Gardener to Gardener

Hanging Baskets: Jewelry for the Garden


I've always thought of hanging baskets as the costume jewelry of the gardening world. They add the finishing touch to your garden after the irrigation has been installed and the mulch has been laid. And like any good accessory, they should always be kept looking shiny and new....

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Herb Gardening in Containers


Fresh herbs usually provide the best flavor. An easy way to keep fresh herbs handy for cooking is to grow them in containers...

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Vacation-Proof Your Container Plants


Ahh, vacation time! You're looking forward to a relaxing week lying on the beach or sightseeing, shopping, and dining out. You've stopped your mail and arranged for the dog's stay at the kennel. Everything's set, right? But wait -- what about all your plants growing in containers...

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Vegetable Gardening Q & A

Bitter Cucumbers
Q: My cucumbers looked okay when I harvested them, but they tasted very bitter. What went wrong?

A: Many varieties of cucumbers naturally contain a bitter compound called cucurbitacin. When plants are stressed, they produce more of this compound, resulting in overly bitter cukes. Stresses such as heat, drought, too cool temperatures, fluctuating soil moisture, low fertility, and diseased vines can all result in bitter cukes. Fruits harvested toward the end of the season from unhealthy plants are most likely to taste bitter. Cukes picked when they are overripe may also pucker your taste buds.

Some of the newer varieties that are touted as "burpless" have been bred to have little or no cucurbitacin. To prevent bitterness, water deeply and use mulch to conserve soil moisture. Sidedress vines with a balanced fertilizer about a month after planting.

Bitter cucumbers can sometimes be salvaged by cutting off the stem end (where the bitterness accumulates) and peeling the fruit. But if the bitterness is throughout the cuke, discard it. Even pickling won't help a bitter cucumber.

Powdery Mildew on Squash
Q: The leaves of my squash plants always become covered with a powdery white coating. How can I prevent this?

A: Powdery mildew is a fungus disease that is a common affliction on summer squash, especially under warm, humid conditions. Severe infections may weaken plants and reduce yields, but will rarely kill the plant outright. Humid conditions promote this disease, so make sure plants have good air circulation around them. Choose resistant varieties, if possible. Spraying plants with a mixture of one part milk to nine parts water may slow the spread of the disease. Control mild to moderate infections with summer weight horticultural oil sprays, following label instructions and precautions.

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