Q: While digging carrots, I found one white one among all the regular orange ones. What causes one to be white? - Anne Barbee, Moorhead.
A: Besides the most commonly grown orange carrot varieties, there are also carrot varieties that are purple, red, yellow and white. The original ancient carrots are said to be white and purple, and centuries of cross-breeding developed the orange type common today.
Seed companies do offer carrot varieties that are white, yellow and purple. The most likely cause of your finding a white carrot is that a white carrot seed was unintentionally mixed in with the orange seed packet. Seed producers are conscientious about keeping seed isolated, but for example if one white seed was clinging to the seed-packaging machine when they switched from packaging white carrot seed to orange carrot seed, that one white seed ended up in somebody's orange seed packet.
This is much more likely than a genetic mutation of some sort.
Q: I bought a fern-leaf peony two years ago from a nursery in Minnesota, but it hasn’t bloomed. It’s planted in our regular soil. Fern-leaf peonies are so beautiful, any ideas why mine isn’t flowering? - Carolyn Halvorson, Mandan, N.D.
A: It can take several growing seasons for a fern-leaf peony to establish itself in its new location. Sometimes they're flowering in the pot when you buy, but after planting, the peony begins a phase of root and foliage growth. This is important to establish a solid plant, and it’s actually good the peony doesn’t flower before its time, as the plant’s resources are better devoted to husky plant formation for long-term success.
By the third or fourth growing season, the peony should be in good bloom. Peonies need full sun, so make sure it's not in the shade of trees or buildings.
Peonies are also very sensitive to planting depth. If planted too deeply, they won't bloom. To check the depth, gently scrape away a little soil, and look for the uppermost bud, or “eye,” in the roots. Peony eyes are plump, oval-pointed, white or pinkish-red and quite noticeable.
The uppermost bud should be 1.5 inches below the soil surface, no deeper. Next spring, apply a well-balanced 10-10-10 granular fertilizer to build the peony's energy. Once fern-leaf peonies are established, they can last a century, so patience is well-rewarded.
I’d like to write an upcoming column including responses from as many of us as possible, briefly telling what plants, crops, or gardening projects we enjoy the most.
Do you have a hosta collection? Do you grow dozens of different tomato types? Are African violets your specialty? Do you have a large houseplant collection? Have you grown a vegetable garden most of your life?
To include as many responses as possible, we’ll need to keep them short to several descriptive sentences. Here’s mine, as an example: “I’ve always loved growing watermelons, since I was a kid. The cultivars I like best are Sweet Dakota Rose and Sweet Favorite, and I’m experimenting with larger types, planted with clear plastic mulch to speed growth. - Don Kinzler, Fargo.”
What’s your favorite part of gardening? Please email responses by Monday, Nov. 5, to: Don Kinzler, firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name and city or town.
If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler at ForumGrowingTogether@hotmail.com. All questions will be answered, and those with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.