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Ed Hume Answers Your Gardening Questions

Ed Hume cannot answer all of the garden questions he receives, but questions of general interest will be answered here every month.  Email your questions to HumeSeeds@aol.com.  Please note: we do not accept attachments.

Before submitting a question, be sure to check the index of previous questions and answers or search our site using key words.  Many questions have already been answered here on the site.

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Other December Links

Moving Plants

Q My husband and I are moving from Portland, OR to Philadelphia, PA and we have several house plants we would like to take with. We are transporting our household items via moving truck which is likely to take at least a week to get to Philadelphia. Is there a way to protect our plants from the cold weather while they are in the truck?

AThat's a very tough situation. Most moving companies do make adjustments for moving sensitive items. It may be that the driver can load them in the cab or adjoining sleeping area. Some vans are semi-heated, so check with them.

If the weather isn't too frigid, you can box the plants then insulate them with moving blankets to keep them warm enough for the journey.

Incedentally, our program is aired in Wall, PA, so you may be able to see the show in Philadelphia.

Best Show Garden Books

Q We will be doing some traveling in the Western States this year and I would like to know if you can suggest any books that list public and private gardens that we can visit on our travels.

I usually buy touring books but they don't list gardens very often. I do have a book that list WA gardens that I have enjoyed. Do you have any suggestions?

A Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are listed in Stephanie Feeney's book 'The NW Gardeners Directory'. It has a listing of gardens, specialty nurseries and much, much more. An excellent reference.

Another fine book is 'The Complete Guide to North American Gardens - Western Edition'. Publisher is Little, Brown.

'American Gardens, A Traveler's Guide' is the publication of the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and lists the gardens by state.

Fixing Clay Soil

Q I have just purchased a home in Northwest Portland and my soil is extreme clay. It rains and rains here and I have planted a Rhododendron and a magnolia. The Rhododendron isn't doing well because of the amount of water in the soil. I need to know what I can do to breakup the clay so that I can grow Rhododendrons, Camilias. I haven't found many plants that like our soil.

AThere are two ways to solve the problem. One is to raise the soil in your planting areas...build what are called 'burms'. The other is to work with the soil and try to break it up with sand and by adding organic humus like compost, well rotted manure, bark, sawdust or other forms of organic material.

The addition of gysum helps break up clay, but is a three year process. Add the gypsum once a year for three years. Apply at the rate of 40 lbs. per 1,000 square feet of area. It can be added at the same time as the organic materials and sand.

See Also: Soil Conditioning

Encouraging Blueberries to Fruit

Q I have blueberries that produce limited fruit, and I don't know how to remedy this. Any advice would be appreciated.

A It might help to feed them in about mid-February to mid-March. If you are an organic gardener, use cottonseed meal or fish fertilizer. Otherwise, use a rhododendron type fertilizer that contains micro nutrients. Read and follow application directions and water in after applying.

You can also prune some of the old growth to encourage new growth. This often helps increase fruit production. On old established plants, you can remove up to 1/3 of the tired (old) growth.

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