Growing Saffron Crocus

Question from Ocala, FL. I would like to grow my own Saffron. Will it grow here?

Answer: I’m not precisely sure how Saffron crocus will perform in your area. These bulbs are dry and dormant in summer, flower in fall when rains begin and then send up new leaves through the fall and winter months and move into dormancy in late spring as the foliage dies back. Growing in a container that is placed out of the rain in summer will ensure the best results. Here in Oregon we are wet in winter but dry in summer which is what is needed. When first planted bulbs send up one to three flowers on successive days.
Mix a good bulb food into your soil mix. Give them a container about 10″ deep, bulbs sometimes have a tendency to migrate lower and lower so for that reason you might want to shake them out in July, divide and replant every couple of years.
I think you can grow the saffron on a small scale, your major obstacle is avoiding too much summer wet so place containers in a dry well lit area perhaps under eaves.

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Garden Mulch

Question from Newport News, VA. What are good mulches for the vegetable garden?

Answer: I use a variety of materials and all have merit. Melons do well with black plastic mulch. Tomatoes here in Oregon are showing good results from red plastic mulch. This year I will plant peppers with a newspaper mulch to suppress weeds, about three sheets seems sufficient and it just breaks down into the soil. Straw makes a good mulch, but can be weedy so you might seek out rotted oat or wheat straw. Plastic is kind of a hassle at a cleanup time but it is reliable. Shredded leaves are excellent. You will conserve water with mulches but need to adjust irrigation, running leaky pipe under the mulch is probably the easiest. Match your mulch to the plants requirements, don’t use acidic pine needles with lime loving cucumbers, or heat retaining plastic with cool crops such as broccoli or cabbage. If your garden is in a breezy location fix the mulch in place so it doesn’t blow around and make a mess. If slugs and snails are an issue in your area don’t create a safe haven under the mulch. Keep an eye out for them, trap and cleanup and consider using a safe product like sluggo.

Citrus scale

I’ve been spending the day answering gardening questions and thought some of these are worth sharing.

Question from Marblehead, MA: I have rust colored insects attacking my Meyer lemon tree plants. The leaves are sticky and blackening. Can you please recommend a treatment?

Answer: Citrus plants are susceptible to scale, which is the problem with your lemon tree. I have two approaches, both which are effective and non-toxic. The first is to wipe off the scale from leaves and branches with a piece of gauze soaked in rubbing alcohol. Depending on the size of the plant this may or may not be practical. Neem oil does an excellent job in treating scale. A small amount of oil is combined with water and applied from a spray bottle. We offer for sale and recommend Dyna-Gro Pure Neem Oil.