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Past Questions and Answers | June 2006

This month's questions concern:

Growing plums from pits
Problems growing peas
Getting rid of gophers
Problems with deer and rabbits
Correct watering times
Getting rid of grass weeds

Please scroll down to read each one.

Question #1:  Growing Plums

Question:  How do you grow plums from a plum pit?

 Linda Downhour, Dunnellon, FL


ANSWER:  Plums, like many fruit trees, are normally propagated by grafting known varieties onto a vigorous rootstock. You can grow them from seed, but they will not be true to type. Knowing that, you should still try this out, because you might produce a really neat new plum tree.

First you want to clean all the fleshy, pulp from around the pit. Do this with water. After it's clean, I always drop the seed into a bucket of water to see if it floats or sinks. If it floats, the seed probably is not viable. If it sinks, it is good and you can continue with the next steps.

Most deciduous, fleshy, fruits require some chilling to break the dormancy and penetrate the thick seed coat. After you clean the seed, put it in a zip-lock bag with a mix of slightly moist peat moss or vermiculate and sand.

Put the pit in the mixture and place in the refrigerator, about 41 degrees F, or 5 degrees C, for about 6 - 8 weeks. Watch the seed closely through the sides of the unopened bag. If it starts to break dormancy before 6 to 8 weeks, that's ok, but you need to plant it immediately.

Depending upon the variety, plums usually need warm days with some chilling. If it is a Japanese variety, it will require less chilling.

Lastly, if the plum is not a self-fertilizing variety, you will need to plant some other plums nearby to pollinate it so you can enjoy its fruit.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

Question #2:  Burned Peas

Question:  My peas are getting eaten in my garden. I put down earwig dust, what else could it be? My peas are growing OK, but the tops of them are brown and eaten looking and almost crispy looking. Some are dying but some have new growth?

Loretta Watkins, Atascadero, CA


ANSWER:  It sounds more like a heat or scortching problem, than an insect or disease problem. Peas are essentially a cool weather crop. They like it in the 60 to 70 degree range.

They are fine if you can plant them early enough in the spring so they can get some growth before any real high tempertures hit. Shade cloth may be an option for you.

If you do end up planting late in the season again, you may want to plant in large blocks of 3 feet by 4 feet instead of in a single row. Blocks of peas crowd together keeping the sun from the soil and their roots cooler.

Question #3:  Those Darn Gophers!

Question:  When we went into our garden yesterday, the lagest (of course) tomato plant was a wilted mini plant, and when we pulled it up, gophers had eaten all the roots and good part of its stem. Is there any simple way to keep these little folks away from the plants?

 Kay Remmey, Brownsville, OR


ANSWER:  Yes! Try this out. Go get a glass bottle, like a rootbeer bottle or a glass bottle of beer. Empty the contents of the bottle. Then bury the bottle in the soil. Get yourself one of those "Whirlygigs." Put the end of the Whirlygig in the bottle. When it spins, it rattles around in the glass bottle and drives the gophers away.

Of course there are always traps and bait, but try this. They'll just go over to your neighbors house!

Question #4:  Pesky Deer and Rabbits

Question:  Please tell me how to keep deer and rabbits from consuming my garden!

 Colleen Fischer


ANSWER:  There are several things you can do, it all depends upon what you are willing to do! Your first option is to surround your garden with wire fencing. For deer, the fence needs be 8 feet high. For rabbits and raccoons, you can individually put wire around your plants up to 3 feet high, and 1 feet below the soil level.

If you don't want to bother with fencing, you can try repellents, but those are temporary. The best I have tried so far is the coyote and wolf urine. It's available online, you put it on cotton balls, and then you place the cotton balls around your garden perimeter. This works well, but you need to replace the cotton balls few weeks.

Unfortunately, deer and rabbits are tenacious, but with concerted efforts, you can keep them out.

Question #5:  When to Water

Question:  This is my very first garden! Just thought I would share that information before asking my question. Is it going to help my vegetable garden to water plants after the sun sets? The recommended watering time would be?

 Cindy Smith, Waynesboro, VA


ANSWER:  First of all, I think it's great you have started your first garden! Good for you.

Secondly, you should always water in the morning. When plants get wet late in the day, they sit with water on them all night, and it sets them up for all kinds of diseases. They can mold, mildew, and rust, just to name a few things.

So water in the morning. That way the plant's leaves will dry out during the day, but will still have the needed moisture in the soil to withstand the stresses and heat of the day.

I hope this helps. Feel free to ask other questions if need be!

Question #6:  Grass Growing

Question:  How do I get grass out of my garden? I seem to grow grass better!

 Philip Ferneau, Riverton, KS


ANSWER:  I know how you feel! Grass and weeds are effortless to grow, but can be so difficult to get rid of.

Since you are working in your garden and around edible crops I would use some of the better organic weed and grass killers that are out on the market now. One I like is called Finale. It is fast acting and you can plant in the area four days after application.

Another good one is Scythe. This kills grasses, broadleaf weeds, as well as mosses and lichens. Lastly there is a product called Weed-A-Tak. It kills grasses and broadleaf weeds. It can be used in the garden safely up to the day of harvest.

Any of the above will help you get the upper hand with your grass problem.

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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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Plant Dwarf Varities

If you love fruit tress like apples, peaches, pears and plums, but don't have the room, plant a dwarf variety.

Most grow from 3 feet to 8 feet. They product tons of fruit and are easier to harvest because they are low to the ground.

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