Q: What can I do to keep my four beautiful geranium plants alive for next summer? In the old days during winter, we kept little plants in a dark room. Do I have to cut them and water them?
A: In times past, people often cut geraniums way back and hung them in a cool spot that sometimes was quite dark. They had some losses and some successes. Usually, it was the bigger plants that survived.
But the ideal way to over-winter geraniums is to take cuttings in August and bring these inside before frost. They can spend winter on a windowsill, in a heated greenhouse or under a plant light with little water and frequent pinching-back.
But your large plants need to be cut back by at least half to their basic framework. You should remove any dead, diseased or yellowing leaves. Then check them over thoroughly for pests.
Your plants should be placed in a bright, cool spot. If all you have is windowsills, you might have to transplant each of the four geraniums into pots that will fit your windowsills.
Keep the plants on the dry side. Check them every week, watering sparingly. Don't fertilize them. They'll put out a little leggy, weak growth. Keep pinching that back to one set of leaves that's closest to the main stem.
About the end of March or early April, you can start normal watering again with half-strength fertilizer. Once the season is frost-free, you can harden them off outside. Put them outside for a couple of hours at first, then gradually extend the time until they're always outside.
At that point you can return to full fertilization, watering and regular care.
Spending the winter inside is usually hard on geraniums. Don't expect them to look as wonderful as they did before you cut them back. Under sun and warm temperatures, they will come back gradually. Let's hope we have a better spring than we had this year.
Q: Can I plant garlic in planters on my south-facing balcony? Where should it be located? What is the best type of soil to use? My other plants did well in organic potting soil.
A: Yes, you can grow garlic in planters. The planter should be as large as possible and at least 30-centimetres deep. Garlic likes moisture in the growing season and large containers retain moisture better than smaller ones.
But garlic also needs good drainage. Garlic is resistant to most pests, but it is quite susceptible to rots and fungal diseases if the soil it's in turns into a swamp.
If we get several days of warm, sunny weather, do check the moisture level. Garlic tends to stop growing if it gets dried out (although drying out a few weeks prior to harvest time in August is fine because it enhances ripening).
Out by the railing would be the best spot. Garlic is extremely hardy (zone 3) and can easily stand our winters even in a pot. Red Russian has very large cloves which should be planted about 10 centime-tres apart.
The type of potting soil you're already using should be fine. The fact your other plants did well in it is a great recommendation.
Anne Marrison's garden column appears regularly in this paper. Anne is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to email@example.com.