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In Your Garden: Saving geraniums – don’t get bugged

Petunia bought a boatload of geraniums this spring making for a spectacular flower bed in the front of her house. Now, she would like to keep a few special ones for next year. There are several ways for her to do this. One way is to pot them up, put them in a dark, slightly damp area and water them just enough so the soil doesn’t totally dry out.

Or she could take a cutting. Cut off the very top most tender stem of the plant.  Don’t attempt to root it in water. While this works, the roots are not very strong. Instead, make a rooting pot.  Start with a large plastic pot with a saucer that fits its bottom. Fill the pot about half full of vermiculite or soil starter.  Now, set a smaller clay pot, with the drain hold plugged, in the middle of your plastic pot.  Add more medium till it is up to the edge of your clay pot. Dampen the medium, then fill the small clay pot with water. It will seep out and keep the potting medium just damp enough to get the plants started. You can tell if the cutting has rooted by giving it a little tug. If it resists, it has roots. Pot it up and set it in a sunny window.

You don’t want a window full of pots? If you have a root cellar, you can use gramma’s trick.  Dig the geraniums just before frost. Shake the soil off the roots and lay the plant in a shady spot to dry. The object is to have all the leaves dried up and fall off. Store the dry plants root side up in a cardboard box with the top closed. The temps should be between 50 and 60 degrees. Check them often for mold.  If the stems dry up and shrivel up, it’s too dry and that plant is dead.  Chuck it.  You can attempt to rehydrate it by soaking it in warm water, then back in the box.

Black mildew can be simply cut off.

Two months before the last frost, about May 15th here, pot the leftovers up. Bury the stem deep. It should have two leaf nodes below soil line. Trim the stem back to healthy green growth.  Since geraniums are a semi tropical plant, wait to put them out until it is 50 degrees or warmer at night.

Lots of luck with this method.  Most of our basements are much too warm and dry for this to work. Let the moths out of your wallet and just buy new ones in the spring.  It not only is easier, there are apt to be some new varieties even prettier than last year’s.  Besides, what gardener doesn’t love to wander through the green houses in the spring and drool over all those beautiful blooms.

This is the time of year bugs are looking for a nice warm home – yours. Most of these multi legged critters are harmless, but they do bug the housekeeper. The little black bugs are picnic beetles.  They have a hard black shell, a bulb-like belly and are about one-eighth to one-fourth of an inch long. They do no harm in the house and will soon disappear. Lady bugs and boxelder bugs like to gather on the south side of your house. They can sneak in the smallest crack. Don’t attempt to squish them as they stink and leave a mark. Inside, vacuum them up.  Outside, spray them with soapy water.

Millipedes like damp spots in your house. Millipedes are the long dark wiry type worm that curls up if you touch it.  They will eventually dry up when you turn your heat on. In the meantime, try to keep areas where you have found them in the past, dry.

If you find weevils with a snout in your house, you may have a big problem. These are grain weevils.  They can get in your flour, crackers, any grain food and make webs and lay eggs.  If you suspect you have them, throw away infected food. Put uninfected grains in the freezer for a week. This will kill any eggs that are in the product. The theory being, if you can’t see it, it won’t hurt you.

The moral of the day, caulk up all the cracks in the house and you won’t be bugged this fall.

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