Doug’s mailbag: Tithonia seeds, bulb auger, elephant ears and more

Posted on: April 19, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Gardening 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 askdoug@535mediallc.com
  • 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.)

Question 1: Tithonia seeds

Jeannie: I have a ton of Tithonia (Mexican sunflower) seeds from my plants last year. If I direct plant them, should they grow?

Doug: Yes, I would also be tempted to start some indoors, too, just to hedge your bet. I was talking to a gardening couple recently that save seeds every year from the plant and then sow them. I just started some in my little greenhouse.

bulb auger

Question 2: Bulb auger

Susan: I have watched you for years on “Pittsburgh Today Live” and enjoy every one of them! Thank you for always educating us!

I am interested in the Power Planter Bulb Auger you mentioned recently. Where would we find one? Also, how deep do you dig when planting daffodil bulbs? This sure sounds like the way to go!

Doug: That is the best auger I’ve ever used. The length is perfect for planting on your knees with the bulbs beside you. It’s possible to add 100 bulbs in only 15 minutes or so. It makes bulb planting easy and fun. All bulbs are planted three times as deep as the actual bulb. This is a great time to take some pictures and write notes about where they would look good next spring.

You can get the bulb auger at this link.

Question 3: Time to plant elephant ears?

Sherry: I know you are enjoying the warm weather so you can be working in your garden. My question is, is it too early to put in bulbs like elephant ears or canna lilies?

Doug: Yes, it’s a little early. You might be able to get away with it, but I would wait until the second week of May.

Question 4: Compost sourcing

Phyllis: I so enjoy receiving your weekly Everybody Gardens emails and have learned a great deal from them and past articles. In a recent video regarding daffodils and turnip greens, you applied a bag of compost to your bed. I have been looking for quality compost to add to six older raised beds that need a great deal of help.

My husband has suggested mushroom manure/cow manure, etc., and we have looked at what’s available at our local Lowes and Home Depot, but are uncertain as to whether any of those products are worthwhile. Material that we have purchased from those locations in the past has been more than disappointing.

Would you please share the company name of the bag of compost you used in the video, and where I might purchase it? We are willing to travel wherever need be to make a purchase of quality material.

Doug: I’m so glad you like the weekly emails. I have a lot of fun writing them.

The best bet for good compost is going to a local nursery or garden center. One of my favorites is close to you. Bedner’s Farm and Greenhouse is a great place, and they can get you bagged compost for a good price.

Previous mailbags

Yew pollen, leaf mold as mulch, thistle and more

Soil testing, protecting bulbs, fig tree care and more

Peach tree, invisible bugs, lawn bulbs and more

Orange azalea bush, oak tree and more tree questions

Moles, grafting tomato plants, Southern plant and more

Rehoming daylilies, butterfly bush, amaryllis and more

Apple tree lichens, kiwi plant, growing pea sprouts and more

Planting grass, starting tomatoes, zinnias and more

Blackberry bush, garlic sprouts and a gardenia tree

Starting peppers, fungus flies and pear tree pruning

Poison ivy, amaryllis troubles, tomatoes and more

Memorial gardens, orchids and tomato advice

Unknown plants, Christmas cactus and raised bed gardens

Christmas cactus, gnats, shredded leaves and more

Leaf size, no-light plants and grubs

Canna lilies, elephant ears, daffodils/garlic and more

Hibiscus care, tomato seeds, daffodils and succulents

Early garlic, pencil holly, hydrangeas and tree locations

Bellflowers, sweet potato vine, deer/garlic and more

Lemon tree, Knockout roses, soil repair and more

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Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”