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Past Questions and Answers | February 2015

Question #1

Question:  Why do the flowers on my Zilla narcissi forced in water last less than two days?

  Jan Green, BC


ANSWER:   I cannot locate any plant with that scientific name. However, some plants have flowers that bloom one day and fade the next, so this may be one of those plants.

Question #2

Question:  I think I have acidic earth ,the ground is very clay prone and as it has rained has a rotting smell to it some plants look as thought you set fire to them ,I have mixed some gypsum into the earth but is there something else I shoud do.

  Alwyn Noseda, Gold Coast, Queensland


ANSWER:   The first thing to do is have a soil test to know for sure whether your soil is acidic. If it is, adding agricultural lime rather than gypsum will neutralize the acidity, but it takes time for this to occur, usually several months.

Question #3

Question:  What perennials are best suited for shaded area approximately 14x14ft in an entrance way area in my zone

  Darlene Montgomery, Port Saint Lucie, Florida


ANSWER:   You appear to be in zone 10a. Some perennials for shade in your area would be Dolce Coral Bells (Heuchera hybrid), Diamond Frost Euphorbia, Pineapple Lily (Eucomis autumnalis), and 'Honorine Jobert' Japanese Anemone (Anemone x hybrida). Nurseries that carry these plants should be able to suggest other shade loving plants in your zone.

Question #4

Question:  My friend planted a much needed Red Texas Oak tree in my front yard. I watered it as I was told but now the leaves are brown and haven't dropped off . Is my tree dead?

  Patsy Young, Lockhart, Texas


ANSWER:   No, it is winter and the leaves just have not dropped yet. They will when spring comes and the new foliage starts to grow.

Question #5

Question:  I have two Cordylines. They get the afternoon sun, they were growing fine until the leaves are starting to go brown. The plant seem dry but I water it alot. Bunnings said I over water it. I am confused.

  Linda Hendrix, Rosebud, VIC


ANSWER:   Generally, the afternoon sun is too hot for shade loving plants. It burns their leaves and they turn brown. The plants should be in a place where they get morning sun and afternoon shade, or dappled shade all day. Also, these plants are drought tolerant so you should only water when the soil is dry or you will over water them.

Question #6

Question:  Every year my cucumbers get destroyed by aphids. Insecticidal soap works to an extent. I can I prevent them from coming in first place?

  Phillip Ontario, California


ANSWER:   You can plant a combination of a trap crop around your cucumbers. Nasturtiums are very good as a trap crop for aphids. Plant them around and among your cucumbers to draw the aphids away. When they are covered with aphids, pull them and destroy them, then plant new nasturtium plants in their place. Repeat as needed.

Question #7

Question:  How to trim a Papaya tree? What phase of Moon is best to do this, please?

  Tracey Worth, Honolulu, Hawaii


ANSWER:   Papaya trees are not generally trimmed because the fruit comes from the tip of the main branch. You can trim off broken or diseased branches and sprouts around the base of the tree. If the main tip is damaged, cut it back by one third. Sprouts will emerge at its base. Take the strongest of these and make it the new main tip, cutting all others back to the trunk. One prunes during the waning and descending phase of the moon.

Question #8

Question:  Last spring I went overboard with compost. It was so thick that the first time I tried to roto till my 20'x25" garden with a large roto tiller it only turned the compost not any of the actual dirt of the garden. After letting it settle the 2nd roto tilling was more successful. My question is does the compost continue to help(being that much and not used)and would it be useful to solarize this summer with clear plastic as I have a lot of mushrooms popping up from the compost and I suspect some bugs from the compost. If so how long do I need to keep the soil covered if solarizing in july or august in southern cal near disneyland. Thank you in advance for info you can supply. Bill

  Bill Parchman, Garden Grove, CA 92840


ANSWER:   Sterilizing the compost reduces much of its value to your plants. It would be better to till the compost completely in the dirt by tilling to a depth of twelve inches, mixing the compost in the soil. However, to answer you question, if you cover it with clear plastic and weight down the edges, it will take approximately two summer months to sterilize your plot.

Speaking of those mushrooms, though: While they are okay in the compost, you may have issues with them popping up in your yard. If so, take a look at our piece on how to get rid of mushrooms for tips to eradicate them entirely!

Question #9

Question:  How do I prune my raspberry and blackberry plants

  Katherine Campbell, London, United Kingdom


ANSWER:   Blackberry plants should be pruned right after they stop fruiting. Cut off the canes that fruited and leave the new canes. These will fruit the next year. Also remove any suckers at the base of your plants to keep the blackberries from taking over.

Raspberry plants should be pruned in late winter/early spring before bud break. Prune all canes that has had fruit. Prune all dead, diseased, or broken canes. Prune suckers. Prune to the healthiest 4 or 5 canes per foot along the row.

Question #10

Question:  What is the best moss to grow indoors where I live in new mexico?

  Austin Moore, Bloomfield, New Mexico


ANSWER:   The best moss to grow indoors is the moss that naturally grows on rocks, trees, stumps, and soil in your area. Gently peel it off the surface it is growing on and replant in a terrarium in your house. Never gather moss from public areas or private ones without permission. Use saturated sand as the first layer of soil, then cover with pine needles or rotten bark before placing the moss on it. Keep moist with daily misting.

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Keep Some Birds Away

When you have worked very hard to grow your grapes, fruits and vegetables, it's hard to not be bothered when birds come in and take the best of everything!

A few tricks that work well are: netting over grapes, mylar strips tied to branches of your fruit trees, even blow up owls work.

If you use a blow up owl, or scarecrow, keep in mind to move them every few days so they appear to "move." Othewise the birds get wise fast and they are no good.

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