ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers

Q We set out a new asparagus bed about six years ago. We have gotten a good harvest for the past two years. Last year, however, during late summer, the ``ferns'' began to look very strange. The needle-like foliage became bunched up and had a silvery cast over a dull green. Upon close examination we found small bluish-green insects resembling aphids. Will this affect our crop in spring, and what should we do if the pest returns? C.D.

Fredericksburg, Va.

You have asparagus aphids, which suck the juice from the foliage and make it distorted and off color. This malformation is called ``witches'-broom.'' If the pest persists, crowns can be affected and you will get thin, unhealthy spears. Keep watch for the pest by inspecting every few days after stems begin to turn into ferns. You can use insecticidal soap from a garden store, or a homemade solution of rubbing alcohol (70 percent) diluted it with an equal part of water. You can also use the all-purpose spray of one tablespoon of liquid dishwashing detergent, one tablespoon hot pepper sauce, and one quart of 70 percent rubbing alcohol (rather than a previously mentioned pint)in a gallon of water. Try it on a few leaves first to make sure the particular plant is not overly sensitive. Q There is a tiny, yellow-flowered marigold which you once discussed in your column. It has very fine-leaved foliage (almost fernlike) and it smells lemony, almost like lemon geranium. I grew it two years ago but cannot recall the name of the variety.

B.W.

Evansville, Ind.

These tiny-flowered, scented marigolds are called Tagetes signata, or signet marigolds. The one you speak of may have been Lulu or Lemon Gem. Other varieties include Golden Gem, Little Giant, and Paprika. Three seed catalogs that list them are: Burpee Company, Warminster, PA 18974; Stokes Seeds, Box 548, Buffalo, NY 14240; Thompson & Morgan, Box 1308, Jackson, NJ 08527.

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