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Questions for the Week


QUESTION : My compost piles have cooled off, but there are still some small wood chips and bits of leaf mixed in with the compost. I have tried turning, adding Ammonium Sulfate, and adding weed leaves and grass clippings, but no luck! I have also gone several years without gardening, and there doesn't seem to be an earthworm in sight! I can't find a local supply for worms ever since Gardenville decided to stop handling them. Do you have any suggestions???
ANSWER :I would go ahead and till your nearly-compost into the area where you plan to have your new garden. It will continue to decompose and by the time you set out transplants or plant seeds, the composting should be almost complete. A little extra fertilizer applied to the area will compensate for any lack of nitrogen caused by the decomposition process. I would also bet that you will find that you still have earthworms because they will be attracted by the organic material you have added to your garden plot.

QUESTION : Do you know where I can find bulbs of Egyptian Onions? I grew them as a child and enjoyed them a lot and so I thought my students would enjoy them also. They are also called walking onion, tree onions, or top onions. (Allium cepa, var. viviparum)
ANSWER :These plants are hard to find in the garden centers. The best bet is to find someone who is growing them and get a start there. Once established they will reproduce forever as long as you always remember to put at least one back in the ground when you pull a bunch. If you do not know someone who is growing these varieties, call some of the independent retail nurseries, or check these websites:

QUESTION : What is a good fast growing, nice looking evergreen tree for the San Antonio area?
ANSWER : If by evergreen you are referring to the conifers, the only one that I can recommend for San Antonio is the Arizona cypress (Cupressus glabra). The live oak, and the Monterrey oak, for practical purposes, are evergreen in that they put on new leaves each year with the new leaf virtually pushing off the old one. For a list of recommended trees (and other landscape plants) for the San Antonio area see:

QUESTION : I am trying go get some information on how to graft a one year old peach tree.
ANSWER : Use the T-bud which is illustrated at the following Plantanswers site:
You will need to secure the buds from an improved variety this spring with some budding tape and you should be in business.

QUESTION :I live in Cibilo and have had very bad luck with growing any ornamental plants in my flower bed. I have mulched, brought in new soil from Gardenville and fertilized. I have tried plants from local nurseries and mail order that are specified to be good for shady areas in our zone (bleeding hearts, pansies, cinnamon fern, mondara's, cyclamen, hybrid woodland and blue bells to name a few). My flower bed is on the west side with 95 percent shade, but gets the hot setting sun -at this point I don't care what I put in. I just want a variety of plants that will be attractive in all seasons. Does it matter that all my shade is from pecan trees?
ANSWER : You have described a very difficult landscape site. The pecan trees are probably the root (no pun intended) of the majority of your problems. First, they cast a very dense shade, so only those plants that can live and thrive in such shade can be used. Secondly, the pecan is a water hog that is going to out-compete most other plants for the available water.
Next, we are blessed with some of the most trying growing conditions that exist anywhere making it imperative that you concentrate on those plants that can tolerate these conditions. I am not going to recommend any plants to you but rather point you to a series of PLANTanswers articles on Annual and Perennial Flowers for All Seasons which can be found at this web site:
Also be sure you describe your growing conditions in detail to the sales personnel at the nursery when you buy your plants and ask for their advice. With the proper plant selection and attention to moisture, you should be able to have a flower bed that you'll be proud of.


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