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Can I Grow Plants in Pure Compost?


“I have some large compost bins, which produce a lot of compost. Can I plant things in pure compost, or do I need some “dirt” with inorganic materials for the best results?  How much inorganic material do I need?” Question from Naomi or Oakdale, California
Answer: Congratulations on your composting success! Compost is one of the best garden amendments available. You can plant in straight […]

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How Do I Keep Seedlings from Becoming Long and Leggy?


“I start my seedlings indoors. How do I keep them from shooting up 6 inches with a weak stem before I can get them outdoors?” Question from Jerry of Lead, South Dakota
Answer: This is all about providing lots of high-quality light from start to finish. When light is insufficient, seedlings will reach and stretch towards the source, which results in elongated, leggy shoots and […]

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Does Potting Soil Age and Lose Nutrients Over Time?


“If you plant flowers in a flowerpot, do you ever have to change out the soil, or does the soil never lose its nutrients? Question from Jessica of Phoenix City, Alabama
Answer: Potting soil must be changed or replenished every couple of years or so for many reasons beyond the fact that a plant may have outgrown its pot. Not only do plants remove fertilizer […]

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Should I Sterilize Potting Soil to Reduce Greenhouse Pest Problems?


“In an effort to keep down the insect population of my indoor veggie garden, I’ve been sterilizing my soil in the oven or microwave. I’ve had whitefly and fungus gnat infestations from using Miracle Gro and other soils right out of the bag, so someone told me to sterilize, and it seems to work. However, if there are beneficial microorganisms in your Black Gold […]

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What Time of Year Do You Prune Abutilon?


“What time of year do you prune an Abutilon?” Question from Angie of Fort Bragg, California
Answer: Parlor maples or Indian mallows (Abutilon hybrids) are tropical to subtropical plants that can be pruned to shape at any time. Cultivated forms do, however, bloom on new wood, so late-winter or spring pruning is recommended. Especially if you plan to trim your plant just once a year. […]

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When Should I Trim Tropical Hibiscus?


“When is the best time to trim tropical Hibiscus?” Question from Jane of Tampa, Florida
Answer: You can prune these evergreen tropicals at any time to manage plant size, encourage denser growth, and induce more flowering, but pruning is best done in late winter when they are blooming very little.
These tropical Chinese shrubs flower on new wood, and pruning encourages the development of new wood, […]

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What Are The Best Indoor Grow Lights for Succulents?


“Now that the northern hemisphere is transitioning into winter, and I have more succulents than ever, what’s the best indoor grow light for me to invest in? Broad-spectrum? Red/blue lights? I’m confused.” Question from Stacy or Portland, Oregon
Answer: Plants always grow best with sunlight, which is full-spectrum. So, if you have a South-facing window that can accommodate your succulents, start there. Then supplement with […]

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Why Are My Tropical Hibiscus Leaves Dropping?


“What are the reasons leaves drop from [tropical] hibiscus?” Question from Brenda of Miami, Florida
Answer: Tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa–sinensis) are lovely shrubs when they are healthy and happy, but they look so dismal when they’re in poor shape–especially when they start dropping their leaves. There are LOTS of problems that can lead to leaf drop. Some of these depend on whether your plants are […]

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How Do I Keep My Evergreen Wreaths and Garlands from Drying Out?


“Every year at the holidays, I hang a live wreath and real pine garland on a fence outside near my patio. I’m wondering if you know of a way to preserve both the wreath and garland so that they last beyond the holiday season without getting brown?  Thank you!” Question from Diane of Newark, Ohio
Answer: You have a couple of options, use either evergreen […]

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What Bulbs Can I Force in a Vase?


“Other than hyacinths, which bulbs can I force in a hyacinth vase?” Question from Robin of Warner, New Hampshire
Answer: There are several factors to take into consideration when choosing bulbs to force in hyacinth vases. Only certain bulbs can be easily forced, in water, gravel, or soil, during the winter months. And, most require a chilling period before they are forced or sold for […]

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