Ask the gardening expert

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We are moving across the country soon, and are concerned about our orchids. We would like to know the safest way to move them. Should we water them before the move, or wait until we arrive at our new home? Is it safe to put them in different light when the move is finished? We've had good luck growing them here, but I am little worried about Georgia.

If you make the move as stress-free as possible your orchids should adjust well to their new surroundings. More plants have been damaged by temperature extremes and rough handling than due to lack of light or water during the move. Continue to care for your plants as usual. Most moving companies have custom made cartons and printed material telling you how to move delicate plants. On the day of the move make sure that you have gotten each plant packed according to the movers specification. Talk with the moving company about the best way to protect the leaves from cold temperatures during the trip from indoors to the moving van.

Since they're going into a truck or van, make sure they're not squished together, to avoid bruising leaves. When they get to your destination unload them first and put them in a protected place, away from cold drafts. Once you're all moved in, place them in spots that provide similar as possible exposures to the light and warmth they experienced prior to the move. These precautions should lessen the shock of the move.

What is the best way to grow citrus from seeds?

I've never tried to start a citrus plant from seed, so I emailed one of my friend who had an orange grove when she lived in California. This is her reply;

Most citrus plants sold to homeowners are grafted on to a hardy + fruiting wood (Minneola Tangelo, Ruby Red Grapefruit, etc.) and you select the rootstock upon which it is grafted (sour orange, Carrizo, etc.). The rootstock protects the fruiting wood from pathogens in the soil. When you plant the seed from a fruit of an orange, you are planting fruiting wood, which may not be well adapted to our soils and pests so it may not live long and prosper in our environment. For these reasons I discourage you from trying to grow an orange tree from seed if you are looking for a long-lived tree with quality fruit. Although it can be a great learning exercise for your children to see the process of harvesting seeds from the fruit and watching the plant grow. Plant the seeds as soon as possible after removing them from the fruit. Do not allow them to dry out. The seedlings can be grown in containers in the house, you might move the container outdoors when the danger of frost is past.

It will be interesting to know if you have success in this project, let me know if you decide to do this project.

Can you tell me how to properly re-pot a houseplant without killing it?

Well you know how I love my gardening books, and magazines. I think anyone thinking of gardening of any sort, indoor or outdoor should do some serious reading. Check the library, do some on-line searching, etc. My favorite of course is info from books and garden magazines. I highly regard the "Sunset Western Garden Book" I feel everyone who gardens should own one, then I have friends who like "Houseplants for Dummies" but better I like"The Houseplant Expert." All three are fabulous sources of information.

First and foremost the greatest advice would be to chat with a Master Gardener. Email them at mganswerclinic@clark.wa.gov or call at 360-397-6060, ext. 5711. But if you are going to wing it on your own, the first step in the repotting operation is to make sure when +choosing the right container, you should move up only one size at a time. For example, move from a 12" pot to a 14" pot. Also, be absolutely sure the new container has excellent drainage. I'd suggest you pick a container that has a wide open top, because if you ever need to repot in the future, a small opening container would make it very difficult, if not impossible to removing the root ball. When you have the plant out, examine the roots of the plant. If the roots closely encircle, loosen the soil and the roots with your fingers, carefully trim the circling roots, and spread out, as you replace the soil, lightly water as you go. Don't fertilize now, wait until you see a bit of new growth.

Celeste Lindsay is a WSU-certified master gardener. Send questions to mslindsay8@gmail.com.