Ask the ISU Experts
Note to media editors: Got gardening questions? Call the Hortline at (515) 294-3108, Monday-Friday from 10 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m., or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more gardening information, visit us at Yard and Garden Online, http://www.yardandgarden.extension.iastate.edu
How can I germinate buckeye seeds?
Gather the fruit (capsules) of the buckeyes as soon as they fall to the ground. Dry the fruit for 1 or 2 days at room temperature until the capsules split, then remove the shiny, brown seeds.
The seeds of buckeyes and many tree species will not germinate until they are exposed to cool temperatures and moist conditions for 3 to 4 months. Outdoors, winter weather provides the necessary conditions to break dormancy. Gardeners can accomplish the same result by a process called stratification. Buckeyes can be stratified by placing the seeds in a moist mixture of half sand and half peat. Suitable containers include coffee cans or large plastic jars. Punch holes in the lid of the container to provide air circulation. Stratify the seeds by placing them in the refrigerator at a temperature of 41 degrees F for 120 days.
Plant buckeye seeds directly outdoors in fall or stratify seeds indoors and plant in spring. When planting, place seeds 1 to 2 inches deep.
How do I overwinter my gladiolus bulbs?
Carefully dig up the plants with a spade in late summer/early fall. Gently shake off the soil from the bulb-like corms. Then cut off the foliage 1 to 2 inches above the corms. Dry the corms for 2 to 3 weeks in a warm, dry, well-ventilated location. When thoroughly dry, remove and discard the old dried up mother corms located at the base of the new corms. Remove the tiny corms (cormels) found around the base of the new corms. Save the small corms for propagation purposes or discard them. Place the corms in mesh bags or old nylon stockings and hang in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location. Storage temperatures should be 35 to 45 degrees F.
I saved last year’s poinsettia. How do I get it to flower for Christmas?
Poinsettias are short-day plants. Short-day plants grow vegetatively during the long days of summer and produce flowers when days become shorter in fall. In order for poinsettias to flower for Christmas, they must receive complete darkness from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. each day from early October until the bracts show good color, usually around early December. (Most poinsettia varieties require 8 to 10 weeks of short days to flower.) Gardeners can protect their plants from light by placing them in a closet or by covering with a cardboard box. When using cardboard boxes, cover any openings to insure complete darkness. Exposure to any kind of light between 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. will delay or possibly prevent flowering. During the remainder of the day, the poinsettias should be placed in a sunny south window. Keep the plants well watered and fertilize every 2 weeks during the forcing period. While poinsettias are difficult to flower in homes, proper care can reward home gardeners with a colorful plant for the holiday season.
Richard Jauron, Horticulture, (515) 294-1871, email@example.com
Jean McGuire, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-7033, firstname.lastname@example.org
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