Some readers have complained that they bought beautiful hanging pots of flowers last spring that by now look ragged and sparse. What could they have done?
Some folks use compost tea or fertilizer every other watering, and pinch back plants until July or August, then let them grow and flower. Some potted plants such as petunias need to be cut back more severely and more often. I wouldn't use fertilizer full strength that often, but if it's a mix-it-yourself product, use half strength.
Other folks use a balanced fertilizer (all three numbers the same) every other week. Watering in our hot climate is at least a daily chore, if not twice daily. Some sources of planted containers give purchasers a packet of fertilizer and instructions on its use. Another alternative is to use a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote just once.
One of the reasons I don't like to use Osmocote is that the pellets are identical to slug eggs. It gives me a start, wondering which I have.
Still others watch their containers and replant new plants or other varieties when some plants begin to fail.
Now we have the season for asters. Our asters are tall and spindly, but they bravely come back year after year. I recall I bought these asters from Sterling Nursery, back in the day (many years ago) that was a retail nursery on Fairview.
Earlier in summer these asters look more like weeds, and I've pulled out a number of them, yet in September, we get the maroon blossoms. I thought the variety was called "September Morn," but it may be September Ruby, since that's what Bluestone Perennials is carrying. The flower color looks right.
Our favorite aster was Aster Frikartii, a shorter, lavender blue flower that appeared in mid-summer, not fall. That may have been a short-lived perennial, for we did lose it. Now I think I'd like to try October Skies, another lavender aster.
Pepper or chile seeds are easily saved, but may have cross pollinated with other varieties in your garden. Peppers are quite promiscuous. Just select pods of ripe chiles (peppers), open and scrape seeds onto a paper or china plate with a note identifying variety, and set aside to dry.
If you've found a favorite tomato that's not a hybrid, save those seeds. Scrap seeds of a ripe tomato into a bowl or plastic container, add water and an identity tag, and set aside to ferment for a few days. Then pour bowl or container contents into a sieve, rinse tomato parts from seeds, and pour out onto a plate to dry. Don't forget to keep identifying information with the seeds.
I don't use paper plates or paper towels for tomato seed drying because they stick to the plates or towels. They're easily removed from a regular plate. I store them in my china cabinet, where mice aren't apt to consume them and they're not apt to be knocked down.
Mice and voles are especially active now, getting ready for winter. Our Cairn terrier is hunting (and I hope killing) now. I've found that if the rind of an eggplant or the thin skin of a carrot is intact, voles may hollow out the produce and the above-ground plant doesn't show a thing is wrong.
Send garden questions to email@example.com or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.