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Xmas cactus needs a rest

by Keith Stangler

Q. My Christmas cactus looks just fine and healthy but never blooms. It sits on my desk at work and lights are on 24 hours a day. Is that the problem?

A. Temperatures more than sunlight is what triggers flower bud formation on Zygocactus, but light should not be ignored. If this plant was in your home, I would simply suggest putting it in a sunny, unheated room, like a porch. Where days are sunny and warm but nights get real cool but not freezing during September and October. It is these cool nights that will stimulate flower bud formation. During these months days are shorter and shorter, so that may have some effect, too.

You could try putting your cactus in a dark, unheated room in your building during this period, putting it back on your desk when you are at work. If that does not work, take it home during September and October, putting it in a sunny, unheated room, and taking it back to work with you during December when it should flower successfully.

Q. Could I put newspaper in my compost pile?

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A. You could, but newspaper is made from wood and is very fibrous, and therefore breaks down very slowly in a compost pile. In addition, the ink, even though it is soy ink, may have ingredients not really compatible with growing plants. I know people who use newspapers as a mulch/weed retardant in between rows in the garden. By fall, the soil microbes and moisture have broken down the newspaper so it can be tilled into the soil.

Q. I mow about two acres of lawn. The night crawlers are so bad that I can hardly walk on the lawn. It is not even fun to mow. In summer, these lumps become hard as a rock. This used to be a farmyard, so the soil is rich and grass really grows well, but these night crawlers make it miserable. How can I get rid of them and how can I get rid of the lumps?

A. Night crawlers can be killed by spraying the ground with Sevin on an evening when you know the grass will be wet from dew and when it is very warm. That's the kind of night when you find them crawling on your driveway. They have to crawl through Sevin for it to be effective. The bumps can be dragged out evenly anytime they are soft. Use a single section drag with teeth set flat or a piece of chain link fence pulled behind your garden tractor.

Keith Stangler has 36 years experience as a horticulturist. For comment or questions call (507) 285-7739 or 1-800-562-1758.

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