For sweeter melons, try a little salt - Epsom salts and borax, that is

Q Last year we started a melon, supposed to be supersweet, from seeds. We had enough plants to give to friends. All the plants did well, producing good crops. Imagine our surprise when our melons tasted flat instead of sweet like those our friends grew. Since they were all the same variety, what could have caused this tastelessness in our melons?

This is likely due to a lack of magnesium or boron in your soil. Spraying with a solution of Epsom salts and borax when the vines start to run and again when crown-set fruits are between one and two inches in diameter will sweeten them. The proportion is 61/2 tablespoons of Epsom salts and 31/3 tablespoons of borax (household type) to five gallons of water.

Cool, wet weather may also be a factor, but if your friends had the same weather conditions, we assume it to be the soil problem.

Q Recently our garden club was discussing favorite garden flowers, which prompted the question: Which flowers are most popular and why? Is there any way to find out?

Some state colleges and various spokesmen for seedsmen and bedding-plant growers take polls each year. They don't always agree. This year petunias (No. 1 for years) were nosed out by impatiens in one poll. In another poll, petunias retained their crown, with impatiens second.

Marigolds, the sunshine flower, were a strong third in both surveys. Their pluses are tolerance of adverse weather and problem soils, striking variegation in the French types, and a choice of heights and sizes of blooms in other types. Singles, some with ferny, lemon-scented foliage, add another dimension.

Impatiens are moving up because of the ability to self-clean (no messy spent blooms); perky, compact varieties; greater color range; and now, double-bloomed varieties. Striking New Guinea hybrids, which need sun, are attracting interest.

Petunias, both double and single, provide an incomparable color selection (even blues, which are hard to find in large-bloom annuals). Plant breeders are making great strides in developing more sturdy, compact, weather-resistant plants. They also withstand a degree of frost on both ends of the season.

Q We thought dwarf dahlias would be attractive around our patio this summer, so we sowed seeds indoors in mid-February. The plants are doing well, but can we expect them to form tubers?

Dahlias grown from seeds do indeed form tubers. Started in February, they should produce fair-sized tubers by fall. In areas with mild winters, they could be left in the ground all winter. A mulch of straw will protect from mild freezing.

In areas of heavy freezing, tubers should be dug and stored in a medium such as vermiculite or slightly moistened peat moss.

Q Our lawn is a mess and looks as though pigs had been rooting in it. What could be causing the dug-up sod, and how do you suggest we repair it?

Skunks have been ridding your lawn of grubs under the sod. They are extremely beneficial nocturnal animals, since their diet is mainly mice, insects, and larvae. Occasionally they eat eggs or nestlings of ground-nesting birds, but their good deeds by far outnumber their bad. Skunks plod about their silent scavenging in suburbia as well as open country.

With the back of an iron-tooth rake, smooth off the humps and sow grass seed on the bare spots. Tamp it down or roll the areas with a lightweight water-ballast roller. With the grubs eliminated, your lawn will thrive.


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