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Protect tuberous begonias from hard frost

Delhi News-Record 2018-10-11 17:41:25

ses0516-planting3: Begonias are another example of an excellent annual bedding plant. With story by Valerie Berenyi for Southam Homes package moving May 16. Mikael Kjellstr m / Calgary Herald

Q. My hanging basket (tuberous) begonias are still looking good, but I don’t know how to handle the plants when it gets colder. How do I preserve the tubers for planting again in the spring?

A. The tubers need protection from hard frost. As temperatures begin dipping close to freezing, move the baskets up against a house wall, under a broad roof overhang. Clear away the top growth when the stems detach easily at a slight touch. Wrenching them away can damage points of future growth on the tubers.

You can leave the tubers in place, in their baskets, for storage (if you have the room) or you can unpot them, brush away excess soil and store them in a shallow box, covered in vermiculite. Ideal storage conditions are dry, dark, and frost-free but cool (5 to 10 C.

Check the tubers occasionally over the winter. If they begin to soften, lightly spray mist the storage medium with water and move the tubers to a cooler location. Start them back into growth indoors in March.

Q. Why do my zucchini plants produce very few female flowers but lots of male blooms — the ones with long stems and no “baby bulge” at their bases?

A. It’s normal for male flowers to appear first, to ensure plenty of pollen is around once female flowers open. Conditions of stress will keep the plants stuck in the initial male flower stage. Common stressors include high heat, dry conditions and impoverished soil.

Try planting as early as possible, before the weather turns hot, in fertile, humus-rich soil. Keep the site modestly, but consistently moist. To hand pollinate, pick a male flower, pull back the petals, and gently push its pollen-bearing anthers into several female flowers.

Expand your choice of varieties, to see which grow and produce well in your garden’s conditions. The ridged Italian (Romanesco) varieties like Cassia from William  Dam Seeds produce well for me. Partenon (Dam), a parthenogenic zucchini (produces without fertilization of the blooms), has a reputation as a good producer.