The first heavy frost will kill the geraniums in the garden. Why not try to save them, also the coleus and wax begonias, grow them indoors during the winter and plant them outdoors again next spring? It can be done.
The geraniums will need a window sill where they can get sunlight. Impatiens is not recommended for bringing indoors, it requires humidity than that in an average home.
Dig the geraniums and pot them. No matter how carefully you do it, many of the roots are going to be left behind. To balance the top with the reduced root system, severe pruning is necessary.
Remove the weak growth entirely, cut out all but three or four of the main stems and prune these back so that only about three buds or eyes are left on each. Young branches should develop from these buds.
If there is no sunny window, put them where they will get the best light possible. Water when necessary but be careful not to do it too often. Once a week should be adequate. The dry air in the home is okay for them. Ideal temperatures range from 60 to 65 at night and 70 to 75 during the day. The night temperature can go as low as 40 without hurting them.
The stems that were cut off can be used as cuttings. A cutting should be four to five inches long. Flower buds should be removed, but three or four leaves left on above the potting line.
The rooting medium should be three to four inches deep and located in at least partial shade. Coarse clean sand can be used, also vermiculite or perlite. The addition of peat at a one to one ratio by volume to sand, vermiculite or perlite will also give good results.
There is another wintering-over method that sometimes works. Pull up the plants before first frost and put each in a clay pot with ordinary soil. Set them on the cellar cement floor. Don't water or do anything to them. They will die down but in the spring leaves may come out on the seemingly dead stems. The temperature in the cellar should be 55 to 60.
Coleus and wax begonias can be potted the same as geraniums. Coleus can be grown in water, also geraniums. Take a big cuttings, remove the bottom leaves and put them in a glass of water. Q: Every year the birds go after our grapes when they start to ripen. Can we ripen them in the house ? A: Grapes do not mature ans improve in quality after being picked. They must develop all of their sugar and fine flavor while still on the vine. Tie a plastic or paper bag over each bunch. It will protect them from the birds and the grapes will ripen naturally. Q: We have a wonderful crop of onions this year. Can you tell me how to store them for winter use ? A: Select a storage place that is cool, dry and well ventilated. The ideal temperature is 32 to 36 degrees. Onions should be mature before harvesting. The green tops should have fallen over and partially dried. The onion necks must be bone dry. Q: Several pine trees are growing too close to the foundation of our home. Can they be dug by hand and transplanted with a reasonable chance of survival? A: It may be possible to save them by root pruning. Mark a circle around each tree, three to four feet in diameter. Dig a trench two, three feet deep arond one-fourth of the circle, cutting off the roots, and another trench opposite it also one-fourth of the circle. Do this in early April just before new root growth starts. The roots that remain on the other one-half will sustain the tree while new roots form inside the circle. In early July dig a trench around the other half. Put a strip of tin in the trenches and refill them with dirt. The following spring, in early April, open up the trenches, get the tree loose and plant it elsewhere. Be sure not to plant the tree deeper than it was before. The roots would not be able to get adequate oxygen and in time would die. Q: I planted strawberry plants last spring, how can I protect them if we have another bad winter? A: Alternate freezing and thawing can cause the plants to heave, thus breaking the roots; low temperatures also may cause injury to the crown of the plant. A mulch 3 to 4 inches deep, applied after a couple of killing frosts, will help prevent injury. Straw or pine needles are very good. Leave the mulch on until the plants show a yellowish-green color in the spring. This will help to produce later berries, avoid spring frosts, conserve moisture and control weeds. Q: We grow sweet potatoes but don't seem to be able to keep them very long . A: They should be dug a short time before killing frost. Use a spading fork, be careful not to bruise or injure the roots. Cure them for 4 to 10 days in a warm moist place, the ideal temperature is 85 degrees and relative humidity 90 percent. Keep in mind that the sweet potatoes are alive and respiring, and the rate of respiration is higher at high temperatures. After curing store the sweet potatoes at about 55 degrees and at as high a humidity as can be maintained. Ninety percent humidity is ideal. If you store them outside, take care not to let them freeze. Q: I planted 2-year old apple trees last spring and they are now five feet tall. Should I put large plastic bags over then to protect them from severely cold weather this winter ? A: The trees should survive without the plastic if given a 4 or 5 inch mulch of tree bark or something similar, shaded to keep the sun from shining on them, and sheltered from the wind. If hardened properly, they should stand quite cold temperatures and the mulch will prevent the soil from freezing deeply. Q: Every year I plant grass seed in our lawn, the grass comes up but in a short time dies. What could cause this ? A: Probably 90 percent of grass seedlings die due to lack of moisture following germination. The upper inch of soil should never be allowed to dry out. If rainfall is scarce, water once and preferably twice daily to keep the soil moist until the seedling plants are well established. Don't put too much water each time, just enought to moisten the upper inch. Q: We had wonderful luck with parsnips this year. How should they be stored ? A: Parsnips are usually left in the ground until late in the fall, or even throughout the winter. Where severe freezing occurs in the winter, it is advisable to dig the roots in the fall and store them in outdoor trenches so they can be available when you want them even when the ground is frozen to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Be careful not to break the roots. Q: Sometimes the leaves on my tomato plants roll up and stay that way all afternoon. Is it a serious problem ? A: Researchers don't know exactly what causes it but assume it's the plant's way of controlling water loss during hot, dry weather. As far as anyone knows it does no harm to the plant. Some varieties seem to roll their leaves more than others. Q: A jelly-like substance is coming from the trunk of my peach tree near the ground. Is this normal ? A: When a peach or nectarine tree has been damaged by a lawn mower or borers, sap that becomes a jelly-like substance shows up. Scrape away the jelly and insert a wire in the hole and kill the borers, if there are any there.