Q: We have a sunny windowsill and I'd like to grow soem cherry tomatoes there. Which are the best kinds to plant now?
A: Sweet 100 is a good one. It starts to bear early, the tomatoes are about an inch in diameter, quite sweet, very high in vitamin C, and are produced in quantities over a long period of time.
Pixie Hybrid is another good one. Plants grow 14 to 18 inches tall and bear heavy yields of bright, scarlet tomatoes about the size of a billiard ball. The tomatoes usually ripen 52 days after planting (plants) and are delicious.
Small Fry is a good one also. Its 40-inch vines bear many fine little tomatoes of mild, pleasant flavor that ripen very early.
Q: Several months ago you said there is a very good chance that the American chestnut can be restored. Is progress being made?
A: In France. European chestnut trees infested and dying because of fungus disease started to make a comeback. Studies showed a new and weaker strain of the fungus was inhibiting growth of the one that was doing the damage. Dr. Richard A. Jaynes, geneticist, Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, imported the new strain and found it worked on the American chestnut also. Later the disease-curing strain was found in the United States.
The problem now is: Will the wind spread the new strain?Every effort is being made in several states to make this determination, and if it will not, is there an alternative? Of course, man can do it to each tree individually but that would be quite a job if the chestnut tree forests are to be restored.
Q: Is it practical to try to grow carrots in a 6-inch pot on my windowsill?
A: The varieties Short'n Seet and Little Finger can be grown in 6-inch pots. Both are very good eating. As with most container plantings, a lightweight soil mix is important. The tops could easily break off if planted in heavy soil.
Q: I want to use some of the soil from my garden to make a potting mix for the house plants. Isn't there an easy way to get rid of weed seed that may be in the soil?
A: Weed seed can be destroyed by pasturizing the soil in your oven. Put the soil, evenly, in a glass or metal baking dish so the depth does not exceed four inches. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Put a meat or candy thermometer through the soil in the center of the soil. Set the oven at 180 to 200 degrees F. and heat the soil 30 minutes after the soil temperature reaches 180 degrees.
Allow the soil to cool and you have clean soil ready for use.
The heat treatment also will get rid of disease-causing fungi that might be in the soil. After pasturizing, the soil won't stay clean if you recontaminate it by using pots or tools that are dirty. These can be disinfected by cleaning in hot water at 160 degrees F. for 30 minutes.
Q: What is a good turnip variety to plant for greens?
A: Shogoin is considered one of the best for foliage. It is quick-growing, 30 days to picking time, tops are 18 to 20 inches tall, plentiful, tender and mild. Purple Top White globe and Just Right Hybrid are preferred if you want greens and turnips both.
Q: Can I get maple syrup from my silver maple trees?
A: All maple species which include box elder produce a sap from which syrup can be made. The sugar maple yields the largest amount of syrup per gallon of sap. It usually takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup.
To take sap, wait until daytime temperatures are around 41 degrees F. and night temperatures around 25. Bore a 7/16 inch hole, slightly slanted upward, about four feet above ground level, and insert a plastic or metal tube. The depth of the hole should be about three inches.
Maple syrup is made by boiling down the sap in an evaporator at a temperature of 7 degrees above the boiling point of water, 219 degrees F.
Q: What kind of vegetables would you grow in pots on the patio?
A: Tomatoes (particularly the small kinds), peppers and eggplants are especially attractive for growing in pots and are very adaptive. Or you can grow leaf lettuce, red swiss chard, cucumbers, chives and parsley.
Q: Last year my carrots were no good at all. They finally came up but the roots looked funny. Is there a brand of seed that I can depend on to get good carrots?
A: The trouble probably was due to clay soil. Any attempt to grow carrots on heavy clay soils usually results in forked, rough-looking roots.
Carrots are often deformed or stunted when the soil crusts over before the seed germinate. to eliminate this problem, mix some radish seed with your carrot seed when sowing. The rapidly germinating radishes will break up the crust and allow the carrots to develop. Remove radishes when they begin to crowd the new carrot plants.
Q: I bought different kinds of seeds for trees and there were no planting instructions on the packages. Many seeds did not come up and many that did toppled over after reaching one inch. Is there a book in existence which gives instructions on treatment of seeds for best results? I am interested most in Colorado blue spruce, white pine, hemlock, cedar, mugho pine and Norfolk Island pine.
A. There is a very good book, "Seeds of Woody Plants in the United STates," Agricultural Handbook No. 450, prepared by the Forest Service, which can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402 for $13.60.
Complete instructions for handling the seed are in the 883-page book. For example, white pine (Pinus strobus). For most pines, high seed viability can be maintained for long periods (up to 30 years for many kinds) with proper storage. The recommended cold stratification period for both fresh seed and stored seed is 60 days at a temperature between 33 and 41 degrees F.
In most large nurseries the soil is fumigated in the fall or spring before sowing to control soil-borne diseases, insects, nematodes and weed seeds. At the time of sowing, seed are covered with 1/8 to 3/4 inch of soil, sand or mulch.
Germination for most species may occur 10 to 50 days after spring sowing but may not occur until several months or a year after sowing.
Q. I have a 15-year-old snake plant (Sansevieria) nearly 3 feet tall.Many of the leaves are cracked or broken and have partially turned brown. Is it possible to make this plant into a nice looking plant again by cutting it back?
A. Your best bet is to divide the plant. The best time to do it is in early spring.
Remove the plant from its pot, divide the rhizome into several sections --leaves -- and plant them. This will result in new shoots coming up from the roots. As the new shoots develop, the old leaves can be cut back or removed entirely.
You can also get new plants by taking a leaf and cutting it into four-inch sections and planting each one in a mixture of sand and peat (one part peat and two parts sand). Be careful to plant the bottom end of cutting, not the top, because the top end will not develop roots.
Q: I've tried repeatedly to grow parsley from seed with no luck. What is the secret of getting them to sprout?
A: Parsley seed are slow to germinate so be patient with them. Plant the seed indoors in Jiffy-7 pots (available at garden centers), keep the soil moist, and when they sprout, plant pot and all outdoors, when the weather gets warm enough.