Ask the gardeners

Last fall I bought a small Hoya plant and it has just stood still without growth or blooms. What am I doing wrong?

Late fall to early spring is normally a rest period for the Hoya, or wax plant (so-called because its blooms have a waxy appearance).

It doesn't bloom until its runners get to be 3 or 4 feet long (about 3 years or so after a cutting is started).

The Hoya likes good light but not full sunlight.

During its rest period, let the plant go completely dry between waterings and give it a cool temperature of between 55 and 60 degrees F.

During its growing period, however, try not to let it go bone dry. The temperature can be 70 degrees or more.

We use a soil mix of one part each of coarse sand, sphagnum peat moss, and loose garden soil.

With the right care, Hoya will bloom in late summer and fall, filling the room with a wonderful fragrance.

How can we keep slugs out of our lettuce and zinnias?

Citrus skins, turned bottom side up and placed in the rows, attract slugs which, incidentally, are night marauders. Skins full of slugs can be collected each morning.

Ashes scattered around the base of plants discourage them, because slugs don't like to crawl over dry, powdery surfaces.

You also can go out with a flashlight at night and, carrying a salt shaker, sprinkle a bit of salt directly on the slugs (don't salt the plants). This will destroy them. Looking under any solid mulch, such as layers of newspapers, will be an effective search-and-destroy mission, if done each day.

Laying wood planks near any infested areas and destroying the slugs each day is very effective.

Be sure to keep debris away from the garden so that slugs cannot find a place to hide.

There are commercial slug and snail baits on the market, but they are extremely toxic and we're hesitant to recommend them to home gardeners, especially if there are small children and pets around the garden area.

Persistence, using all or some of the above ''organic'' control measures, will eventually free your garden area of slugs.

We have loads of dandelion blossoms. A friend says she read that they can be eaten. We love the greens, but eating the blossoms sounds a bit ''far out.'' We agreed to seek your comments.

Take it from some ''far out'' dandelion blossom lovers that they are delicious. We gather the dandelion blossoms (leaving a piece of stem to hang on to), wash them, drain on a towel, and dip in a thin pancake batter. Then we fry them as we would fritters.

Sprinkled lightly with powdered sugar, they're mighty tasty and highly nutritious.

If you have a question on your garden, inside or out, send it to the gardening page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists, authors of several books on gardening, and greenhouse operators for 25 years.

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