In the Garden: Geranium cuttings better

Dear Anne,

My geraniums are in pots on my patio. When would it be time to bring them in?

I understand they will survive the winter if kept in the garage.

Terry Wong, South Burnaby

Dear Terry,

It’s best to take your geraniums in right now.

This winter is predicted to be warmer and wetter than usual, and since you’re in South Burnaby your neighbourhood is warmer than most. But there are still times predictions go wrong. Aside from cold, exceptionally heavy downpours could cause geraniums waterlogging problems even in pots.

Your geraniums will do much better in the garage if you can put them by a window which lets in lots of light. If it faces a direction where sun shines in (when we get sun) so much the better.

It’s best to prune the geraniums back by at least half to three-quarters and keep them fairly dry through the winter. This is about the best you can do right now at this time of year.

But you need to know, Terry, that many people find it very hard to keep large, old geranium plants inside over the winter. For one thing geraniums need a huge amount of light which our winters just don’t have. Another is they tend to grow long and lanky as they reach out for light and need a second pruning.

It can also happen that they bring pests inside with them. So have a very good look as you take them in.

A better way that most gardeners handle winter-storage of geraniums is to take geranium cuttings in August or September, and bring the cuttings in when the weather begins to get cold. Water them just a little about once a week and when they start putting out long, soft growth cut it back by about three-quarters. As spring starts, let them grow more.

Cuttings take up less space than big, old plants, are easier to check for pests and are easier to put by a sunny window in your living space. After frost season, you can plant them outside.

Dear Anne,

Chimney sweeping time again. Can I use soot and/or wood ash as garden fertilizer?

Jeremy Greenfield, Milner

Dear Jeremy,

Both are traditional garden fertilizers used for years with great success. We used both in England when I was growing up. But today there are a few concerns – it depends what you’ve been burning.

Wood ash is fine if you’ve been burning natural wood like prunings or split logs. But if you’ve been burning treated timber, there would be concerns about noxious chemicals.

Since wood ash is very alkaline, it would probably be best mixed with compost or whatever natural fertilizers you might be using anyway, such as manure.

With soot, it’s really the same caution. If all you’ve been burning is plain, basic wood, then it’s fine to use it the same way you’d use wood ash.

But often today wood stoves and fireplaces are used to burn all kinds of things that otherwise would be recycled. So soot and ash with that kind of origin would be fairly suspect.


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