Gladioli require staking to prevent flopping

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Q: My gladioli produce lovely green leaves but, when they bloom, they always fall over. Should I replant the bulbs deeper? — Eleanor Washburn, email

A: It's a common complaint that gladiolus flower stems get so top heavy that they flop over onto the ground. Planting the corms 3 inches to 4 inches deep will help stabilize the stem but is not guaranteed to be a perfect solution. Most folks just stake the stems when they are 12 inches tall with pieces of thin bamboo. I sometimes use trimmed branches from privet for staking. You also can plant the glads along a fence so the stems can be loosely tied to the fence wire.

Q: Rose rosette disease has infected all my Knock Out roses. Now, I have to dig them up and replace them. I would not recommend these roses unless until the rosette disease has a cure. — Lawrence Cram, email

A: All roses are susceptible to rose rosette disease, not just Knock Out roses. The only treatment is to remove the entire plant. The incurable virus can even persist in root fragments left behind when you dig out a rose. If you're careful about getting every one of the root pieces, you could leave the planting spot bare until October, while scouting weekly for errant sprouts appearing. If none come up, you can plant more roses in the same spot.

Q: I have been fighting iris rust for several years. Should all my iris plants be discarded and just start over? — Rita McElwaney, email

A: If the disease is not too far advanced, you can scissor off the affected leaves now and fertilize with water-soluble fertilizer to stimulate the plant to produce more leaves. Spray the new leaves with chlorothalonil (Daconil) fungicide to prevent rust from occurring again. Good sanitation is important, so be sure to remove all diseased leaf pieces as you prune.

Q: This spring I saw a local school making gardens with wheat straw. They put the straw in large wire containers, then added their plants. I bought some straw bales and made holes and put chicken manure and planting soil in them before I planted tomatoes. The plants did well for two weeks, then died. Any suggestions about planting technique? — George Carpenter, Marietta

A: The process of planting in straw bales requires that the bale be partially decomposed before you plant anything. If you simply put young plants into holes you make in fresh straw, I'd expect insufficient watering to be a big issue. The plant roots won't get the water they need because water simply runs past their root ball to the bottom of the bale. The process of preparing a bale involves scattering fertilizer over it and watering several times to make a rich compost into which vegetables can be planted. I have details about the whole process at