small batches to ripen them for eating.

We have pin oaks planted all along our street. They were planted about five years ago. Half of them have brown leaves and dead branches from the drought. Will they recover next year?

Young trees showing severe stress symptoms from drought may lose whole branches and possibly could die. This could happen over a period of two to three years. Street trees are especially vulnerable to drought stress because they are surrounded by cement and blacktop and probably have no one to water them.

Your best bet is to water the trees deeply and regularly until rainfall becomes more regular. Apply a quarter-pound of 10-6-4 fertilizer per 25 square feet of tree bed after leaves drop in the fall. Remove dead branches next spring after new growth emerges.

My tomatoes and peppers are doing great now, and I want to keep them and my fall lettuce bed going for as long as possible. What's the best way to protect them?

Your tomato and pepper plants may produce fruits well into October. However, the flavor and fruit quality will decline with falling temperatures and shorter days. Your best bet is to pull all of your tomatoes and peppers before a killing frost and let them ripen indoors or use them green.

Lettuce and other fall crops can be protected with a floating row cover, made from breathable spun-bound polyester. This will raise the temperature by three to four degrees around your plants and protect them from insect and other animal pests. A floating row cover can be bought from gardening-supply companies.

Place a low wooden box around your lettuce, cover it with a

sheet of clear plastic and you've got a cold frame that will extend the harvest. You will need to vent your cold frame on sunny days.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For more information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507 or visit its Web site at http: //


* Sow oats, winter rye, hairy vetch and winter wheat in bare spots in your vegetable garden. These cover crops will prevent soil erosion over the winter and add organic matter in the spring.

* Harvest ornamental gourds (dipper, birdhouse, etc.) when they are full size and have a hard shell.

* Continue watering trees and shrubs that show symptoms of drought stress.

Pub Date: 9/14/97

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