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Ron Smith answers questions about flowers, trees, gardens and shrubs.

By Ron Smith, Horticulturist

NDSU Extension Service

Readers: I’ll do a little reminiscing on some articles and inquiries this week. Here is a question posed to Don Kinzler, who started Hortiscope in 1983.

Q: I am an avid reader of Hortiscope and use it in high school horticulture classes in Williston. We have forced tulips, daffodils and hyacinths for winter blooming. The bulbs really help brighten up the winter months. Now they are finished blooming. What can I do to reuse the bulbs outdoors or to force again next year? (Williston, N.D.)

A: Congratulations for promoting interest in horticulture. More than 80 percent of all Americans are involved in some aspect of gardening. An interest developed at an early age will provide much happiness throughout a lifetime. Here’s what to do with your bulbs. Forget about forcing the same bulbs for the second time. The bulbs usually are too weak, so it’s best to start with fresh bulbs each year if you are going to do indoor forcing. However, you don’t need to throw the old bulbs out after blooming. Put the bulbs in pots and continue fertilizing and watering the plants as you would any houseplant. After the leaves die, remove the bulbs from the pot and dry them out. Store the bulbs in shallow boxes in an airy, cool, dry spot such as a basement or storage room. Next September or October, plant the bulbs outdoors into a flower bed. Bulbs that are round should bloom during the following spring, and those that are flat-sided may need to grow up for bloom in May the next year. Good luck, and maybe we’ll hear from you again.

Readers: In a salute to the Extension editors at NDSU, I’d like to include this unedited note sent to me seven years ago.

Q: my son is doing a science report on whether a plant grows better in a clay pot or plastic and he needs a little info on the ivy plant they seam to be growing the same we have them in the kitchen window just we have to water the plastic pot more that the clay pot and is it better for the plant to be in either pot please help.

My first reaction in reading this was that the writer should get help in sentence construction and spelling. Needless to say, the Ag Comm editor “cleaned it up” to sound cogent and ready for publication. One of the editors toyed with the idea of not cleaning up the grammar, spelling and punctuation. However, when he saw this question, he immediately changed his mind! Of course, my answer could not address the rambling nature of the sender’s verbiage, so I responded with what she or her son needed to do to carry on a valid experiment. I talked about replications in plants, containers, analysis of the potting soil and controlling the water source. I also discussed the volume, temperature and level of moisture tension in the soil before applying a given amount of water.

The point of this example is that trying to figure out what is being asked often is as much or more of a challenge than solving the problem. If you write to be published in the paper, reread your question at another time, such as an hour or two later. Better yet, wait until the next morning!

It reminds me of this old quote: “It is better to keep one’s mouth shut and allow those around you to believe you are a fool than to open it thoughtlessly and convince them that you indeed are.”

For answers to general horticultural questions, go to

NDSU Agriculture Communication – Dec. 12, 2012

Source:Ron Smith, (701) 231-7971,
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136,
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