ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers

Q We always enjoy your fine columns, and we were particularly interested in a reference you made to terpenoid in orange skins as being good for controlling fleas. Would you scatter them around the house and yard? We would much appreciate more information. D.M.

Santa Barbara, Calif Q Several months ago in one of your informative and enjoyable columns, you had this sentence: ``It is terpenoids in orange skins which make them such a good flea control.''

How does one use orange skins for such a purpose ... rub them on the cat or dog? ... or put them in their bedding? We would be glad to know the answer.


Almstead, N.H.

First, we want to say ``thank you'' to all the kind folks who make gracious remarks about our columns.

Orange skins can be rubbed on the animal's coat or chopped up and spread in the bedding. However, we find if we cut them up in small pieces (or run them through a food processor), then add a little water, just enough to simmer them in, the result is much better.

We simmer skins in a scant solution with water for about five minutes. Then we drop cotton balls in the pan until liquid is taken up and balls are saturated. We put this mash (plus balls) into a thick sock and sponge it onto the pet's fur. Be sure to get it onto flea-prone areas like the neck and rump. Don't get any juice from the orange in with the peels, as it will make the liquid sticky. Also make sure the mash has cooled before applying.

Q From time to time you have given suggestions for protecting gardens from animals, and I wonder if you can help me repel deer. They are lovely, but they have six acres of hay to eat, yet prefer my shrubbery! Is there some kind of scented material I could use, such as cow manure?


Glen Gardner, N.J.

As far as we know, manure will not repel the deer. Here are some suggestions that have been sent to us. Old nylon hosiery can be used to hang any of the following in your shrubbery: heavily scented soap bars; wads of human hair, dog hair, or both; rags wet with creosote, turpentine, or both; rags or cotton balls saturated with hot pepper sauce.

There is a product called Hinder, which has hot pepper in it and has worked well for us. Some folks say that mesh bags full of mothballs strung around plantings do the trick.

We hope folks will give us a report on all these methods. Other suggestions will be welcome, also.

Q You have asked readers to send alternatives to traditional commercial pesticides. Assuming that you include weedkillers in your definition of pesticides, I would like to tell what I do with weeds that become too aggressive. Many disappear in mowing, but for dandelion and plantain, and others that pop up, I squirt household bleach into the center of the plant. I use a detergent squirt bottle for the applicator, and it works just great. Since chlorine dissipates quite readily, I have no difficulty sowing a little grass seed over a top dressing of soil, a few days after I have removed the offensive weed.


Canandaigua, N.Y.

We thank you for the good tip. Although we have used household bleach to get rid of poison ivy, we have not used it in this way to get rid of lawn weeds. We are happy to get readers' suggestions and pass them along.

If you have a garden question, send it along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope, to the Garden Page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists.

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