October "In The Grow" - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

October “In The Grow”

Q. We’re novices to gardening but would like to grow statice and eucalyptus. We have lots of room for the plants. Our soil type is clayish. We live in Rising Sun, Ind. (Ohio County). When and how do we prepare the soil, location (sunny or shade), herbicides, pesticides, food (type and frequency of application), soil additives, etc.? Sheldon Boatright, Rising Sun, Ind.

A. There is no way to give an accurate recommendation without having the soil analyzed by a lab. Contact your county Extension office to find a soil-testing lab. Follow the sampling procedures carefully. Typically, the form you send in with the soil samples asks which crops you are trying to grow; the results will list necessary fertilizers and amendments for those crops. Statice and Eucalyptus require full sun and well-drained soils, so identify the part of your property you’ll use to grow these crops and take your sample from there.

Q. We have periwinkle in front of our house next to the foundation. It looked really nice in the spring with new growth and flowers. Now, the center of the crowns are brown and dying, but the runners are still green. I have treated for slugs. The only other thing we have growing there is sedum and some daffodils. We brought clippings from our old home when we moved. We didn’t have this problem there. Can you offer an explanation or solution? Paula Iunghuhn, Brookston, Ind.

A. Vinca (or periwinkle) is susceptible to root and stem rot caused by a fungus. It usually affects plants in heavy, poorly drained soil, especially during wet weather. The fungus stays in the soil indefinitely and is spread by tools and splashing water. Remove badly infected plants and make sure you don’t over water this area.

Another possibility is dieback, which also is caused by a fungus. It is spread the same way and often occurs during the rainy season. Usually, you can see tiny black specks on the diseased stems. This can be treated with a fungicide containing benomyl, but it must be applied regularly. This will not cure the afflicted plants but will prevent the spread of the disease. Again, remove badly infected plants and destroy them. If the entire planting dies, take the opportunity to increase the drainage of the area by adding organic matter. Do not replant with vinca.

Q. I was reading an old REMC magazine and came across an article where the person asking for advice prestated that “I am aware of the need to cut back or pinch back mums until about the Fourth of July.” I am NOT aware of this. I have a beautiful mum plant from last year that actually came back this year loaded down with blossoms. Should I be pinching them? Sandra Gottschalk

A. The most common sort of mum purchased in the fall is called a garden mum. They are only marginally hardy in our state and typically only half return each year. Nursery-grown plants are treated with different chemicals to induce branching and stockiness. If your plant returns the next year, it will revert to a more natural form, which is more open, leggy and usually blooms in the summer instead of the fall&emdash;thus, the gardening adage to pinch your mums until the Fourth of July. Remove the growing point of each shoot back about 1 inch every few weeks during the first half of the garden season, and your plants will be bushier and bloom at the appropriate time of year.

Q. I have a very large oak tree in my lawn that was hit by lightning last summer. This year, at least a fourth of the top is dead. Do I need to have it trimmed, or is it OK to leave it alone? Ruby Sausaman, Warsaw, Ind.

A. The dead wood is an open invitation for insects and diseases to enter the tree. It’s also extremely likely to break off during a storm, which could damage your property and the remaining live part of the tree. I recommend removing the damaged part. Try to find a tree trimming company with some knowledge of plant health and have them assess the likelihood of the tree surviving. You may have to have the entire tree removed.


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