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Q&A

By Doc and Katy AbrahamSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / September 18, 1984



Q. Last spring we set out several hybrid tea roses that bloomed in late June. To our surprise, they are again blooming, but in greater profusion. We enjoy giving blooms to friends and neighbors, but sometimes they wilt soon after they are arranged in a vase. Why?

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Healthy rose bushes often put on a greater show in late summer and early fall as temperatures become cooler. Rose blooms may wilt after picking because air gets into the cells at the end of the stems and prevents them from taking up water.

When cutting blooms, a good trick is to carry along a container with warm water (75 to 80 degrees F.), five or six inches deep, and stand the roses in it immediately after cutting. Before arranging, put the container in a cool place for about an hour so the stems can fill up with water. Also, cut the blooms in the early morning or in the evening, but never during the heat of the day.

Q. I have always had a compost pile in our backyard, but we now have moved closer to the city with a much smaller backyard. I'm doing intensive gardening and miss the compost pile. Even if I fenced it in, it would be visible to our neighbors. Eventually we will plant a small hedge to hide it, but in the meantime, is there any way, under these conditions, that I can have a compost pile?

You could have garden-can composters or you could simply dig a pit about three cubic feet deep and put a wooden or metal cover, with vent holes, over it.

A generous amount of leaves or shredded papers thrown on the pile every few days will keep it from giving off any odor. A covering of burlap, which can be lifted off each time you add scraps, grass, and so forth, will help it break down faster.

You can prepare two or three plastic garbage cans by drilling three or four holes in the bottom near the center. Set the can on two cement blocks and put a saucer under the holes to catch the liquid if you have the can inside. In the lawn, a saucer may not be necessary. You can put a handful of red worms or earthworms into the garbage-can composter to help disintegrate the ''garbage.'' (Leaves and shredded papers keep this from becoming smelly, also.)

Before putting any garbage in the cans, add a three- or four-inch layer of soil and shredded leaves. If you live in an area of prolonged cold, set the cans where they won't freeze.

Freezing stops the decomposition process. In the pit the heat is confined. You'd be surprised how hot it gets inside a compost pile.

If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115.