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Reader discovers neglected orchid bloomed unexpectedly, with little care

A reader submitted this photo of her neglected orchid plant that bloomed unexpectedly. Special to The Forum

Q: I don't have a question, but I have to share this with someone and since you know plants, it is you. Last year for Valentine's Day I received an orchid plant from family members. It bloomed for months so I truly enjoyed it. When it was done blooming, I looked online for care and decided it was a lot of work, but since I can't bear to throw out a plant, I put it with my other plants. I watered it occasionally, but sparingly, because the pot had no drainage hole. It was the most neglected of plants. A few weeks ago, I noticed an extra stem growing from it, not like the rootlike ones coming from the lower part of the plant. Yes, it is a blossom! Exciting? Yes! - Virginia Becker, McHenry, N.D.

A: Thanks, Virginia, for a great story. You've proved that, although orchids appear exotic, they're really quite carefree. Like many aspects of gardening, you can delve as deeply as you wish, as indicated by the complicated orchid instructions you must have found online.

Gardeners who choose to become in-depth orchid growers can fine-tune orchid culture by adjusting moisture and temperature cycles to trigger and schedule bloom times. For the rest of us, following your low-maintenance recipe usually rewards us with a yearly flower, whenever the orchid plant is so inclined.

Q: I've been looking for something to control quackgrass in my lawn. I was told there's a chemical called Beacon, but can't find it for sale, as it appears to be restricted. Do you have any information about this? - Phil Larson, Fargo.

A: Winning the lottery will pale in comparison to whoever develops a product that can be used by homeowners to rid their lawns of coarse-bladed quackgrass. Several herbicides have been developed that will selectively kill quackgrass, including Beacon, as you mentioned. But it isn't labeled for use on home lawns, but instead for use on grass being grown for seed production, and other commercial uses. The label restricts its use because of potential problems on home lawns. The herbicide Certainty was once labeled for quackgrass suppression in lawns, but our most common lawngrass, Kentucky Bluegrass was removed from the label because of the high probability of lawn damage under certain conditions. Applying products for non-label uses is illegal.

Michigan State University suggests "Many folks have effectively 'eliminated' quackgrass by masking its presence in the lawn by increased nitrogen fertilization and increased mowing frequency. Quackgrass only has a competitive advantage when the desirable grass sits idly by. By increasing the vigor of your lawn, you will choke the quackgrass, make it darker green and, for the most part, make it disappear. If you follow this program, you will notice that the quackgrass patches are much smaller each spring."

Q: Is it necessary to sterilize packaged seeding soil mixes before using them to start seeds? - Linda M., Valley City, N.D.

A: No, the packaged mixes, such as Jiffy Mix and Miracle Gro Seeding Mix are ready to use and are essentially sterile. Because they are very dry, add water to the packages the day before seeding and mix well. Dry mixes are difficult to wet after seeding, if not pre-moistened.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.