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Past Questions and Answers | April 2015

Question #1

Question:  I live in area tropical .I am growing some strawberries but the fruit is small. What is the best growing conditions for them to be more productive?

  Inese Lewis, Bridgetown Barbados


ANSWER:   Strawberries come in two types of plants. Everbearing plants have strawberries all spring and summer long, while June bearing strawberries produce most of their berries in late May, June, and early July. In places where it gets hot in the summer, the everbearing berries have small fruit and don't produce well. Try a June bearing variety called Chandler for your plants and you should have better sized fruit.

Question #2

Question:  Hello. I live in Glen Forest with many trees and filtered shade with some bright afternoon sun. In 2009, a landscaper put in 12 Indian hawthorn (among encore azaleas, golden mops, loropetalum, and blue rug juniper in an area between the deck & retaining wall) and along the back of the house. Most are half dead looking and have leaf spot. During installation, they put fill dirt and the spacing was good for air flow. Hardwood mulch was put on the ground all around the plants by them and later us in subsequent years. I guess they need to be replaced? What dwarf evergreen would be a good replacement? Where to purchase. Price idea? I can send pictures if helpful. Thanks!

  Carol Baverstock, Raleigh, NC


ANSWER:   If they are all dying, are you watering them an inch a week? They would not all be dying at once unless something in the environment was killing them. That needs to be addressed before replacing them. As far as dwarf evergreens, there are too many to mention here, and you don't say how tall a dwarf you are looking for. Your local nursery will have shrubs that do well in your area.

Question #3

Question:  How do you stake your tomatoes? I used stakes last year but they got so big they fell over. Are cages better or a trellis? I love your website and thanks so much for down to earth information. ( No pun intended)

  Jean Diemer, Terre Haute, Indiana


ANSWER:   Determinant tomatoes grow well in cages as they are more compact than indeterminate tomatoes. These are vines and will grow 8 to 10 feet tall if allowed to. A trellis would be a good option for them.

Question #4

Question:  You mentioned adding a rich compost to your beds each year before planting. What do you consider a good mixture of compost to be added? Do you ever add horse manure that has aged as part of the compost? I have been getting bags of used coffeegrounds from a local coffee store and adding them also to my beds? Good or bad? Thanks again. Jean

  Jean Diemer, Terre Haute, Indiana


ANSWER:   Coffee grounds will acidify the soil. If you wish to do that, then use them. Horse manure should be composted (along with the coffee grounds) before being used. Compost is started by layering things like coffee grounds, straw, and leaves alternating with grass clippings, kitchen scraps (no meat, bones, or fat), manure, and other green things. It takes several months to compost completely. Then it is ready to put on the ground around your plants.

Question #5

Question:  I had seven tomato plants this summer and the crop was only 14 tomatoes - a disaster - when I lifted the plants there was not a lot of root - we have cold nights here and very warm windy days - I would appreciate some help - just before planting I topped up the veggie patch with mushroom compost.QQQ

  Gina Cuthbert, Cape Town, South Africa


ANSWER:   It could be that you over fertilized the tomato plants by using the mushroom compost and they spent all their energy growing vegetation instead of producing tomatoes. I would dial back the amount of compost you use in your tomato patch to one inch, tilled into the top six inches of the soil. That will give the tomatoes enough nutrients to grow but not so much that they do nothing but grow.

Question #6

Question:  How do you control white flies? Those tiny, white flying bugs that scatter all in the air and all over your garden when you tap a plant that they are on. Every year they infest my kale and collards regardless of where I plant in the garden. These city bugs laugh at insecticidal soaps and red-pepper mixes and I did not want to use the hard stuff-Ortho or Round up and that only last a few days. Thanks for any assistance.

  Stacie Rigby, Baltimore, Maryland


ANSWER:   Bad news: there are no recommended pesticides for white flies except insecticidal soap. When you use the soap, you must be careful to coat all surfaces of the plant, including the underside of each leaf and the place where the leaf meets the stem. The bottom leaves are usually the hardest to reach, but it is critical they be treated. That is the only way to get rid of white flies.

Question #7

Question:  how do you get rid od pincherbugs. Everytime I move pots in my yard, there are many of the under and they quickly hide again. they eat the roses and make holes in all plants leaves.

  Dorama Montoya, Alta Loma, California


ANSWER:   You can use Sevin dust to kill the pincherbugs, or earwigs. It won't hurt your plants and will kill the bugs.

Question #8

Question:  I am growing Wax Beans in a homemade hot house in my basement. Plants are healthy looking and up about 3 inches. Some new growth leaves seem to be really light green. Temp is hovering at 85 degrees. What am I doing wrong?

  Marion White, Ferdinand, IN


ANSWER:   Have you checked the soil nutrients lately? Really light green leaves generally mean they are not getting all the nutrients they need. Do you fertilize them with a water soluble fertilizer every two weeks or so? Remember that they are growing in a small amount of soil and the nutrients quickly become exhausted unless they are replaced by you.

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Low Light House Plants

Many plants thrive on very little light, making them ideal for those parts of your house that are not well lit.

A couple good choices for areas without lots of light are:

Chinese Evergreen

For more information about this, watch our video on low light houseplants in the video tips section!

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