Q -- I had geraniums in pots outdoors this summer and brought them into the house. Is there any hope they will bloom during the winter?
A -- When days get longer in February, they should bloom if they get very good light. A south windowsill or artificial light will take care of it. They like cool temperatures, 70degree F. in the day and 60degree at night.
Q -- Several years ago we bought some ivy called Irish lace (hedera helix). Planted outdoors, it has flourished, but now the leaves are much larger than they were before. Is this the nature of Irish lace, and is there a way to keep the leaves small?
A -- Hedera helix (English ivy) has two distinct stages of growth, juvenile and adult. For the most part, in the juvenile stage the leaves are much larger and the plant blooms and bears berries. A cutting from a juvenile plant produces a juvenile and one from an adult produces a mature one. One could become famous by discovering the secret of perpetual youth for ivy and other living things. We look forward to that day.
Q -- I have a problem with the storage of my white potatoes. I keep them in a cool, dark place, but there's a big loss due to sprouting. Is there anything I can do about it?
A -- White potatoes should be stored at 40degree F. and 80 to 85 percent humidity -- which is hard to do in most homes. If the temperature is higher, the potatoes will sprout; if it's lower, the starch is converted to sugar and the potatoes are undesirably sweet.
One to two weeks at normal room temperature usually restores the natural flavor.
Potatoes stored at 50degree to 60degree have a much better texture, color and flavor but sprout before very long. The freezing point of potatoes is 29 degrees and there is complete breakdown when thawed.
Research at Ohio State University has shown that an apple placed in a 10-pound paper bag of potatoes (with the bag closed) will prevent sprouting. Ethylene gas from the apple does it.