Ask the gardeners

Q Can you advise me about growing garlic? Last spring I bought a package of two bulbs at the produce deparment of a grocery store. In late spring I separated the cloves and planted them. To my surprise, they all grew and tops were tall and fragrant. At the end of September I decided to harvest my crop, but the cloves were just about the size they were when I planted them. H. K. J. Townsend, Mass. Garlic needs a long growing season. In your area, cloves are best planted in early October and harvested the next August. They need a fertile, well-drained soil, but do best if they are not allowed to go dry for any length of time. Ample water grows bigger bulbs. Some folks prefer to plant cloves in March and harvest in the fall, but cloves are usually smaller. Q We are interested in locating a source for seeds of Pelargonium citrosum Van Leeniis, which is said to repel mosquitoes. We understand it is being sold at present only in Florida. C. M. Albany, Calif.

We are not familiar with this particular scented Pelargonium (geranium) and would be pleased to have our readers help us with this request. Q I am having a problem with spider plants. I've had several and the leaves always turn brown and eventually dry up completely. They get plenty of light and I don't overwater them. Mrs. D. R. Columbus, Ohio

Chlorophytum needs to be kept moist at all times, but never soggy. Dryness causes browning. Chlorine and flourine in the water supply can have an adverse effect on the leaves. Higher than normal amounts cause the plant to turn brown completely. To offset effects of these gases, sprinkle a tablespoon of ground limestone (or wood ashes) per six-inch pot on top of the soil and water it in. An application once a year is usually sufficient. Q I have a large wax plant which belonged to my grandmother. The vines now cover horizontal wires covering a 4-by-6-foot area of one wall. It has grown beautifully for several years and bloomed regularly (with its fragrance filling the room). Recently I noticed a sticky substance on the leaves, along with some cottony stuff. I recall that one of your columns identified this as mealy bugs. You suggested thorough washing with detergent water, hot pepper, and alcohol. I tried this, but the pests k eep coming. Is there something we can put in the soil that wouldn't harm our cats? I cherish the plant and would like to save it. M. T. Santa Rosa, Calif.

We do not recommend systemic pesticides (ones put in the soil and taken up by the plant). They make plant parts extremely toxic. We suggest you cut the whole plant back to a few inches above the pot and also save 2 or 3 small cuttings. Bag up the rest, seal, and send to the disposal or incinerate them. Scrub pot and change soil, washing the cut-back plant and small cuttings thoroughly with the following solution: 1 tablespoon each of hot pepper sauce and liquid dishwashing detergent, plus 1 cup of

rubbing alcohol in 1 gallon of water. Repeat each week for a month. Wash wall and area where plant was setting. If you can move plant and cuttings to a new spot, all the better. Now that you have a plant and cuttings of manageable size, by vigilant grooming you should be able to get new, pest-free growth on your Hoya carnosa. Q Being an avid reader of your column, I noted your all-purpose spray for aphids on roses. I have an easier way to get rid of the aphids on my roses. Plant a clove of garlic at the base of each bush. The aphids do not like garlic and my roses are clean. Besides, I can harvest garlic for my kitchen. A. L. F. Sacramento, Calif.

Good idea! We'd like to hear from others who have planted garlic to get rid of aphids. The all-purpose spray mentioned in the previous question also works well. Some folks tell us they add a tablespoon of strained garlic juice, prepared by simmering 4 minced or pressed garlic cloves in 1/4 cup of water.

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.

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