Q. Last year when I planted my daffodil bulbs the squirrels dug them up and ruined them. Is there a way to protect the bulbs?
A. After planting the bulbs, spread chicken wire (fine mesh) over the ground. Remove it in the spring when the tips of the daffodils appear above ground. That will take care of the squirrel problem.
Q. I planted gladiolus this year for the first time. Should the bulbs be dug and stored indoors for the winter or can they be left in the ground?
A. Gladiolus corms (bulbs) are semi-hardy. They will survive a mild winter if left in the ground, but may be damaged during a severe one. If you dig them, it should be done immediately after the first frost. Use a fork instead of a spade to avoid slicing too many. Spread the corms on a piece of burlap for a day to dry in the sun. Then cure the corms for three weeks in a warm place, but no warmer than 90 degrees. Then snap the old corm from the new one on top and also separate the little cormels.
Store them in a dry place where the temperature won't go below 30 or above 50. The ideal range is 35 to 40.
You can increase your favorite varieties by planting the seed-like cormels. Usually it takes two seasons for them to grow large enough to bear flowers.
Q. We have quite a few pumpkins in our garden this year and I'd like to save some of them for Thanksgiving. Can you give me some tips?
A. Those going into storage should not be picked until the vines die and the surface of the fruit becomes hard to the touch. Don't puncture or otherwise break the skin. The skin may be hardened by curing (kept in a dry, warm place at 80 to 85 degrees) for 10 days. The curing also will head wounds, insuring better storage results. Then store them in a dry shed or a basement on a bed of clean, dry straw. Examine them regularly for rot and discard those showing signs of rotting.
Q. The birds are eating my grapes already and they're not even ripe. is there a way to save them? Can I pick them and let them ripen indoors? Do they need to go in the refrigerator?
A. The longer grapes remain on the vine, the sweeter they'll be. They should not be picked green because they will not get any sweeter when removed from the vine. Put a paper bag around each bunch of grapes, and that will keep the birds from them. It won't interfere with ripening. Grapes and most other fruits should be stored at temperatures just above freezing, at 33 or 34 degrees. Don't store grapes near other fruits or vegetables because they tend to absorb odors and thus alter their flavor. They can absorb the flavors of a rutabaga, onions, cabbage or almost anything.
Q. We had plants growing in our flower bed we thought were chrysanthemums but they're not. They've spread all over the place. Do you have any idea what they could be?
A. The plants are mugwort, a perennial weed, which has become a serious pest. The size and shape of the foliage closely resembles that of the chrysanthemums, especially the juvenile leaves. It spreads rapidly by means of numerous creeping rhizomes and unless completely dug out, new plants will quickly grow from the remaining rhizomes. Individual plants can be treated with Amitrol (amino triazole) but keep it off the other plants because it will kill them also. Directions on the label should be followed closely.
Q. Is there any kind of neutralizing substance I can put in my sprayer after it has been used to spray weeks with the 2,4 weedkiller?
A. There is no substance that will neutralize a weedkiller in a sprayer. Use one sprayer for weed-killing chemicals and another for insecticides and fungicides.
Q. My rhododendron has become very leggy. How severely can it be pruned and when is the best time to do it?
A. Prune leggy rhododendrons immediately after they bloom, and don't hesitate to prune severely if they need it. Pruning encourages new growth and results in a dense, attractive landscape plant.
Q. How does one identify male and female aucuba plants?
A. The most obvious way is to look for berries which are found on female plants if there is a male plant nearby. Als, different varieties have a specific sex. For example, Aucuba Japonica crassifolia is a male plant; Aucuba Japonica garndis is a female plant; Aucuba Japonica varigata has both male and female clones. Ask your garden center about these specific varieties. If you plant a male and female variety, put them close together to ensure good berry production. Plant them in partial shade.
Q. Can vegetables be grown in a small window box garden?
A. The usual window box is too small and shallow for growing most vegetables. It should be at least 8" wide and 8" deep.