Ask the gardeners

I have King Alfred daffodils planted next"to the house, which bloomed their first year. Since then I've had nothing except lush green leaves. I fertilize them with dehydrated cow manure as well as bonemeal.

Bonemeal is fine for bulbs but cow manure is not.

For blooms, bulbs need phosphorus, which can be supplied by either bonemeal or superphosphate. Cow manure is low in phosphorus, and it may also cause buds to blast before they open, due to botrytis blight spores that may come from the manure.

Overcrowding and shade will also keep spring bulbs from blooming.

Where are seeds located in a geranium blossom? I want to save some and start my own plants next year, unless these seeds won't produce good plants.

The seed pod resembles a stork's bill, which forms after petals drop. Wait until the seeds turn brown to harvest. (The Latin word for geranium is pelargonium, derived from the Greek word for stork.)

You may or may not get some blooms like the parent plant. If you want to be sure of the color, take cuttings; if you know the name of the parent plant, order more seeds.

When seeds are saved from hybrid flowers, you usually get a mixture, with some characteristics of each of the parents used to produce the hybrid.

My husband enjoys red bell sweet peppers. T get them to turn red we hafe to leave the green peppers on the vine until they start to ripen. Will it affect the growth or production of the peppers if we do this?

Leaving the peppers on until red is not harmful. It causes!the plant to use more moisture than normal, hence they should be watered more often, but if the plant is well cared for, production shouldn't be affected. This is not true of other crops, however, such as zucchini and cucumbers. They should be picked daily, whether you use them or not, since overmaturity of fruit will cut down on yield.

Interestingly, green peppers are already red. The red pigment is masked by the green chlorophyll. As the pepper matures, the green breaks down, revealing the red coloring.

My peony bushes have been planted two years. They get full sun and are watered regularly. I fed them this year and last year, just as they were leafing out. As yet, I have had very few buds on them, and what ones did form shriveled up.

First of all, the plants are not old enough at two years to form many buds. After three or four years you can expect bigger and better blooms.

When buds do form, and then shrivel up, it's due to ''fireblight'' or botrytis, a fungus. Next fall, cut the stalks down to the ground and burn or trash-bag them. In early spring, drench the bed with captan or benlate, 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. Also, spray again when the buds are just beginning to show color.

If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it to the Gardening page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115.

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