Q - Are the tops of rutabagas good to eat ?
A -- They are flavorful and nutritious if harvested while young. As they get older they become tough, fibrous and too strong to flavor.
Q - My azaleas are really sick. Some of them were like this last year and the rest are developing it now. Can you tell me what is wrong ?
A - The specimen leaves you sent me show serious injury from lace bugs - tiny insects (you need a magnigying glass to see them) that feed by sucking juice from the underside of the leaves. They multiply rapidly and can ruin a plant in one season. Spraying with Sevin or Malathion will provide control. Follows directions on the labels for mix and application.
Q - Can a white pine be kept small by pruning it every year ?
A -- Its growth can be restricted within certain limits. Some new growth must be left on the tree each year for it to survive, because it will shed two-year-old needles annually. Along about mid-June, when the new growth has developed to about its normal length and while the new stem wood is still succulent, cut off about half of it. Be certain to leave some needles on each cut stem, of the stem will die back to the trunk or branch from which it originates. Without needles, food cannot be produced, there will be no new ones, and the stem cannot survive without food.
Q - What are the growth requirements of yucca? One has been given to me .
A - It thrives in poor soil. Give it full sun and good drainage, and keep dead leaves cut off. It bears white flowers in clusters at the tip of the trunk.
Q - Is it possible to start asparagus from seed? I can't afford to buy the plants .
A - The best asparagus plants are often the ones grown from seed. The disadvantage is it takes longer to get a crop - three years instead of the two it takes when you start from roots. Choose a variety like Mary Washington that is resistent to a disease called asparagus rust. Large and stores and most seed catalogues offer asparagus seed.
Q - I was given an arrangement of antheriums for Christmas. It is a beautiful, beautiful flower. Can they be grown in the home with any success ?
The anturium (flamingo flower) comes from South America. The average rainfall in Columbia, where most kinds originate, is 390 inches a year. The plant requires so saturated an atmosphere that it's almost impossible to grow it in the home.
Q - Every year my Irish potatoes go to vine, no potatoes. How do I get them to bear ?
A - Too much nitrogen fertilizer or too much shade could cause good vine growth but no potatoes. They won't produce well in heavey clay soil, but then the vines would do poorly also.
Q - I have a yew. It had about 40 red berries year before last, and several hundred last year. I don't know where the male pollen coming from. I've been told the berries are poisonous, is it true ?
A - There are many varieties or cultivars of the English yew. They are dioecious - that is, plants are either male or female - but there is record of female plant sometimes bearing a few male (staminate) flowers and of male plant having a few female (pistillate) flowers. The bark, leaves and seeds of English and Japanese yews are considered poisonous, while the red pulp of the berries seems to be harmless.
Q - Is it O.K. to prune our wisteria, and if so when's the best time to do it ?
A - A Chinese wisteria old enough to bloom can be pruned severely and blooms as well as or even better than if left unpruned. The best time to prune is immediately after it finishes blooming in the spring. The Japanese wisteria blooms better if left unpruned.
Q - We have a lot of clumps of wild onions in our lawn, have tried digging them out but they come right back again. Is there a way to kill them ?
A - They most likely are wild garlic, which produces many little bulblets, while the wild onion does not. An application of 2,4-D (weed-killing chemical) in the spring and the fall will kill the tops and prevent food production. If continued for three or four years the bulblets eventually die.
Q - Is it O.K. to use lawn clippings in my compost plie ?
A - Grass clippins are good for the compost pile; they also make a good mulch for vegetables or shrubs. When used in quantity, however, they tend to mat and shed water. To prevent this, mix them half-and-half with oak leaves. Do not use maple leaves because they may mat as badly as grass clippings.
Q - I have tried over and over again to grow the Franklin tree from seeds without success. Can you tell me how to do it ?
A - Both seed and cuttings of the Franklin tree (Franklina alatamaha) will grow in acid soil. Make a mixture of acide peat and good garden soil, 50-50, and you'be in business. The best time to take cuttings is in the fall. They can be rooted in a cold-frame or indoors on a windowsill.