Q: I have a beautiful crop of looseleaf lettuce coming along. Will the first frost ruin it?
A: Mature lettuce can stand moderate frost but not a severe freeze. If an early cold snap is forecast, the crop can be saved by temporarily covering the plants with old sheets, burlap, newspapers or something similar. After the premature blast of winter, uncover the lettuce to enjoy it all during Indian summer. Tomatoes can be protected the same way.
Q: My jade plant is losing a lot of its leaves. What would cause it?
A: Usually it's due to overwatering or poor drainage. This plant does better if grown on the day side, and if the soil is kept only slightly moistened and never soggy.
Q: I planted a Texas overbearing fig tree last spring. It's done well in a whiskey half-barrel, and I would like to plant it in the ground on the south side of my house, rather than take it indoors. How and when should I plant it?
A: Your best bet is to take the fig tree indoors, putting it in the cellar or basement of your home or in the corner of an attached garage. If you put it in an unattached, unheated garage or shed, put a burlap bag over it. Take it back outdoors about the time you plant your tomatoes.
If left outdoors, it needs to be protected from wind and sun. Plant it as soon as possible. A four-inch mulch of sawdust will help a lot, but don't apply it until the ground gets good and cold, and remove it in the spring so the ground will warm up earlier. The problem with planting it on the south side of the house it that it may break dormancy during a warm spell in late winter and be killed by subsequent freezing weather.
Q: When and how should I prune my Stantely purple plum tree?
A: Plum trees old enough to bear fruit should be pruned every year; the best time is late winter. The purpose of pruning is to improve the quality of the fruit. Color is one of the primary factors determining fruit quality, and full exposure to sunlight is essential to good color development. When one branch is shading another one, the less desirable one should be removed. Make the cut close to the supporting limb; place the cut so it continues the line of direction of the side branch to speed healing. Cut off all dead and diseased wood, all branches that have a tendency to grow in toward the tree's center, thus shading lower branches, and thin the branches out so sunlight can penetrate the center of the tree. If the tree is allowed to bear too much fruit, the fruit will be of lower quality.
Q: We have a tub of rubber plants out on our balcony, 18 floors up with a lot of wind. They're protected by an abutment and the roof of the balcony above us. They are too big to bring indoors. Will they survive the winter out there ?
A: The rubber plant, Fucus elastica , is a tropical plant, and the first freeze probably would kill it. These plants can be reduced in size by severe pruning. The best time to do it is in the spring, but it can be done now. After pruning, they should be given less water until new growth is well started.
Q: When is the best time to sow geranium seeds to have plants for the garden in the spring ?
A: Sow the seeds about mid-August; cover them with only 1/8" of soil. Transplant to pots as soon as seedling are large enough to work with, and provide larger pots as they grow until they are in the four-or five-inch pots in which they will bloom. Seed for fall-flowering geraniums can be sown in March.
Q: I have tow miniature roses outdoors growing in pots. What can I do with them during the winter ?
A: They will survive outdoors planted in the ground, or you can but them on a sunny windowsill indoors and they may continue to bloom for you.