Ask the Gardeners

Q Some time ago you had an item on willow twigs being used to make a plant-rooting solution. I cannot recall just how they were used. I want to root several cuttings and hope you can furnish directions to make the solution. H. W. V. Washington Court House, Ohio We have tried two methods of rooting cuttings in willow water. One is to let the willow shoots (about 6 to 8 inches long) start to root, then place other cuttings in the water with the slightly rooted willow. The other method is to let willow shoots get roots that are 2 to 4 inches long, then remove the shoots and use the remaining water to root the plant cuttings. Although our experiments weren't conclusive, it appeared that rooting plant cuttings right in with the willow shoots was the faster method. Q Although we had a crop of currants this year, the leaves had something wrong with them. They were puckered and bumpy, with the bumps turning reddish later on. Some leaves dropped off; others got some sticky stuff on them. We hesitated to use the currants, so left them on the bushes and the birds ate them.

Could you diagnose the problem and tell us what to do about it? We prefer to use something that would not harm the birds. We have always shared our crop with them after we finished making jelly. R. E. L. Racine, Wis.

Your currant bushes have aphids, which will lay eggs in fall to overwinter on stems, then start their life cycle again, with adult insects sucking juices from leaves until they pucker and sometimes fall off. Fruit is not affected except that they have to be washed a little more thoroughly to remove aphid sap. You can spray now to eradicate wingless females (which reproduce without fertilization) and again in fall to get winged females that will lay eggs to overwinter until spring. As soon as leave s come out in spring, spray with insecticidal soap, to which you have added one tablespoon of hot pepper sauce per gallon of solution. Repeat every seven days until green currants form.

An alternative is a summer oil spray which will kill eggs, as well as all stages of aphids. You may have to spray several times after harvest to get rid of the aphids completely. Be sure to spray under sides of leaves as well as upper sides.

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 horticulturalists.

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