Ask the Gardeners. Q & A.
-30 Q I recently was given a lovely little calamondin orange plant with blooms and a few little fruit starting. I had it only a few days and the blossoms started falling off. Will you tell me how to care for it properly? It's in a northeast window.
Blooms may fall if the air is too dry or if they are not getting pollinated. Outdoors, wind currents and insects take care of this, but indoors you usually have to gently brush each bloom with a tiny paint brush.
You should also move the plant to a brighter window. They need a minimum of four hours of sun every day. Don't let the soil get too dry or too wet. It can dry just slightly between waterings, and it likes a shower about every two weeks. Also, do not overfeed, but give it a liquid feeding in the spring, summer , and fall.
The temperature can drop to 50 degrees F. at night and can go as high as that of a hot summer day without adverse effects.
Q Five African violets were given to me about six months ago when they were in full bloom. I was told they would bloom continuously, but in late October they went out of bloom. The leaves have a nice green color, but they appear to be reaching upward instead of lying horizontally as they did during the summer months. Do they need more fertilizer to make them bloom? I have been giving them a half-strength liquid African violet food monthly.
Your African violets are reaching for light. As the sun moves farther south, many plant lovers need to move their houseplants to lighter windows, or else proivde extra light by using fluorescent fixtures.
To keep blooming, African violets need bright light, but not sun, and a temperature not less than 65 degrees F. (below 55 degrees, the plant will not survive).
Withhold feeding for about a month, since their growth was slowed by the lack of light. With better light they should begin blooming again, and you can then resume the feeding.
Q I've seen several advertisements lately about greensand for gardeners, but there is no explanation of what it really is, what it does for plants, or how it should be applied. Will you tell us about it?
Greensand is a greenish undersea deposit, which is called a glauconite potash mineral or an iron potassium silicate. It is composed of 50 percent silica, which allows it to absorb and hold relatively large amounts of water in the soil so it is available to plant roots.
It also has nutrients beneficial to plant growth, including between 18 and 23 percent iron oxides, about 7 percent potash, and between 3 and 71/2 percent magnesia. Further, it has at least 30 trace elements that are a boon to plants.
You can apply greensand at the rate of one-quarter pound per square foot of soil. It is a good material to use on a compost pile in order to stimulate beneficial bacteria activity.
Q On an impulse I bought some freesia bulbs about two weeks ago. If I plant the bulbs now, how long will it be before they bloom indoors? What special care do they need? Should they be set in a dark place to form roots?
They will bloom in about four months, but be aware that they need cool temperatures and a full day of winter sunlight. Otherwise, they become very spindly, flop over, and have few blooms.
We grow them on our sun porch, which is 50 degrees F. at night and becomes warmer during the day as the sun shines in. A greenhouse is ideal for growing freesia and other bulbs. Neither freesias nor paper white narcissus should be set in darkness.
Freesias can be potted up in a garden-store potting soil, about eight bulbs (they are actually corms) to a six-inch pot, covered with an inch of soil. Keep the soil slightly moist until green growth starts and then be sure to keep them moist at all times during the growing period.
If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston Mass. 02115