Q: My husband and I are in our mid-80s and live in our own home. We are limited in what we can do in our yard, but we look forward to your gardening articles in The Forum to see if any of your ideas are things we could do.
About a year ago, you wrote an article about Easter lilies and said they could be planted once they are finished blooming and maybe another would grow. It bloomed this week and I am sending you a picture. I wanted you to know that it actually worked! Amazing! — Delayne and Ron Thorson, Fargo.
A: I am so grateful that we have this venue for sharing our successes or challenges, and I appreciate the feedback.
Delayne continues, “I took my dried-up potted Easter lily and planted it outdoors and surprisingly enough it grew, providing me with a lot of joy as I watched it grow. Thank you for your weekly articles. My husband took your advice and mows our grass at 2 7/8 inches, which is as close to 3 inches as our mower sets it.”
Thanks for a wonderful story, Delayne and Ron.
Q: I’m having an issue with weed trees, mostly seedling elms. I have a 2-acre plot of natural grasses and wildflowers, and I’m finding a lot of weed trees that I did not plant.
For the past several years I’ve been cutting them off at the base and using a brush to paint the cut with Roundup. When I’ve cut some of them in recent days, I can tell they’ve been cut before, so what I’m doing isn’t killing the roots. Since this is very labor intensive, I’m checking to see if you have a better solution. — Judy Peterson.
A: I learned a solution for killing unwanted tree seedlings about 45 years ago while I was a summer laborer at North Dakota State University, working under horticulture professor Neal Holland.
Sometimes weedy seedling trees are too well-rooted to simply pull out, and just cutting them off causes them to resprout with vigor. The method we were taught is highly effective, and I’ve used it many times since to kill seedling trees.
Two things are needed: a squirt bottle, and lawn weed herbicide whose active ingredient is 2,4-D. Don’t use products with other additives like dicamba and triclopyr. Roundup certainly does kill trees, but this method using 2,4-D is faster-acting on woody tissue.
With pruning shears, loppers or a saw, cut the seedling tree as close to ground level as possible. Immediately saturate the cut surface with 2,4-D herbicide, undiluted, from the squirt bottle. Then cover the cut surface with several handfuls of soil to seal in the fumes. Don’t use a spray that produces mist that can drift to your “good” plants, but instead use a squirt-type bottle, such as a dish detergent bottle, that can apply the herbicide directly where desired.
Q: What causes cucumber fruits to curl? I always plant the same slicing variety, but this year some of the fruit are curled in a shape like the letter “C” instead of being straight like normal. — Sam N., Harwood, N.D.
A: Although some unusual cucumber types always curl as one of their characteristics, when this happens to varieties that are normally straight, pollination problems are usually to blame.
Cucumber flowers are pollinated by insects, mostly bees, and inadequate pollination happens when there are too few bees, or when weather conditions are too hot, cool, dry, wet or cloudy.
If only part of a flower’s ovaries is fully pollinated, the enlarging ovary, which is the little cucumber fruit, becomes lopsided. One side lengthens, while the other side stays shorter, causing curved fruit.
We can’t control adverse weather, but we can encourage bees and other pollinators to visit our yards by planting marigold, snapdragon, dianthus, poppy, clematis, monarda, borage, echinacea and many more types of flowers.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 701-241-5707. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.