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Two Green Thumbs Up: Digging Into Your Gardening Questions

Two young patients from Franciscan Children's in Brighton water the garden they volunteered to take care of during their stay. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
Two young patients from Franciscan Children's in Brighton water the garden they volunteered to take care of during their stay. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

With John Harwood

The best green thumbs on the planet answer all your gardening questions from the soil on up.


Melinda Myers, nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist who has written more than 20 gardening books. (@Melindagardens)

Steve Bender, senior writer at Southern Living, where he has written a gardening column called “The Grumpy Gardener” for more than 30 years.

Libby Weiland, statewide network coordinator for Vermont Community Garden Network.

From The Reading List:

Southern Living: “Summer’s Showiest Vines” — “Way back in 1985, I wrote a one-page story for Southern Living about a spectacular but largely unknown tropical vine called mandevilla. Large, trumpet-shaped, deep pink blooms smothered the foliage. At the end of the story, I asked anyone who wanted a list of mail-order sources to send us a letter or post card (no email then). More than 5,000 did. So many people wanted the plant that it sold out all over the country. I said to myself, “I got the power.”

That particular selection of mandevilla was ‘Alice du Pont.’ While its flowers are beautiful, its six-inch leaves are coarse and dull green. Without flowers, no one would want it.

Fast-forward to today. Potted mandevillas in bloom crowd the fronts of garden centers across the land. This was my doing, I think proudly. But mandevillas today are vast improvements over the old ones. Plant breeders at Suntory Flowers in Japan crossed several species to create the Sun Parasol series. Smaller, deep green, glossy leaves have replaced the big, dull ones. Velvety blossoms of heavy substance supply rich colors of red, pink, or white. The plants bloom heavily from the day you buy them until your first frost in autumn. No summer vines give you as much bang for your hard-earned buck.”

Denton Record-Chronicle: Melinda Myers: Prevent, manage powdery mildew growth for healthy plants” — “Spots and patches of white or gray talcum powder-like substance on your plant means powdery mildew infected your plant.

This is one of the most widespread fungal diseases and attacks a wide range of plants. You may see mildew on a variety of trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables and lawn grasses. Don’t despair — you can reduce the risk of this disease with proper plant selection, maintenance and, if needed, organic intervention.

Powdery mildew is most common during hot, dry weather. Wet foliage does not increase the risk of this disease, but high humidity does. You’ll typically see more mildew problems in crowded plantings, damp and shady locations, as well as areas with poor air circulation.

Powdery mildew, like other diseases, occurs when the fungal organism and susceptible plants are present together and the environmental conditions are right for the disease to occur. Remove one of these factors and you eliminate the disease. You can’t change the weather, but there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of powdery mildew.”

For millions of us, gardens grow joy and beauty. But also mistakes and frustration. If you’re like me, you’re not sure whether marigolds really will protect your tomato plants, or how much sun is enough, or exactly when to intervene to head off water stress. But here’s the good news: we have a trio of gardening experts to help guide with tips and advice for any climate or region of the country.

This hour, On Point: your summer gardening questions, answered.

– John Harwood

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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