Ask the gardeners

Q Have you ever heard of Mortgage Lifter tomato? I recall their being grown in our family garden when I was a boy in Virginia, but I haven't heard of them since. Now that I am retired, I have started to garden and have a yen for this old-fashioned variety. Do you know of a source? F. H. Clinton, Md. Coincidentally, we recently received a catalog called Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, and have found the Mortgage Lifter tomato listed there, along with other heirloom seeds, plus new varieties, gourmet and specialty items, and homey bits of information. The catalog notes that the variety was developed in early 1930s by M. C. Byles, an amateur plant breeder who eventually paid off his mortgage by selling seedlings. The catalog is $2 and the mailing address is P.O. Box 158, North Garden, Va. 22959. Q A friend has given us seven tall geraniums. If we cut off the tip ends and root them, will these bloom by summer? Can the mother plants be saved? E. F. P. Englewood, Colo.

Tip cuttings about 3 inches long can be taken with a sharp knife or snapped off with the fingers. These will root and form buds in 2 to 2 months if handled properly. Cuttings on the rest of the stem will take a bit longer to form buds.

We like to stick cuttings directly into 3- or 4-inch pots of one of the peatlite mixes (available at garden stores). Keep medium moist and at 65 to 70 degrees F. (using a heating cable underneath if necessary). Misting plants each day until roots form is helpful. Give good light but not direct sun. After roots start to form, give a diluted feeding of liquid plant food every week. The mother plant can be repotted after cutting off the top to about 3 inches above the pot. Before potting, cut off about of the root growth. Q I have heard that peaches and almonds are in the same family and that almond twigs can be grafted onto peach trees. We grow peaches and get a good crop about every other year, but we have never been able to get our almond tree to bear. If we graft a piece of the branch onto the peach tree, would it be more hardy? We are told the almond buds are probably frosted each year. J. D. Naumee, Ohio

Although there are nurseries that list hardy almonds ``that bear wherever peaches are grown,'' they bear erratically and flavor is not very good. Your area is not good almond territory. Even though fruit buds may survive the winter, blooms are usually frosted because they come on so early in the season. While there are peach varieties hardy enough for your location, their rootstocks will not make the grafted almond scions any hardier or cause their bloom date to change. Folks who do live in almond territory should have two varieties for cross-pollination. Q I was given a String-of-hearts vine about two months ago. It has little leathery, heart-shaped leaves of mottled gray-green color, that are about -inch across. It is now getting gray-brown lumps at quite regular intervals along the stems. Is this normal? I do not know the botanical name. C. F. Tallahassee, Fla.

String-of-hearts (Ceropegia woodii) is also called Rosary vine because of the little bulbils that form on the vining stems. These can be taken off and planted just beneath the soil level in a pot of moist, peatlite mix and new little plants will soon appear. The vine likes a soil that is well-drained but ``just moist'' all the time.

If you have a question about your garden, send it to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists.

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