Q&A Ask The Gardeners

Q I put in a vegetable garden after a lapse of three or four years. Included were some cauliflower plants which did very well. However, I am puzzled about the way the leaves grew up and over the heads so that I didn't have to tie them up as I have done in the past, in order to get nice white heads. Is this an unusual phenomenon? G. E. Marion, Ohio You got one of the relatively new self-blanching varieties with thick leaves that curve over the head and protect it from sun and rain, thus eliminating the need to tie the leaves. There are now several varieties with this habit, which is more pronounced as heads begin to mature during cool weather of late summer and fall. Q I am looking for a ground cover with a green and white foliage that can be used where there is sun only two or three hours a day. Is there such a thing as a variegated pachysandra? J. L. Independence, Mo.

Yes, there is a variegated variety of pachysandra with a white edge, listed in catalogs either as Pachysandra terminalis ``Variegata'' or ``Silveredge.'' It is hardy in all but the coldest or very hottest portions of the United States.

Another white edged groundcover, tolerating sun or shade, and even a bit hardier than pachysandra, is variegated Aegopodium or Goutweed (full name A. podagraria ``Variegata''). It is sometimes referred to as Bishop's Weed. It tolerates poor soil and adverse growing conditions and, it spreads relatively fast when compared with most good groundcovers. Q I have many African violet plants which had lots of blooms at the time I got them. However, after they are in my house for a while they stop blooming completely. Why would this happen? M. S. S. Tampa, Fla.

African violets need bright light for flower bud formation. Between mid-November and late February they can even be exposed to sunlight several hours a day. During spring, summer, and fall, they should be kept out of direct sun, but still in a bright window. If you don't have such a window, you should resort to fluorescent tubes. Many garden stores have fixtures especially for plants. A standard 40-watt tube, set about 12 inches above your plants, should do the trick. Q Along with our florist business, we sell bedding plants in the spring. Tomato plants make up a large part of our sales. For the past few years several folks have asked for John Baer variety. We have tried to find seeds but to no avail. Finally we decided you folks might be able to help. S. D. Victor, N.Y.

John Baer, also known as Bonnie Best, was one of our most popular varieties during the years we were engaged in bedding plant sales. To find out which seedsmen still have John Baer (or Bonnie Best), we turned to ``The Total Tomato,'' by Fred DuBose (Harper & Row). He lists the following:

DeGiorgi Company, Council Bluffs, Iowa 51501; Charles C. Hart Seed Company, Wethersfield, Conn. 06109; Johnny's Selected Seeds, Albion, Maine 04910; Nichols Garden Nursery, Albany, Ore. 97321; L. L. Olds Seed Company, Madison, Wis. 53707; Stokes Seeds, Buffalo, N.Y. 14240. Q I am a firm believer in the value of houseplants and grow many in my apartment. This means I must buy a considerable amount of potting soil. I would like to know if it is all right to reuse potting soil from discarded plants. C. J. C. Chicago

If the plant had no insects and no physiological problems, it would be fine to reuse the soil. Many plant lovers mix 1 part new soil with 2 parts old soil to offset any compaction or excess fertilizer salts in the used soil.

You might want to buy ingredients and mix your own potting soil. A simple mix is: 3 parts sphagnum peat moss and 1 part each of washed sand (available at a lumberyard or building supply store), perlite, and vermiculite.

Instead of adding dry fertilizer, we start using liquid plant food a few days after transplanting.

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.

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