Califonia Bountiful

Gardening Q&A

Mar./Apr. 2015 California Bountiful magazine

As a California Bountiful reader, you have the opportunity to get your seasonal gardening questions answered by gardening expert Pat Rubin. Here are a few questions from other readers.

The stems on my tomato and bean seedlings are long and spindly. The plants are beginning to flop over. I have them near a sunny windowsill, so what is wrong?

Sunny windowsill aside, the plants are still not getting enough light. On nice days, take the seedlings outside and let them have some natural sunlight. Be careful not to leave them outside too long because they are not used to cooler temperatures and direct sunlight. Just leave them out for a half hour at first. Next, run your hand lightly across the seedlings several times each day. This will help the spindly stems develop some strength and stand up straight. It isn't so much a problem with tomatoes because you can plant the seedlings all the way up to the top set of leaves. The stems will then root and give the plant extra strength. You can't do the same with other seedlings. Beans can't go into the ground until April in most parts of California. Because they sprout so quickly, you might want to wait a few weeks longer next year before you start the seeds

My clematis never blooms anymore. It was blooming when I bought it. I prune some of the old growth back each spring, but what's going on?

You may be pruning it at the wrong time of year. Spring blooming clematis must be pruned after they bloom in the spring, not in late winter before they bloom. Otherwise you're cutting off the blooming wood before it gets a chance to bloom. Let it go this spring and see what happens. Other types of clematis bloom in summer and fall, and these types can be pruned in late winter. One more thing, and it is a pet peeve of mine: Be sure to pronounce it CLEM-a-tis, not Cle-MAT-is.

About Pat Rubin, California Bountiful's gardening expert

Pat Rubin

For Pat Rubin, gardening is more than just dirt and plants. "It's about history, romance, adventure and people," she says. "And it should be fun."

California Bountiful's gardening columnist has lived and chronicled this fun, hands-in-the-dirt approach for years—and for additional publications including Fine Gardening, Pacific Horticulture, Christian Science Monitor, Family Circle and The Sacramento Bee. Pat has also volunteered as a Master Gardener, speaks to garden clubs and appears regularly on gardening radio shows.

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