Editor’s note: Kelly R. Jackson’s Garden Corner column has a different format. He takes questions called into his phone recently at the Christian County Extension Office and answers them in the column.

Question. I’ve been seeing a lot of newer orchids in stores. How easy are these to grow?

Answer. The most commonly available orchid, found especially in grocery stores, are Moth orchids. They thrive in medium light so a window with southern exposure is ideal.

You will notice that the pot is filled with a bark-type potting mix. In nature, these plants grow on trees, so they need a potting medium that is light and well drained — regular potting soil is not appropriate.

The roots are fleshy and covered with a white spongy material. They may grow into the potting mix, around the pot or simply out into the air. This is natural and healthy for the plant.

Water plants thoroughly once the soil has become light and dry. Allow some water to flow through the pot at each watering — be sure to remove the inner pot to the sink when you are watering and allow the pot to thoroughly drain before you place it back into the outer (often decorative) pot. You may also water by placing a few ice cubes on the surface of the potting medium a couple of times each week, just be sure that the plant does not sit in water for more than a few hours.

Liquid fertilizer can be applied with the water every two or three applications — follow label directions for how to dilute the fertilizer. Plants may flower for many months, and individual flowers may last for several weeks.

Do not cut the flower stalk back after flowers fade because in a few months it may branch to form additional flowers.

Q. Is there anything special I need to do to my knock out roses before winter? Can I prune them now?

A. Knock out roses are extremely hardy to our zone and very little has to be done to prepare them for winter. A 2- to 3-inch deep layer of mulch around the base of the plant will help reduce any frost heaving. This happens when repeated freeze and thaw cycles occur during the winter pushing, especially newly plant, plants up from the soil.

Pruning can also be done now if needed. Knock out roses can tolerate severe pruning but generally we prune back the plant to a couple of feet in height, remove any crossing or rubbing canes and any canes that have been injured during the year.

Q. I planted new apple trees this year and I just noticed that rabbits have chew off the bark in places. Will they survive? What can I do?

A. When rabbits browse on the bark and the cambium wood directly below it, especially completely around the tree’s trunk, the damaged tree will be girdled. That means the flow of food from the tree’s foliage to the root system is disrupted and the tree will slowly die.

If the damage is isolated to only a few small places, allow the tree time to recover next year. It’s difficult to say exactly how much damage the tree can take and recover from fully so a wait-and-see approach is all we can do.

To protect trees from rabbit damage, use white spiral tree guards around the trunk. These allow for the trunk to expand in size as it grows.

Eventually the tree will out grow these type of guards. Another option is to use 1-inch galvanized steel mesh or hardware cloth around the trunk. The material should be a minimum of 24 inches tall and the bottom 2 to 3 inches should be buried or pinned to the ground with anchors.

Kelly R. Jackson is the Christian County Extension Agent for horticulture. He can be reached at 270-886-6328 or visit Christian County Horticulture online at www.christiancountyextension.com.

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