ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers
Q I have tried for several years to grow Pixie tomatoes indoors, either under fluorescent lights or where they get several hours of direct sunlight. I feed the plants with a dilute fertilizer with every watering and have tried a variety of garden store potting mixes. My plants get leggy and the tomatoes are small. Some even get blossom-end rot. My daughter has had similar experience. She claims when she uses lower nitrogen fertilizer the blossom-end rot was avoided, but her plants still get very straggly. K.A.L.
Your letter prompts us to examine the conditions under which our Burpee's Pixie Hybrids grow indoors. Even though January and February sun hits directly for about two hours only, light is intensified by the reflection from the snow outside our glassed-in porch. Since you have several hours of sun, light may not be so much a factor as high temperature. We keep our porch at 55 degrees F., but daytime temperature moves up to 65 or 70 degrees F. The lower night temperature makes plants stocky. We feed a balanced liquid fertilizer when the seedlings are put into four-inch pots, when they're transplanted to deep six- or seven-inch pots, again when buds appear, then after the first fruit is about half an inch in size. The soil must be well drained, but never let plants go dry. One drying after fruit sets can injure cells on the blossom end. Our soil mix is 1 part each perlite and vermiculite; 2 parts sphagnum peat moss; 1 part good garden loam. Sometimes we use 4 parts store-bought peat-lite mix and 1 part garden loam. We use a small, thin paintbrush to aid pollen distribution.
Reader comments: In October I saw your question about the Confederate rose. The previous day, my neighbor had given me a bloom which was pink and lasted only one day. She said a friend had given her a cutting that she had merely stuck in the ground in spring. Her daughter was excited about your question and has enclosed a leaf and written you about it.
I know what a Confederate rose is. I have a Confederate rose tree. The tree is almost as big as my house. I am only eight years old. I am sending you a leaf so you can study it.
We thank all who responded to the item on Confederate rose. We said we thought it was in the Malvaceae (Mallow) family, of which cotton and hibiscus are members. Our guess was confirmed by A.D. DeL. of Santa Monica, Calif.: ``Your answer was correct. The proper name is Hibiscus mutabilis (also called cotton rose, or Confederate rose), a Chinese species with flowers that are white or pink in the morning and turn red in the evening.'' Their source was the New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening Unabridged, edited by T.H. Everett of the New York Botanical Garden (Greystone Press, 1963).
Q In my native country, sour cherries are very popular. I would like to plant a sour cherry in my backyard, but I cannot find any local nursery that has them for sale. Would you know of such a nursery?
Arlington Heights, Ill.
You may need to get your tree from a mail-order nursery. To get a list of nurseries growing and/or selling fruit trees in your state (both mail order and direct sale), you could contact your state department of agriculture and markets at your state capital. You could also contact your state agricultural college. Yours would be at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. For nurseries in your own county, contact the Cooperative Extension office in the city that is your county seat. Each County Cooperative Extension is a branch of the state agricultural land-grant college.