Washington State University Extension Q&A

January 13, 2013 

Q. Do I have to thin my backyard grapes?

A. In commercial production, we often thin grapes to achieve a specific fruit quality desired by the winemaker. Studies show that crop load (small or large) will affect the flavors in a grape, but not necessarily for the better or worse, just different. Remove backyard grapes only if you have a history of producing a large crop that does not ripen.

Q. I received a “kalanchoe” plant for the holidays. It’s pretty, and I’m wondering how to take care of it. Can it be planted out in the garden next spring?

A. Kalanchoe is a succulent plant native to Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. It is bred to be a durable flowering pot crop that frequently is available in late winter through spring. Kalanchoe is a plant that doesn’t need a lot of pampering to keep it in flower for a long time. However, it’s not a garden plant and won’t survive freezing temperatures.

Kalanchoes have thick waxy leaves with scalloped edges and large flower clusters born above the leaves. Once only available with red flowers, there now are kalanchoes in many shades of pink, magenta, red, yellow and white. The plant does best in full sun and a well drained potting mix. Do not over-water. Allow the soil to dry out a bit before re-watering. If the plant has decorative pot wrapping, remove it or cut out the bottom to allow for good drainage. The plants do best when kept cool at night (45 to 65 degrees) and during the day (50 to 70 degrees).

When they’re done flowering, most people throw the plants out, but they can be encouraged to re-bloom by giving them “long nights” starting in October. Plants must be kept in total darkness, such as in a closet, during the night for 14 to 16 hours and given bright light during the day. These long nights should last six weeks, and flowering should start in 12 weeks if all goes well. It’s a tedious process, which is why most owners dispose of their plants when they’re done flowering.

Q. Why are the 4-H colors green and white?

A. Green represents life, springtime and youth. It is often connected to learning and growing. White was chosen because it is fresh and clean.

-- Questions should be called in to the WSU Extension offices in Kennewick at 735-3551 or Pasco at 547-3511.

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