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Past Questions and Answers | April 2013

Question #1

Question:  Can you grow black-eyed peas you buy in the bag from the grocery store?

  Joe Coleman, Devine, TX


ANSWER:   They do not have a high germination rate when you grow them from the grocery store. Most fruits and vegetables are treated to keep them from sprouting in the store. It is better to buy seeds meant for gardening to plant in your garden. However, if you are willing to plant the seeds and deal with the low germination rate, you can get some plants that way.

Question #2

Question:  I live in an apartment with plenty of sunlight in morning & afternoon. We would like to plant herbs but have limited space. Any suggestions?

  Hekima Jaiwa, Los Angeles, CA


ANSWER:   Herbs are perfectly suited to container gardening. You can grow them in pots or window planters and have a whole garden of herbs in very little space. Just use good soil in your pots, fertilize regularly, and enjoy.

Question #3

Question:  The person plowing my driveway this winter had an accident which involved smashing into a very well established Lilac bush that i have maintained for the last 30 years.

I was away at the time and they had to literally cut the entire bush to untangle it from their vehicle. They chain sawed it and left stumps about 3 feet long and really looks ugly. Any advice as to what I should do with it? Thanks for you help.

  Dario Sacramone, Tyler Hill, Pennsylvania


ANSWER:   It is possible the lilac will come back from the stumps this spring. It will take a while to regain its former glory, but wait and see if it comes back before digging out the stump.

Question #4

Question:  Can I use rubber backed carpet underlay on the veggie patch to block out weeds and prepare ground for cultivation. Surely rubber is organic?

  Andrew Driscall, Cygnet, Tasmania, Australia


ANSWER:   Rubber is organic, but it is not permeable. That means it will keep water from reaching your plants. Instead of rubber, use a permeable fabric sold for that purpose at nurseries or plant supply places.

Question #5

Question:  What variety of tomatoes are heat tolerant? Our night time temperature seldom goes below 73F.

  Joe Turley, Pace, Florida


ANSWER:   Temperatures of 73F should not adversely affect tomatoes. It is when the nighttime temperatures reach 90-95 that tomatoes refuse to set fruit. Buy your tomatoes from a reputable local nursery and they will be selling only what is adapted to your area.

Question #6

Question:  Should I fertilize a jade Plant. If so what should I use. What fertilizer should I use on a Hellebore Plant?

  Anne Haley, Bethany Beach, DE


ANSWER:   For a Jade plant, fertilize with a fertilizer formulated for houseplants in late winter to promote blooming.

For a Hellebore plant, use a good general purpose perennial fertilizer. Fertilize only when the plants are not thriving.

Question #7

Question:  We have 3 river birch trees next to the house and someone told me to kill them due to the aggressive root system. Please tell me more and thank you for your time.

  Tricia Armstrong, Jesup, GA


ANSWER:   River birch trees will grow to 90 feet high and spread 30 to 50 feet. This means there root systems will spread 30 to 50 feet out, as well. If the tree is too close to a structure, the roots can be invasive.

Question #8

Question:  I am starting a garden for the first time. I will be growing vegetables such as tomatoes, carrots, collards, beets and peppers. I am also starting a herb garden.

I am going to start the seeds inside but I don't know how many seeds to plant in each of the starter pots. How many seeds grow how many plants? Can you help me with this? Each seed packet is weighed in mg or g.

  Abby Gatchell, Eighty Four, PA


ANSWER:   You generally plant two to three seeds in each starter pot. When the seeds come up, pinch off the tops of the less vigorous seedlings and save only the most vigorous one. That way, you will have one strong plant per pot.

Question #9

Question:  The only place in our shady yard where we get enough sun to grow tomatoes is in the front yard. Any way to combine tomato plants into an attractive landscape?

  Jo Viola, Wintersville, Ohio


ANSWER:   Tomatoes can be planted with marigolds around them to both repel pests and beautify the garden area.

Question #10

Question:  I put my newly planted trays of peas outside and forgot to bring inside when it went down to 24 last night. I need to re-start, right? :-(

  Kendra J. Dowd, Arlington, MA


ANSWER:   Yes, your seeds froze and will not germinate now.

Question #11

Question:  I am new to gardening. What flowers will do well in the Texas heat but not in full sun. Would like to put some in pots on my porch. Gets sun in the morning only. Thanks

  Lora Stevens, Bandera, Texas


ANSWER:   Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service has a wonderful plant selection aid that allows you to enter the size and sun amount as well as a few other parameters and it will give you a list of flowers that meet those parameters. You can find this at

Question #12

Question:  What is happening to my cactus when there's growth out of the top that goes straight up? We have the Opuntia padal cactus. Thank you

  Kim Chapman, Baltimore, Maryland


ANSWER:   That growth will become a flower and eventually a fruit.

Question #13

Question:  We have walnut trees on our property and have been told we can not have a garden becasue of them. we want to have a garden what can I do so my crops will grow? I have plenty of space. Thank you for your help

  Gerald Green, Springfield Missouri


ANSWER:   Walnut trees produce a toxin that kills anything else trying to grow around them. You will have to garden in raised beds filled with topsoil from a reputable nursery or soil seller. This soil will not have the toxin in it and will grow your garden. Four 4X8 feet raised beds should feed a family of four all year.

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Unfortunately due to question volume not all questions can be answered, but an honest attempt will be made to get to them all.

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Rotate Certain Crops

Avoid planting potatoes and tomatoes where they grew last year. They carry the same diseases, so it's best to rotate them.

You'll have much healthier plants, and more successful crops.

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