Question: I saw in your last newsletter that I shouldn't use treated wood for making raised beds. Unfortunately, I have older beds made from treated wood in my Denver, Colorado home. Should I rip them out?
Answer: I'd hate to have you rip out functioning raised beds, but the risk of chemicals leaching into the soil and eventually onto your vegetables is real. One solution besides ripping them out and starting over would be to dig out around the inside edge of the raised beds and line the wood with 4-mil thick plastic. The plastic will act as a barrier to reduce the amount of chemicals leaching into the soil. If you decide to continue growing in those beds, avoid root crops and spinach (they accumulate arsenic) and grow crops that set fruit high up in the air, such as tomatoes, instead. Heavy metals will be less likely to reach the fruits. Always wash thoroughly any crops harvested from the garden before eating.
Question: A few years ago I was given two apricot trees for my Southern California yard from a friend. I planted them in containers and although they are growing, they have yet to flower. What's wrong?
Answer: Although apricots love the California climate, in the southern part of the state you may not be getting enough winter chill hours for your trees to flower and fruit. Most apricot varieties need 4 to 6 weeks of winter temperatures between 32F and 45F in order to flower and fruit the next spring. If the varieties your friend gave you are not low- chill varieties (requiring fewer hours than above), they may not be best for your area. I would check with your friend to see if he knows the names of the varieties. Two good, low- chill apricot varieties for Southern California are 'Katy' and 'Gold Krist'. Check for nurseries carrying them in the Edible Resource Guide.
Planting apricots in containers is fine. Keep them well watered and fertilized. However, if you have room on the north side of your house, perhaps they would grow better in the ground. The north side is cooler and that may help them get the winter chilling they need. Just be sure they also get at least 6 hours of direct sun a day as well and the soil is well drained.