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MSU Extension Service

Home Grown is an educational, entertaining, question-answer column seen weekly in "News from the Genesee MSUE Office," a weekly newsletter for Genesee County Master Gardeners. Special thanks to the Genesee, Oakland and Livingston county MSU Extension offices for providing this service.


2004 Editions

01-13-05 Fungus gnats; deer protection for trees
01-19-05 After cutting down trees: to chip or not to chip? Also: starting seeds indoors for spring planting
01-27-05 Excessive plant growth in ponds; problem trees and/or problem sites
02-11-05 Diplodia Tip Blight on Pine trees; caring for African violets
02-14-05 Caring for Ficus in winter; indoor pests: larder beetles 

This week's HomeGrown

Extension web sites:












One of my gardening friends tells me that I should use one of those rather-expensive products to fertilize my vegetable garden and flowers. This is the stuff with names like "Stupendous Grow" or "Giant Plants." She said that buying what is recommended with a soil test is just wrong. Should I buy the expensive products for better results?

Have you won the lottery recently or feel that you must personally boost the economy? Do you believe that if a little is good, too much will bring you bliss and contentment? If you answered yes to any of these questions, stop reading now. One of the ďsecretsĒ of the wonder-garden products is that you are applying small amounts all the time with a fanatic zeal. Any product applied that often and watered in is going to make plants happier than being ignored. You could take your soil test recommendation and instead of dividing it into three or four applications, you divide it into 16 applications. Plants utilize small amounts applied more often much more successfully than a large quantity applied only a few times. If you are doodling around the garden, watching for plant eruptions, you are probably also weeding and watering to make that promise of really big plants happen. Plants have nutrients that they need for growth, with nitrogen, phosphorus and potash being the major ones. There is only so much they can use. If you apply more, they canít use it. So applying unneeded nutrients doesnít help the plants. In some cases, too much can lead to toxic results for plants and thatís bad. Plants also donít know the difference between organic and non-organic fertilizers, but the soil does. Also think about adding organic nutrients like compost or composted manure. Healthy soil helps create healthy plants. Knowing your soil pH and nutrient deficiencies is crucial for good plant growth. A soil test will give you that information and those products sold all over the country cannot.

This is the second time that my kids have purchased a gardenia for me. Both times, the flower buds fell off and the plant leaves looked yellow-green. They both looked terrible and I finally threw them out. Why canít I grow them as houseplants? What can I grow with flowers?

The reason they faded away is because you arenít living in a greenhouse. What they require and what you can offer are miles apart. They, being the inflexible plant life that they are, wonít change. You probably donít want to change your living environment to meet their demands. Remember that these demands have to be very close or they will not perform. They require a night temperature of 62 to 65 degrees at night and a day temperature of 70 degrees. Temperatures of below 62 degrees will cause yellowing of foliage. If the plant is close to a window during the winter, it may be colder than you realize. If the night temperature goes above 65 degrees reduces the growth of flower buds and already formed buds will fall off. They require a high light intensity. This would be greenhouse-worthy light, not house light. Worst of all, gardenias also require a high humidity of 70 to 75 percent. Your house would be sprouting molds and mildews and you would be pretty uncomfortable with air that saturated. For most people, the only gardenia flower that they will see is the little cardboard cutout that hangs on the branch when they buy it. Some things with flowers that arenít that picky are African violets, kalanchoes, Christmas cactuses and fibrous rooted begonias dug from your garden in the fall. They can be made to bloom without too much suffering.

Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture
Agent 517/546-3950


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