The Green Thumb Almanac

YOUR ONLINE GARDENING INFORMATION CENTER

Should I put rocks in the bottom of my pots for drainage?

When should I prune my blooming trees and shrubs?

I have small gnats flying around my houseplants.  How do I  get rid of  them?

When should I fertilize my spring blooming bulbs?

What is the difference between a frost and a freeze?

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Should I put rocks in the bottom of my pots for drainage?

No, it is not necessary to put rocks or gravel in the bottom of your pot as long as your container has a drainage hole.  Studies have shown that adding gravel to a container actually slows the drainage of water.  Water moves well through similar textures (soil) but slows when it hits a different texture (gravel).  This causes the water to stay in the soil...the exact opposite of what we want it to do.

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When should I prune my blooming trees and shrubs?
Remember the pruning golden rule...If it blooms before June, don't prune!  If you prune spring or early summer blooming plants now, you will remove the buds that will produce flowers this year.  The best time to prune these plants is right after blooming has finished.  Plants which bloom after June can be safely pruned in winter or early spring.

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I have small gnats flying around my houseplants.  How do I get rid of them?
These small black gnats flying around your houseplants are commonly referred to as fungus gnats.  They are attracted to moist potting soil where they lay their eggs and where their larvae grow and feed.  The adult gnat does not feed at all and does not bother the plant, they are simply a nuisance.  To control the adult gnat simply allow your soil to dry out more thoroughly between waterings.  For severe infestations you can use a yellow sticky trap which will attract and capture the adult.  Insecticides containing bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, permethrin and lambda-cyhalothrin can be used to control the adult gnat.  Soaps, oils, pyrethrins and neem are not effective on adult gnats.  The larvae in the soil will not be affected by any insecticides used on the adult gnat.  Larvae may be killed by using a soil drench of an insecticide containing imidacloprid.  Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) products available in retail stores are generally not strong enough to control fungus gnat larvae.  Greenhouses can obtain Gnatrol which is a commercial form of Bt.

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When should I fertilize my spring blooming bulbs?

 Inside every bulb is stored the nutrients needed for flowering.  At the time of planting you can place some bulb food or bone meal in the bottom of the planting hole.  These fertilizers contain phosphorus which helps the bulb establish a good root system.  Experts differ in their opinion about when to fertilize established bulbs.  Some recommend fertilizing established bulbs in the fall using a 10-10-10 granular fertilizer.  Others prefer fertilizing in early spring just as growth emerges.  The use of bone meal (phosphorus) as a top dressing is still commonly recommended however phosphorus does not move down through the soil so it will not be available for the bulb to use.  Fertilizers will best be utilized when your soil pH is between 6.0 - 7.0, as this is what bulbs prefer.  The best thing to do for your spring blooming bulbs is to let their foliage remain on the plant until it withers.  This is how the bulb stores food for next years flowers.  Do not fold or braid the leaves as this cuts down on the amount of sunlight the leaves can absorb.  Snap off the flower stem to prevent the bulb from going to seed but do not cut the leaves as this practice can spread disease.  Simply let the foliage brown and then gently pull when it has withered.

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What is the difference between a frost and a freeze?

There are 3 categories which describe freezing temperatures based on their effect on plants:  A light freeze (or frost) is 29 degrees F to 32 degrees F - tender plants killed, with little damage to other vegetation.  A moderate freeze is 25 degrees F to 28 degrees F - wide damage on most vegetation with heavy damage to fruit blossoms and tender and semi-hardy plants.  A severe freeze is 24 degrees F and colder - damage to most plants.  The average frost free dates for the Kansas City area are: April 15th - October 20th.  This can vary from year to year and gardeners should pay close attention to weather forecasts.

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