Ask the gardeners

On the slope at the side of our property there are two kinds of vining plants which choke out the crown vetch and lilies originally planted there. I do not know the name of one vine, but the other is honeysuckle. How can we remove the vines without injuring the desirable plants?

Fill some squatty glass jars with weed killer to within an inch below the rim. Cover with polyethylene, using a rubber band to hold it in place. Make an X-shaped cut in the plastic wrap, then find the ends of the vines and gently push them through the plastic into the weed killer.

The vines will absorb the weed killer without its harming the other plants. Take care the jars are not within sight or reach of small children.

Hand-pulling, then putting pieces of tar paper over vines, would work in some cases, but not in yours, because the good plants are so overgrown. The tar paper method would starve the roots by keeping leaves from getting food and energy from the sun.

We like to use our kitchen refuse for composting. Our compost pile is some distance from our house, so in inclement weather we often hold the garbage in a large plastic bag for several days. Does this affect the fertilizer value of the compost?

No. It is already starting to turn to compost as the tiny organisms begin their work in breaking it down. It's a good idea to add coffee grounds, tea leaves, and shredded paper to the garbage to offset odors.

Some folks who live where it is hard to have a compost pile do composting in garbage bags or a large garbage can.

If newspapers and a little soil are added two or three times a week, there is no odor. Redworms and plain earthworms help to break it down faster.

If you'd like a copy of our bulletin on making compost in a garbage can, please send us a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

I still have a poinsettia from last Christmas which has flourished in a south window. It has grown very rank. What should I do with it to get it to a manageable size and make it bloom next year?

Cut it back right now to about 4 inches above the pot. Set it outdoors beside the house or in a spot near a shrub after you have repotted it, using a soil mix of 1 part each of sand, garden loam, or compost, sphagnum peat moss, and perlite.

Keep it watered, and it will send out new shoots. Bring indoors before frost.

About Oct. 1, start giving it a short-day, long-night treatment by setting it in a dark room (or covering it) every night from 6 o'clock until 8 a.m. the next day. Give it the sunniest window you have during the day.

Continue this treatment until Thanksgiving. Feed it when you repot it and again when you bring it indoors.

Thank you for your item on eating dandelion blossoms. I would like to add that even the unopened buds are excellent eating. They should be prepared following a creamed asparagus recipe. Served on toast points, they equal asparagus flavor. No stems should be left on.

We welcome such tips from readers and also want to thank them for their interest.

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