Ask the gardeners

We have always had beautiful tuberous begonias, but last June they got a whitish, moldy look and the leaves turned brown and fell off. What happened? In many areas of the country, June was a rainy, cold month, ideal conditions for the growth of mildew spores. Lots of folks had a mildew problem with tuberous as well as the small bedding fibrous begonias. Even our own begonias were far from being prizewinning specimens.

We suggest you grow some ''Non-Stop'' this year. They came through with flying colors - red, yellow, white, pink, peach, and orange, without a tinge of mildew.

In late December we start ours from seed, but they are available, in bud stage, at most garden stores for spring sales.

We have just finished building a small lean-to greenhouse on the south side of our home and are excited about it. Now we would like to try growing some flowering houseplants from seeds.

Can you name some plants that would grow well in it during the winter months? For economy's sake you'll want to keep your greenhouse no warmer than 58 to 60 degrees F. at night. This means you must germinate the seeds of the plants in a special seed-starting area that can be kept at 70 to 75 degrees.

A heating cable or other root-zone heating device can be enclosed under a cover made of polyethylene over a wood frame. We use sub-irrigation pans over the top of the heating device and then set the seed boxes in pans so they are automatically watered.

The cover over all keeps the heat and moisture in, helping the seeds to germinate.

When adding water to the sub-irrigation pan, be sure it is about 80 degrees F. or it will cool down the seed-starting medium.

We use one part each of sphagnum peat moss, perlite, and vermiculite in this medium. Tiny seeds should be sprinkled on the medium without covering with any soil. Larger ones may be covered lightly.

You might try gloxinias, streptocarpus, cineraria, mimulus, exacum, geraniums , and calendula, all of which will bloom from seeds in 5 to 6 months.

All the above will take 10 to 21 days to germinate, so be patient.

Because our family likes garlic in cooking, I planted some of the cloves last spring. When I harvested them in late September, I was disappointed that the bulbs were not larger. As a matter of fact, they were about half the size of the bulbs I used for planting. Garlic should be planted in the fall. If planted in late September or early October, it is ready to harvest in July or August. Garlic grows best in a loose soil which has had compost (leaves, etc.) worked into it. It takes about 10 months for bulbs to grow to a good size.

Elephant garlic is a milder, larger variety and needs a mulch when planted in areas with severe temperatures.

We planted Brussels sprouts for the first time this year. While they grew nicely, they tasted bitter and we ended up putting them on the compost pile. What caused the bitterness? Did you let them go through a good frost before eating them? Some varieties will have a bitter taste before they are frosted. Sprouts are very hardy and will stand (and improve with) frosts down into the low 20s F.

If gently tipped over toward a mulch of leaves and covered somewhat, they will even come through the teens.

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

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