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Past Questions and Answers | October 2011

Question #1

Question:  I have 3 dwarf crepe myrtles that have bloomed and have seed pods. will i be able to plant or start more crepe myrtles from these seeds?

  Dallas Kelsey, Owasso, Ok


ANSWER:   You can grow crepe myrtles from seed or rooted cuttings. Most people grow the trees from root cuttings. Since you have dwarf trees it is likely your seeds will produce trees that do not resemble the parents a great deal. However, if you wish to try, place the seeds in enough dirt to cover them and water in. Keep the soil moist but not squishy, and wait for the shoots to appear.

Question #2

Question:  How do you know when a blue hubbard squash is ready to harvest?

  Randy Bodily, Riverton, Utah


ANSWER:   Ripe squash is firm, hard, and heavy for its size. The shell is a dull color, not glossy. The stem will be dry the last inch or two. Cut the stem rather than pull the squash loose from the vine. Pulling is hard on the vine and also risks introducing a wound into the squash. This will greatly reduce the time it will keep before rotting. A squash without bruises or cuts in the skin can be kept for four to six months in a cool area.

Question #3

Question:  What causes the Yukon Gold potatoes to become "scabby", almost like a raised bumpy rash? I am able to scrape or peel off the scabs before cooking, but I wondered what is going wrong during the growing period. Thank you for your help.

  Marnie Lysaker, Eveleth, MN


ANSWER:   This sounds like common potato scab. It is spread when uncomposted barnyard manure is used as fertilizer. You need to grow the potatoes in a different place next time that has not been treated with the barnyard manure. Use only compost that has been hot enough to kill the pathogens. Do not rotate the potatoes with beets, as both can get this. You can also plant resistant varieties such as Russett Norkotah or Goldrush instead of Yukon Gold.

Question #4

Question:  I planted onions for the first time this year, from sets. Some of them put up seed stalks; I cut them off, but am not sure it if was the right thing to do. Any suggestions or tips for dealing with onion seed stalks?

  Darcy Seezaday, Duluth, MN


ANSWER:   Generally, onions bolt, or put up seed stalks, when they are left in the ground too long or it gets too hot. While it is tempting to leave onions in the ground until you want to eat them, it is best to harvest them when mature. Then you can cut the stalks off at about two inches long and let them dry a bit. The onions store well in a cool, dry place for quite a while. Once the onions have bolted, however, they are not good to eat. They become bitter and will rot in storage, spoiling the onions around them.

Question #5

Question:  My yellow crooked-neck squash plant is producing but when the squash is about two inches long, it shrivels up and falls off. What could be the problem?

  Ida Williams, Los Angeles, CA


ANSWER:   Lots of people are having this problem this year. Your squash is not pollinated so won.t mature. As European honey bees have declined, this problem happens more frequently. You have two choices. You can plant flowers bees love around your garden to bring them near, or you can hand pollinate your squash. This involves taking the male flowers and dabbing them on the female flowers so the pollen transfers. Each male flower will fertilize about five female flowers. The female flowers are the ones with the baby squash showing.

Question #6

Question:  Hi, we have a leopard tree in our apartment, it did really well in our old place when it got more sun, but now, in the new apartment there is no direct sun. Only a few branches have leaves and the top parts look dry. how do I revive this tree? should I trim/prune it and how do I go about that?

I cant find any information on this and I would really appreciate your help. We live in Cape Town, South Africa.

  Blyda de Waal, Cape Town, South Africa


ANSWER:   Plants have to have some sun. If the tree gets no direct sun, you will either have to move it or install a grow light over the tree, and quickly. The tree is dying and if you do not get it in the sun, or under a grow light, you will lose it. Once you move it, wait a month to see what leafs out. Prune the dead branches at that time. Do not fertilize for a few months to give the plant a chance to catch up before new growth really gets going.

Question #7

Question:  How do I correctly pinch back mums?

  Cynthia Thomas, Pikesville, MD


ANSWER:   When the mums are about 6 inches tall, pinch off the last half inch to inch of the stems. You want the pinched stem to end right above two leaves. This forces the growth of lateral branches in the mum. As those branches become six to eight inches long, pinch off one half inch to one inch from the end. This will result in a nice, compact plant covered in flowers.

Question #8

Question:  Hello . I purchased an heirloom apple tree this year (2011) ,and have no idea how to care for it. It now has black spots on leaves and looks like its dyeing ... ugh .help

  Kim Hillard, Goshen, OH


ANSWER:   There are several diseases that cause black spots on the leaves and other problems caused by nutrients or insects that can also cause a problem. I notice you live in Ohio. Ohio has a very good extension program. If you give your Extension agent a call, they can send you information on raising apples in your area. If you take a sample of the tree in that is approximately six inches to a foot long, with leaves attached, they can probably tell you what disease or other problem your tree has and how to fix it.

Question #9

Question:  I have a terrible problem with nut grass everywhere. Do not like to use Monsanto to get rid of it?? I am an amateur gardener. THANKS!!!

  Moira Bietz, Hemet, CA


ANSWER:   Nut grass, or nut sedge, grows in poorly drained soil. If you are irrigating the area where you are having trouble, reduce the water to one inch a week. Growing a crop that shades the nut sedge can also help, as the plant does not grow well in shade. The effective herbicides linuron and halosulfuron are probably only available with a license in California. That means that a lawn care company would have to treat your lawn with the chemical for you. Sedges are very challenging problems.

Question #10

Question:  My Dad tried growing a different variety of tomato ( he cant remember the variety) this year and all the dozen or so plants that he grew from seed ended up with the tomatoes looking like something out of a horror movie ! will try to enclose a photo.Can you tell me whether its a seed or weather related problem/ disease. Thank you.

Your form wont allow me to attach photo so i will try and describe looking from above it looks like a squashed up beefsteak tomato, but on the underside it has lots of little tomatoes growing out of the underside.

Thank you for my dad

  Peter Jackson


ANSWER:   Your fruit is catfaced. This usually occurs when cold weather damages the bud and the fruit develops unevenly. Sometimes heirloom fruit is more susceptible to problems than modern hybrid fruit. Setting the plant out near shelter -- a building or tree, that will help keep the area a bit warmer might help.

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