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Some basic steps in preparingyard plants to survive the winter

Last spring we planted a hardy rhododendron at the north edge of our woods. How should it be cared for during the winter? Make sure the plant is watered well before the ground freezes. Also, mulch the plant with 2 or 3 inches of peatmoss, sawdust, wood chips, pine needles, or oak leaves. If the plant is in a windy spot, it would be a good idea to put up a burlap screen to protect it from drying winds. You could spray the foliage with one of the anti-transpirants, such as Wilt Pruf, an excellent protection against windburn.

I regularly buy miniature carnations from a nearby florist. Blooms last a long time and large buds usually open. Is there any way of making the tighter buds open up also? I was amazed when the florist told me they came from Colombia. I had supposed them to be grown in greenhouses in this country. Miniature carnations are a good buy because they have so many buds on one stem. To encourage the tight buds to open, you can put the stems overnight in a solution of one ounce of citric-acid concentrate (available at most pharmacies) to a gallon of warm water. Any leftover solution can be stored in the refrigerator.

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Some carnations are still grown in the US, but heating costs have forced the importation from other countries. Colombia has a natural climate for growing good cut flowers outdoors.

A smaller proportion of US flower imports comes from Mexico, South Africa, Israel, Guatemala, the Netherlands, and others.

We have an enclosed porch on the southwest side of our house which gets sun a good part of the day in winter. During the day it is usually at least 70 degrees F., but at night it drops to 58 degrees F. or so during cold weather. We have a thermostat controlling our electric baseboard heat. Do you think we could raise some potted vegetables? Flowering plants, such as begonias, geraniums, and calendulas seem to grow well there all winter long.

In pots, boxes, or hanging containers you can grow good tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, kale, cucumbers, herbs, and even a few green beans. Look through some seed catalogs for varieties which are especially suited to container growing.

You may have to pollinate tomato blooms by gently tapping the plants or using a soft brush to transfer pollen.

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