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Keep Bagged Bulbs in Crisper Before Planting

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Q: How long do I need to keep bulbs that I plan on forcing, in the refrigerator?

A: You should aim on a period of three to four weeks. By the beginning of December, you’ll be ready to plant these treasures. Keep the bulbs in the vegetable crisper drawer of the fridge in paper bags. I’d mark the bags, too, showing they contain bulbs. Sillier things have happened, and you don’t want the bulbs used like an onion! It’s also best to keep apples away from your bulbs. The apples give off a gas that can maim or stunt the bulbs. I won’t even keep apples in the fridge while I’m chilling mine.

So get your bulbs to chilling now and soon you’ll be able to plant up pots of treasures certain to delight.

Q: I’ve brought in several of my houseplants for the winter months. Some are quite large. The two new kittens we got this summer are insisting on playing in the pots and are throwing dirt everywhere. Help!

A: My mom had a sure-fire way to repel felines. She’d place tinfoil over the pot cutting out just enough of an opening to collar the plant in the pot. The tin foil makes creepy sounds that pestered our cats and they left the plants alone. You could try cutting a large Styrofoam plate to collar the plant effectively covering the soil, too. Another repellent method is to stick lots and lots of toothpicks in the soil so the cats can’t walk in the soil without getting poked. Try one of those fixes and see if the cats will become better behaved. Good luck!

Q: We have a couple of Austrian pine trees planted in the back yard. I was out giving every one a good watering and noticed that the pines are dropping lots of needles on the inside, so to speak. Is something wrong with our trees? I’d hate to lose them.

A: From your description of the needles falling on the “inside” I really don’t think you have much to worry about. Those needles are several growing seasons old and have served their purpose. As long as the candles (new shoots) the trees put on with this year’s growth and the needles just behind that look healthy, I don’t see a reason to be concerned. Now if the new candles are browning or you see lots of little black bumps on any of the needles, you have several things to be concerned with. Browning candles need to be checked for pine tip moth damage. Pluck one of the candles and slice it open long ways. You might find a bright orange little worm or what looks like a tunnel inside the candle. That’s bad news. You’ll want to remove as many of the damaged candles and be ready to start an all-encompassing pesticide regimen next spring. Find lots of black bumps on the needles? Then the tree is suffering because of scale insects. There isn’t much to do about those wretched critters now except clean up as much of the debris that you can from beneath the trees and start a dormant oil spraying continuing through the coming season. The oil will suffocate the scale insects that are living under that hard, black covering. Watch in the spring for any strange colored masses at the base of your pines and attack with a much stronger pesticide. But it really doesn’t sound like, from your description, that you have much to worry about. Dropping older, more internal needles is just something that pines do!

Happy Digging In.

Need tips on growing your garden? 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.

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