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Past Questions and Answers | March 2013

Question #1

Question:  I have gophers, real bad and I have tried poison, gum, urine, gadgets that hum and a pest control comp. I also have a dog, they have managed to make my yard so unstable 2 of my trees have fallen down. Help what can I do?? Please help.

  Marina Temp, Lake Elsinore, CA


ANSWER:   Placing pincher type traps in the gopher runs is the most effective way to kill gophers without harming anything else in the environment. You dig up a small place in the burrow, place the pincher trap in there, then cover it up with dirt. When the gopher digs through the obstruction, he gets caught in the trap and dies. You simply empty the trap and reset it elsewhere in the run.

Question #2

Question:  what height will a gooseberry grow to when trained as a cordon?

  David Thompson, Chesterfield, Derbyshire


ANSWER:   A gooseberry will grow to be four to six feet tall when trained as a cordon.

Question #3

Question:  We discovered that our raised garden area is within 5 feet of our neighbors Walnut tree. What vegetables can we plant that will be successful?

  Deb Hain, Galloway, Ohio


ANSWER:   Does the walnut tree shade the raised bed? If so, you won.t be able to grow anything successfully because vegetables require full sun to grow properly. If you are worried about the toxins the walnut tree produces in the soil, the fact that you have put new soil in your raised bed should keep the toxins from causing a problem. You can grow anything in your raised bed that will grow in your area as long as you have full sun.

Question #4

Question:  How and when does a person prune a custard apple tree. Our tree is about 7 years old.

  Manny Prag, Cape Town, Western Cape


ANSWER:   The tree should have been trained from the time you planted it. However, you prune trees in the winter when they are dormant. It will take several years to turn a neglected tree into a good fruit producer. First, prune all the suckers that grow below the grafting knot. Cut all dead, diseased, or damaged limbs off. Then select three or four good branches to be the main branches for your tree. You want to space these out so that they are evenly distributed around the diameter of the tree. Cut off the other branches so that there is space for adequate airflow around the branches that are left. Trim all downward growing branches and twigs. Cut limbs that have a crotch angle of less than 30 degrees. These are waterspouts and will crowd the good branches. Shaded interior branches should be cut, as should branches that rub on the good branches. Each year, cut the suckers, watersprouts, and any downward growing branches back. In a few years, your tree will bear fruit that are much larger and better than it does now.

Question #5

Question:  Please suggest the hardiest (if possible flowering) perennials to plant under and close to a crimson maple tree

  Susan Guitard, Brampton, Ontario


ANSWER:   What you are looking for is shade loving plants. Most shade plants do not have pretty, bright flowers. Instead, you strive for interesting textures and shapes in your plants. Hostas make a good choice for under trees. They come in many different varieties and can be used like a palette to create an attractive garden.

Question #6

Question:  What is the best thing to get rid of unwanted grass in a new garden area and when is it best implemented.

  Skip Parker, Henderson, TN


ANSWER:   Roundup is the best way to kill grass in a new garden area. It is a herbicide with no residual effect, so it won.t cause you problems when you plant your vegetables. Roundup works best when the soil temperature is over 60 degrees F. You spray the grass with it then wait two weeks and spray the grass again. After two more weeks, the grass will be totally dead and can be tilled under as extra organic matter in your garden.

Question #7

Question:  One of Preens products for pre-emergent flower garden weed controll is said to be organic. What do think about Preen and Miracle Grow liquid flower garden fertilizer?

  Russ Watkins, Winchester, VA


ANSWER:   The organic pre-emergent you refer to is 100% corn gluten. Corn gluten is a perfectly respectable pre-emergent. However, you cannot plant flower seeds and expect them to come up if you use it. You will have to use all transplants. Miracle Grow liquid flower garden fertilizer is also a perfectly respectable product, but is not organic.

Question #8

Question:  I need a slug killer. The problem is we have tortoises which roam the garden eating plants and grass. Can you please recommend anything ?

  Margaret Audin, Mansfield Woodhouse, England


ANSWER:   First, remove any places slugs can hide. Old leaves, wood, rocks, and other things that shelter slugs during the day should be removed from the garden. Second, the old beer baiting trick works well without hurting any other animals. Place a tuna can full of beer in a hole with the sides of the tuna can slightly below ground level. The slugs smell the beer, try to get into the can, fall in and drown. You simply remove the dead slugs each morning and rebait the traps. There is a safer slug bait than the old copper bait which kills things like dogs and cats as well as slugs. It is an iron based bait and is safer, but not totally safe. It is sold as Sluggo or Escar-go in the United States but I am not sure what trade names it is sold under in the UK. If you are worried about your tortoises, the beer baited traps are the safest thing to use.

Question #9

Question:  I have a friend that places bell wire, for the copper, next to the roots of his tomato plants. He says that this is what makes his tomatoes taste sweeter than normal. Does this really help the sweetness of the tomato?

No, it does not. The copper wire will help plants where the soil is deficient in copper, but does not affect the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Is it a good idea to grow tomatoes inside with a grow light, or is outside or a greenhouse better for growth and production?

  Theresa Bowers


ANSWER:   As far as I know, there is no difference between tomatoes grown inside with a grow light and those grown outside. However, if you grow the tomatoes inside, you will have to help them pollinate themselves. From a production standpoint, then, growing tomatoes outside is easier and less time consuming.

Question #10

Question:  I want to make a hosta bed under my 20 foot tall river birch tree. I worry about disturbing the roots and damaging the tree.It is on the east side of my house and would get plenty of shade. Any suggestions?

  Randa Jones, Tonkawa, Oklahoma


ANSWER:   You will have to hand till the soil and avoid the roots of the tree to make your bed. If you do that, you will not damage the tree at all.

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If you can, it is always best to water early in the morning. This allows the plant's leaves and flowers to dry off as the day warms up.

If you water at night, the plant stays wet for hours in the cool, which are prime conditions for fungi and other problems to set in.

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