Q: My bearded iris is getting crowded. Is it a good idea to divide it and, if so, when?
A: Bearded iris multiplies rapidly and usually needs to be dug, divided and replanted every four or five years; otherwise there will be fewer blooms and they will lack size and quality.
The iris rhizome (underground fleshy stem with roots attached) produces a bloom stalk only once. While doing so, new rhizomes are formed and these new ones provide the bloom stalks for next year's flowers.
Unless the clump is divided every few years, more and more space is taken up by the old nonblooming rhizomes in the center.
The best time to divide and replant iris is soon after it finishes blooming. This is a semidormant period for these plants and it endures for three or four weeks.
Q: My neighbor is trying to grow cantaloupes on his wire fence. Can it be done?
A: Cantaloupes, cucumbers, water-melons and even pumpkins can be trained to grow on a wire fence or trellis and may bear as well or even better than when grown on the ground. Of course, the vines will need to be tied to their supports. The plants can adjust to the weight of the fruit when extra stress comes gradually.
Q: I love my daylilies, I've had them for many years, and they are not blooming as well as they used to. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Individual daylily flowers last only a single day, but new buds open daily and the foliage remains attractive throughout the growing season.
A clump of daylilies increases in size every year, so eventually will be too many plants in too little space, with too-few and poor quality blooms. That is when the clump should be divided.
It is not a good idea to divided a clump unless it really needs it because the larger a clump is without being crowded, the more blooms it will produce and the more attractive it will be.
Most varieties do not reach their peak until about the third year after being divided.
Daylily top growth stops soon after blooming ends. Root growth and formation of buds for next year's flowers then occur. This is a good time to divide if division is desirable.
Q: Our Norway maple is losing a lot of its leaves. Can the tree be saved?
A: When there is adequate moisture during the spring, the Norway maple and many other kinds of trees put on more leaves than they can carry during the hot, dry summer. Many of the leaves dry up and fall. It does no harm - in fact, it is a protective measure. If too many leaves drop, and it occurs before midsummer, usually the tree will get some new ones immediately.
Q: Is it true that newspapers can be used to mulch beans and tomatoes in the garden?
A: Old newspapers have advantages for mulching. They break down as the season progresses and can be dug into the soil when they have served their purpose. It is important to use several thicknesses, something like a section of eight to ten pages. These usually withstand rainfall over much of the season.Fewer sheets may deteriorate too soon.