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Ed Hume Answers Your Gardening Questions

Ed Hume cannot answer all of the garden questions he receives, but questions of general interest will be answered here every month.  Email your questions to HumeSeeds@aol.com.  Please note: we do not accept attachments.

Before submitting a question, be sure to check the index of previous questions and answers or search our site using key words.  Many questions have already been answered here on the site.

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Prize Winning Pumpkins

In order to grow prize winning pumpkins, you are supposed to prune all but two or three fruits from the vine. When is the time to do this? Do I take to first three and prune the rest as they appear, or do I wait until later in the season and prune all but the biggest?

On pumpkins, the first blossoms will probably not develop fruits. When they do, you want to look for blossoms that develop straight out from the vine (90 degree angle). If the blossoms are not at a 90 degree angle, the fruit can pull on the vine as it develops and may tear away or do damage to the fruit.

Let two or three grow, then thin to the largest. I have to suggest this "tongue in cheek" because I know of one grower that grew 3 pumpkins on the same vine for a total weight of more than 2,000 pounds. So, thinning is a matter of choice....as long as you know what you are doing.

Norfolk Pine Troubles

We purchased a 3 foot Norfolk Pine in January. It has developed little webs on the lower branches, which is causing the needles to turn brown and the branch to dry. I took it outside for some fresh air, cut off the dead branches, and sprayed it with insecticide (Raid for houseplants) thinking that it might be spider mites. It seemed better for a couple of weeks, but now the webs are back and more branches are turning brown. I've heard that Norfolk Pines are temperamental and hard to keep healthy, but I'd like to keep this one. It was an anniversary present from my husband. Is there anything that you can suggest?

Since I cannot see the plant, I will have to make an educated guess. The fact that the leaves have webbing on them suggests it may be spider mites. They come in cycles, so it is necessary to apply an insecticide every week for at least three weeks in a row. Read and follow application directions on the label of the insecticide.

You might want to take a part of a branch into your local garden outlet. The certified nursery-person on staff can make an on the spot diagnosis.

When inside, it is important to place a glass of water near the plant for humidity purposes. As the water evaporates, it provides the humidity this plant badly needs.

Blueberry Varieties

I have been looking for information on planting blueberries on the south side of our house. I'm looking to fill a raised bed approx 5'x10'. It gets pretty much full sun.

Do you have suggestions as to the variety(ies) which will grow best in our Auburn/Federal Way area? I seem to remember your suggestion to plant at least three varieties for pollination and to lengthen their season, but neglected to write down the recommendations.

Blueberries do very well in your climate. Some of the best varieties: Jersey; Bluecrop and Olympia.

Remember, blueberries like an acid soil. Be sure to mix plenty of peat moss, compost and processed manure into the planting area. Blueberries also require more moisture than most plants.

Furney's, Carpinito's, Windmill and Auburn Lawn & Garden are places you might want to try. Call first to see if they have a good selection to choose from.

Tree Root Troubles

We have a huge, Beautiful Birch tree in our front yard. However, it's HUGE roots are up-rooting our yard. My Husband wants to take the tree down, but I don't want too. The roots are really causing havoc. Can we come to a amicable resolution?

Any suggestions?

You might try putting a root barrier between the tree and the walks and driveway. Fiberglass or similar materials are sometimes used for this purpose.

When roots come to the surface, it is because they are searching for water and food. When possible, make holes with a pipe, root feeder or crowbar about 6 to 10 inches deep around the tree's drip line. Feed the tree with a good quality "Rose" fertilizer in the bottom of the holes. This often encourages the roots downwards, which helps anchor the tree and keeps the roots off of the surface. In your case, it may be too late to accomplish this.

A few of the surface roots may be able to be removed, providing you do not weaken the tree's stability.

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