Corralling a wandering jew; proper care for African violets

Q I bought a Bolivian wandering jew in a grocery store a few weeks ago. At the time I bought it the plant was compact and almost in the shape of a round ball. However, mine now is stretching out and becoming lanky instead of compact. I keep it in a hallway with one window. Is this the problem?

The name, wandering jew, is used for both Zebrinam and Tradescantia.m We have seen the one you refer to and note it has different names according to the whim of the seller: Afro jew, Bavarian jew, Bolivian jew, and probably more that we've not heard of or seen. This is a problem with common names.

We're sending a sample to the Bailey Hortorium at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., for specific identification.

Your problem is that the plant is not getting enough light. The plant will benefit from some sun as well as indirect bright light the rest of the day. With poor light the plant stretches up to reach more.

Q We recently moved to a new home, and since the move was only about 20 miles , we moved many things ourselves, including our houseplants. Perhaps unwisely, we left them in our car overnight with the outside temperature in the 40s. The next morning the African violets were limp, and I watered them even though they were not really dry. By evening they were dark-colored and completely flopped. Any ideas on what went wrong?

African violets should not be allowed to go below 55 degrees F., as they will not survive. Actually, they do not do well below 65 degrees if left for any length of time. Remember, they originate in the warm, moist, shaded areas of East Africa.

Their botanical name, Saintpaulia,m comes from Baron Walter von Saint Paul, who discovered them on a trip there.

Q I learned from your column about washing tomatoes with a solution of household bleach and water for better keeping. We used the formula for butternut squash and apples as well. Now we have more of the harvest ready for storage but have forgotten the dilution. Would you repeat it?

Many readers wrote to say they have extended the treatment to apples, squash, and pumpkins. The dilution we have been using is 2 tablespoons per quart of water.

Wipe each fruit separately with a damp cloth dipped in the solution. This inhibits the growth of rot organisms.

Allow any moisture to evaporate before putting into storage.

Q We have a problem with deer eating our fruit trees. A neighbor says he heard that soap can be used to repel the deer, but he isn't sure if it is used as a spray or if the soap is rubbed on the branches. Have you heard of this?

One of our readers told us a farmer friend drills holes in cakes of soap and then snips a wire near the top of his fence at regular intervals, poking the wire through the soap.

We suggest you try putting partial cakes of soap (or the remnants from soap dishes) into pieces of nylon hose and then tying them to a fence or to the trees.

It is not good to wire anything to a tree, as it will eventually girdle the branch. Let us know how the soap repellent works.

Q Because of our mild fall, our flowering cabbage lasted into late November. The cabbage worms have also thrived in the mild weather, ruining some of them. I don't like strong chemicals. What can be used for these pests? The garden store clerk suggested Sevin, but I know this chemical is harmful to bees working around the blooms in the summer when I would also want to use the spray.

Use Bacillus thuringiensis, a microbial insecticide that is effective on the larvae of moths and butterflies only. Since you spray it only where the harmful larvae would be feeding, you would not harm any other larvae.

Some of the trade names are Thuricide, Di-pel, Bacthane, and Biotroe. It is excellent control for gypsy moths, but it does no harm to beneficial predators.

If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it to the garden 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.m

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.