Ask the Gardener: Planting milkweed, greenhouses and more

Posted on: January 3, 2020 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

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.

There are three ways to send in your questions:

  • Email
  • Submit your question on our “Your Garden” section of our site
  • Send us a message on Facebook.

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

Butterfly weed is a type of milkweed that's easy to grow and good for pollinators.

Butterfly weed is a type of milkweed that’s easy to grow and good for pollinators.

Question 1: Planting milkweed

Kathie: When is the best time to begin planting milkweed seed?

Doug: It needs something called stratification first. It’s a cold treatment that’s essential for germination. This information from American Meadows explains how it’s done. If it was me, I’d start the stratification process in April, and you could begin planting milkweed seeds in May.

Question 2: Adding a greenhouse

Sue: My father-in-law gave me a very generous money gift this year. I can finally realize my dream of having a greenhouse. I am looking for recommendations from my gardening friends for quality companies or models. Any suggestions?

Doug: That’s exciting news; there’s nothing better than a greenhouse for any gardener. The first thing to think about is should it be free standing or attached to the house. A greenhouse that is attached can use heat from the home to help keep the plants happy. If you already know the answer to that question, take a look at this web site and spend some time deciding what’s best for you. Please let me know if you have more questions as you get further into the project.

Question 3: ‘African Sunset’ petunia

Mike: My wife and I were fans of the belated ‘African Sunset’ petunias. We grew them for four years, and these flowers were always a conversation piece. These petunias were GMO (a corn gene was inserted into the petunia). I have a few questions to ask the expert. If I would have saved the seeds from these plants, would the seeds have produced the same orange petunias? The GMO process is not the same as cross pollination? I.E. crossing petunias with corn?

Doug: It’s an interesting story about ‘African Sunset’ petunia. People were selling this variety but did not know it was bred through genetic engineering. It’s illegal to sell those plants in the U.S. and Europe without a license.

Home gardeners rarely if ever can purchase GMO seeds. That doesn’t mean you won’t see GMO markers in some wind-pollinated crops. It’s hard to know what those seeds would produce. There’s always a chance that a similar flower color would appear but without the reliability of the original. You could plant those seeds and see a wide range of colors. On the other hand, cuttings would be a clone and remain the same as the original plant.

The process used to add a gene is completely different than conventional hybrid breeding, which crosses to parents, from the same or similar species to create the final product. Here’s an interesting story about the variety.

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