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Your guide to Chesaeake Country's freshest produce and more!

Be Good to Your Cyclamen

And it will be good to you

A Bay Weekly reader asked how to care for a potted cyclamen she received from a friend.
    Cyclamen make excellent potted plants, as they come in a large selection of colors and flower for a long time with minimal care. However, the cyclamen has a dormancy requirement, and it will tell you when it is ready to take a rest.

Looking Ahead to Tomatoes

As I consider seeds, what tomatoes can I expect to do best in Maryland? Last year I had tomatoes but not until ­September and so much blight.
–Ron Ashburn, by email

    We can grow all varieties of tomatoes in Maryland because of our hot summers. Tomatoes like the heat. My favorite varieties are Brandywine, Supersonic, Better Boy and Amish Paste.
    Since you had a blight problem, is it possible for you to follow crop rotation and plant this year’s tomatoes in another location? Blight will build up when tomatoes are planted in the same spot year after year.
    If you can’t rotate crops, consider spreading about two inches of compost on your soil just prior to planting in the spring and tilling it in shallow to get the benefits of the microorganisms in the compost. Also select tomato varieties that have TMVF next to their names. Those varieties have the greatest resistance.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at frgouin@erols.com. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.

    Always avoid overwatering cyclamen because keeping the potting medium constantly wet can cause the tuber to rot. Never irrigate the cyclamen when the soil feels moist. Always test for moisture by pressing your finger into the soil. If the soil feels cool and damp, there is adequate moisture. If the soil feels warm and dry, water the potting medium thoroughly until you see excess water flow from the bottom of the container.
    Do not fertilize the cyclamen while it is in flower. Once it has finished flowering, give it a single application of liquid fertilizer following manufacturer recommendations. Provide as much sun light as possible to keep the foliage healthy. If the foliage continues healthy looking two to three weeks after that initial application of fertilizer, make a second application. However, if the foliage begins to exhibit some yellowing and the leaves look wilted, it is time to stop watering the plant and allow it to go dormant.
    Allow the leaves to completely wilt and the soil to dry. Store the potted wilted cyclamen in a cool dry place for at least three and preferably four months. Should the tuber begin to exhibit some active growth before the end of the three-month storage period, remove the tuber from the dry potting media and repot in fresh potting media. When removing the tuber from its original container, note the depth of planting. Tubers should be planted just below the surface of the potting medium and not at the bottom of the pot.
    Once the tuber has initiated new growth, place the pot in an area of maximum sun and resume care. Irrigate only when the rooting medium feels dry and fertilize about once each month.