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Doug Oster answers your gardening questions

What’s the best way to help this hydrangea?

Everybody Gardens editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

(The questions may be edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)


Christine: Is there any way to encourage a hydrangea that’s not really blooming, or is it too late? The one toward the bottom — we think it’s a mophead — in this picture only has one solitary bloom while you can see the other two are blooming like crazy. I’m bummed because it’s one of my pink ones, and I love pink.

Doug: I would be tempted to feed it a fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus. It’s the middle number in the listing on the bag. N is for nitrogen, P is for phosphorus and K is for potassium. It might start to put more buds on, depending on the variety.

Some mopheads bloom on new wood. You can’t hurt it by spreading some granular fertilizer around the drip line and scratching it in at the rate recommended on the package.

After garlic

Gary: Once I harvest the garlic from my garden, what can I plant so that it will enhance next year’s crop? I plant garlic in the same area of my garden each year and augment the soil with “Garden Soil” from Miracle Grow. However, the size of the heads I am harvesting are much smaller than in years past. So, is there something I can plant that would be good for the garlic when I plant it in the fall? If not, I would like to plant something anyway and what could I plant?

Doug: Is there any way you can plant in another area? Garlic is free of most pests and diseases, but those that do affect the plant are devastating and are often caused by growing year after year in the same area of the garden.

Wherever you plant your garlic, adding lots of compost will help improve the soil. You can plant something there now that will grow until it’s time to plant garlic. Bush beans are probably the most popular crop to follow garlic, but Swiss chard or some other greens would work, too.

Zucchini issue

John: Because you’re the most reliable source I know, I’m wondering why our zucchini are blossoming this year, but they’re yielding no vegetables. We’ve heard that others are having the same issue. We have bees around for pollination, but something isn’t working. Is this a regional problem? Heaven forbid if we have to purchase zucchini!

Doug: It’s probably a pollination issue even though you’ve got bees around. Is the plant producing female flowers? They have a little zucchini at the bottom. All the rain has slowed down the bees. You might have to go out in the morning with a little paint brush and move the pollen from male to female.


Katie: If I pinch back monarda, will it send out more side shoots?

Doug: In most cases it will. I wait until the flowers start to fade and then snip them off. Make sure the plant has the water it needs and a little Grow fertilizer would help for an instant boost.

Article by Doug Oster,
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