Q: It’ll be a good weekend to plant up some bowls of pansies, don’t you think? – K.E., Downtown
A: Now that we’re experiencing cooler temperatures, especially in the morning, I am with you. Planting those colorful, cheery and sturdy bloomers for the next two to three weeks is the ticket.
I would suggest setting your bowls where they’ll still have a bit of shade in the afternoon until we’re out of these unseasonably warm afternoon temperatures. I’m just a bit concerned that since most bowls are shallow, these nice afternoon temps could heat up the soil to the point that the pansies could suffer. As the afternoon temperatures continue to fall, you’ll be able to move the bowls into more sunny areas to decorate for the winter months.
Be sure to use new potting soil if these bowls have had plants growing in them for a season or two as most of the fertility will have been used by the previous inhabitants. Be sure you’re using potting soil and not straight compost or “garden soil,” as those products would be too “hot,” or overly fertile in containers.
Your bowls drain, too, right? Soggy pansies are very unhappy pansies. If the bowls are deep enough, you could tuck in several types of shorter spring blooming bulbs to give you an extra surprise come spring. Bulbs – like crocus, snowdrops and grape hyacinths – would work wonderfully.
Apply a liquid root stimulator just after planting to give the new treasures a leg up. In late December, early January, consider applying a fertilizer that contains a high nitrogen level in its mix. A straight lawn fertilizer that does not contain any weed killer is absolutely perfect. I have been taught that established pansies perform best if given that “hot” fertilizer as the season progresses.
I really think it’s the heat of the nitrogen that keeps pansies thriving in the cold weather. If you are planting any deeper pots or straight into the ground, go ahead and plant at will. Those plants would have enough additional insulation from the heat and settle in nicely planted now. So go for it. Color up those bowls!
Q: My neighbor has given me permission to collect seeds from her hollyhock plants. Can you suggest a good way to collect them other than daily picking? I really don’t have that kind of time. – S.B., West Side
A: I can! First, gather several pairs of panty hose. You’ll need some twist ties or string, too. Next, cut the legs off just at the panty. Slide both of your arms into the leg making a hose tube. Stretching the hose tube as wide as you can, with your arms on either side of the stalk, enclose the length of the stalk that is wearing those browning seed pods. Then gingerly slide your arms out of the hose leaving it on the stalk. Tie the hose leg at the open end and wait. The bloom stalks will brown completely as the season advances wearing the hose. Then you’ll want to snip the bloom stalks off very near the mother plant.
Set the stalks in a cool, dry space for a few more weeks and then you’ll be able to collect all the seed that you’ve successfully trapped. Opening the “Turkish hat”-looking pods all along the bloom stalk, you’ll find gobs of dark black seeds.
Store your newly harvested seed in paper envelopes or bags, document the harvest date and color of the blooms so you’ll know what you’ll be planting where next early spring.
Have fun looking up and Digging In during this first weekend of October and Balloon Fiesta!
Need tips on growing your garden? How much to water those bushes? How to transplant a tree? Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Rio Rancho/West Side Journal, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.