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Question: 281-5201
My soil is very hard. What can I use to plant bulbs? Gabriela, Cumberland, RI

Mort's Answer:
You can put the hose under pressure into the hole to soften your task. Allow the holes to dry out after the soil has been extricated. Your holes should be two and a half times the size of the bulbs. Fill the holes with a blend of 50% old soil and 50% coarse sand. If you plant in your old soil, there is a strong possibility that the bulbs will not do well.

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Question: 405-3410
Our wisteria has not bloomed since we planted four years ago. What can I do to get blooms? Arlene, Ledyard, CT

Mort's Answer:
Wisteria can take up to seven years before blooming. You can speed the process by adding a high middle number fertilizer like 5-10-10. Put a half dozen holes about 2 feet from the trunk that go done a foot. Place the fertilizer in the holes. Cutting the ends will help strengthen the ranches.

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Question: 410-3410
My Bird of Paradise plant is 40 inches tall and is 7 years old. It hasn't bloomed yet. What can I do? Julie, Waterford, CT

Mort's Answer:
You are taking too good care of your tropical plant. It needs to have the temperature drop in the winter to 40 for at least three weeks. Without the dormancy, you are unlikely to get the flower to set. In southern California and Florida this occurs naturally. As an indoor plant, we need to assimilate the natural environment as closely as possible to insure the plants vigor. I would also recommend that you change to a clay pot, if it isn?t in one. Use a two inch larger pot and add one-third coarse sand to the new soil. Within a month after the plant has taken hold in the new soil, you should add a tablespoon of bonemeal to the soil.

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Question: 447-3510
What can I use to drive away bees? Irene, Swansea, MA

Mort's Answer:
You can spray with Sevin. It only lasts 24 hours. So you may have to reapply to get the sons of bees.

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Question: 670-5211
How far back should I cut back my banana? William, New Orleans , LA

Mort's Answer:
Bananas will send out sucker shoots like the bromeliads. Bananas last only two years at the most. Cut back the banana to a foot, when a new side sucker starts to grow. When the new sucker is larger than a foot, then you can cut the old stump back to the crown within an inch of the new plant.

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Question: 671-5211
What is the optimum amount of tilling for a garden? Todd, Waterford, CT

Mort's Answer:
If possible, you should till as often as you can. Tilling helps incorporate the sub soil into the loam and increase the depth of the humus. If tilling is not possible after the initial turning in the spring and late fall, you can cultivate with a hoe or clam rake to keep the weeds from getting a start. Cultivation of the surface will create a barrier of loose soil over the more compact soil and actually prevent water evaporation from the soil. Besides creating a sense of humus, there are so many benefits to tilling that you need to till until you can not till any more.

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Question: 679-212
We had a great crop of watermelons this past summer, the best ever. However, no matter how long on the vine, even to rotting stage, the melons would not turn red. Can you tell me why the melons would not ripen? Plants were in two different beds. The results were the same. One bed was harvested seeds, one bed new package seeds, and then the compost pile. Cantaloupe did fine, as did the cucumbers. Bobby, Central AR

Mort's Answer:
Watermelons usually ripen in 100 days. Some varieties like Dixie Queen and Charleston Gray will mature in 85 to 90. The time difference could account for the sugars not appearing in the fruit but was on time in the other Cucumis. In zone 7, where you are , you should have had enough time this year. Ideal temps are 65 at night and 85 during he day. I understand that you had drought this year. Watermelons love humidity but not too much. This may have more to do with the fruit not ripening. Soils should contain plenty of organic matter to hold water and fertility. It is rare that watermelons ripen in zone 6 on time. I would try earlier watermelons next year.

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Question: 702-812
How do I use Aloe from my Aloe vera plant? Katie, Marquette, MI

Mort's Answer:
Simply snap off a leaf and rub the leaf onto a cut or rash. Older and thicker leaves will have more jell in each leave. Succulents store fluid inside their leaves and require less water except when they are in bloom.

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Question: 704-812
My one acre is visited by dogs. I also want to block a view . Is there a plant that can do both, keep out the dogs and block a view to 12 feet? How about holly? Glynn, Eclectic, AL

Mort's Answer:
English holly is the dark green holly that is popular at Christmas. It has dark red berries and very sharp spines on its leaves. American holly is a lot lighter in color but has the same growth pattern. New plants should be trimmed the first few years to keep a wide base. I. aquifolium has many varieties including white margined and gold mottled. Blue Princess has a blue cast. They are many other hybrids that will be hardy and have great color though out the year and grow to 15 feet.

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Question: 751-2012
We are planting strawberries this year. We have a lot of leaves but not a lot of flowers. Should we be concerned? I do not know what kind. Diane, Auburn, NB

Mort's Answer:
You may have a rather large variety. It also possible that you may have used a fertilizer with too much nitrogen or you may have too much manure. Sidedress the rows with a low nitrogen fertilizer or bone meal. This will encourage more flower growth.

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Question: 753-2112
Which tomatoes do you recommend planting in containers for patios? Donna, Palmer,IL

Mort's Answer:
Any tomatoes will do well in the sun, if the container is large enough and the soil is good quality. They are easier to maintain although they will require more water and feeding. You will need a minimum of ten inch pots for small early tomatoes like cherry and grape. Plum tomatoes and other medium size should be planted in 18 inch. Larger and later tomatoes like Big Boy should be in half whiskey barrels. You can now buy plastic faux whiskey barrel. Be sure to use good soil and liners, if you use wood. I do prefer clay.

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