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Dry cleaning bag can help asparagus fern in winter

Dear readers: I got the most helpful response to my Sept. 13 column about caring for an asparagus fern over the winter indoors.

Tracey FitzgibbonG.M.N. wrote “For nearly 30 years I have successfully wintered an asparagus fern indoors by fashioning a greenhouse from an inverted clear dry cleaning bag. Open up and collect the bag making a circle affair. The clothes hanger end (top of the bag) becomes the bottom and you fold it shut, then tape it securely. The saucer and pot containing the fern sits on that closed end. Then scoop the bag up and over the fern, enclosing the whole plant … and use a twist tie to snug it closed.”

G.M.N. continues, “I cut a few wee holes (not many or the greenhouse effect will be negated) at the pot rim so I can water without a whole lot of trouble. I water the pot about every two weeks and mist the fern weekly. Initially the plant will shed a lot of needles in response to the shock of relocation, but … it does ultimately thrive and produces many shoots!” Thanks G.M.N.!

I also got two responses about snipping off the seed pods from a trumpet vine to keep an area tidier. J.M. and S.W. both reminded me, that goldfinches LOVE harvesting these seeds directly from the pods. Both say they have had little-to-no seed left over and then you just snip off the emptied brown dried pod shells or sweep them up as they fall naturally.

If you haven’t already snipped off the pods, keep a dish or two of water available and your vines could become a favorite winter bird hangout. Thanks!

Q. Since it’s the beginning of October, it’s time to treat my Christmas cactus so it will bloom right? – D.R., Albuquerque

A. Yes, it is time to start the process to get your Christmas cactus to bloom in time for the holidays.

First, if you have a room that is naturally darker and north-facing, with blinds or curtains that can be drawn to keep the room dark, move the cactus there.

For October you need to keep the cactus in the dark every night. If the room is lit by artificial light each evening that won’t work. You want the cactus in the dark every night until sunrise the next day for all of October.

If you don’t have a space that fits that bill consider covering the cactus with a larger than the plant cardboard box each evening at sunset, uncovering it every morning. Also, don’t fertilize the cactus while you are triggering it and water it less often too. Don’t stop watering all together, but do water a bit less.

Don’t set the plant in a closet for a month. The plant will require a certain amount of tending and if forgotten, well, that’s bad! After a month’s worth of dark/light, get the plant back into “population” so to speak. Give it a little more water, a little more often, and it should be startled enough to set a crop of blooms.

Happy Diggin’ In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to