ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers.
Q Is it possible there is a variety of tomato which would grow well if confined to a hanging basket, in a sunny window, during the wintertime? I live in an apartment in the city, but sun comes in my large picture window for about four hours a day. I could arrange some lights to hang over it if more is needed. J.M.E. New York The best variety we have ever grown indoors in pots is Burpee's Pixie Hybrid.
We have grown it on our glassed-in porch in a spot with bright light, but only two hours of daily direct sunlight. It is a short, compact vine bearing many golf-ball-size (or larger) tomatoes with an exceptional flavor. We also grow this variety outdoors in summer in our raised beds and in half barrels. Tomatoes form on the vines about 40 days after we transplant seedlings outdoors. Indoors, unless you give them additional light, they take a little longer.
Fluorescent fixtures are helpful for indoor growing. Q Would you be good enough to tell my husband how to make his bromeliads bloom again? He has four that have each lost its large single-stemmed pink flower but so far they have not bloomed again. L.H.W. Yardley, Pa.
Your mention of a large pink flower leads us to assume your husband has Aechmea (EEK-mea) fasciata, a striking vase-shaped bromeliad with large 18- to 24-inch-long leaves that bend outward to give it the common name of urn plant. It has horizontal silver stripes on the bluish-green foliage.
The whorl of foliage makes a cup at the base which should be kept filled with water. Soil should be kept ``just damp.'' Most florists pot them in one part each of sphagnum peat moss and sharp sand. A half-strength feeding of liquid plant food once a month is sufficient, if a little is added to the cup at the same time it is applied to the soil.
The flowers probably lasted six months (normal length of time). Now, the plants are regenerating and probably new plants are starting to form at the base. When they reach five or six inches, the parent plant usually browns off and withers, leaving the offspring. When the offspring are eight- to 10-inches tall, separate them and repot them individually. Give them bright light, but never hot sun. The room temperature should be between 50 degrees F. and 70 degrees F. When they reach 18 inches, they should flower.
If the plant is stubborn, you might slip a plastic bag over the top of it after placing an apple beside the plant. Leave it for three days. This will trap ethylene gas (given off by the apple) and induce the plant to bloom. The same trick is used to make a pineapple plant bloom. They are also in the bromeliad family.
If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it, along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.
Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists.