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The Bay Gardener by Dr. Francis Gouin

Help needed in avoiding white core at tomato-ordering time

Have you ever sliced open a tomato and found one or two white spots, from the size of a pea to the size of a dime, in the flesh near the stem end of the fruit?     Several Bay Weekly readers have brought the problem to my attention, and it seems it was quite common this past summer in many home gardens. One home gardener noticed that the white core problem was rampant even when the plants were irrigated and asked why I had not written about it.

I prefer mine straight

I have been asked by several gardeners to respond to the use of compost tea.         I have spent nearly 40 years researching composting and the use of compost for growing plants. As a result of many successes, I cannot over-emphasize the benefits of using compost in gardening.

True or false: Oak is the best wood to burn.

As more and more people are using firewood for heating their homes, I am often asked about differences between hardwoods. Yes, there are differences. There are soft hardwoods and there are hard hardwoods.

Black walnut trees don’t mind bulbs and ground cover, but they kill competing broadleaf species

The black walnut is a unique tree. It selects its neighbors and wipes out its competition. The roots, bark, wood, leaves and husks of the black walnut contain an enzyme called juglanace. This enzyme remains in the tissues until they are decomposed beyond recognition. The horticultural term used to describe the competition-controlling properties of black walnut is allelopathic response.

They work for you; now it’s time to work on them

Now is the time to care for your lawn and garden tools. Sharpen the lawnmower blades, drain and replace the engine oil, replace or clean the sparkplug and blow the dust and dirt from the cooling fins.

Use the ash from your fires to help your garden grow

Wood ash is a great source of calcium and potassium, also providing some phosphorus and lots of essential trace elements. A 12-quart pail full of fine wood ash can be spread over at least 100 square feet of garden soil. Make certain that the ash is cool before spreading, especially if the soil is covered with dry leaves.

It’s much easier to buy next year’s colored blooms than to raise them yourself

Every January, I receive questions on how to keep poinsettia plants and have them flower again next Christmas. My best advice is to dump them in the compost pile as soon as you get tired of looking at them or when they start dropping their leaves. Leave the growing of Christmas poinsettias to growers of greenhouse crops who have both the knowledge and the facilities to produce quality plants in full bloom in time for Christmas.

It still holds gifts for flowers and birds

If you planted pansies in your garden last fall, use branches of your discarded Christmas tree to provide the plants with some winter protection. Cutting the branches near the stem and spreading a single layer over the pansies will provide light shade, thus reducing chances of winter injury if we don’t get sufficient snow. Next spring, remove the branches just as the plants resume growing.

Why some oaks hold their leaves

Some oak trees retain their brown leaves all winter long, while others drop their leaves like all other trees. The reason is juvenility. It takes 25 to 30 years for an oak seedling to mature. Until it starts to produce acorns, the tree is in a juvenile state of growth and retains brown leaves all winter. As the oak approaches maturity, the ends of the branches near the top of the tree drop their leaves in the fall. The following year, the tree will drop more of its top leaves in autumn while retaining dry brown leaves in the middle of the tree.

Your evergreens will get a good pruning while you clip and snap

The tradition of bringing greens indoors comes from Europe and Scandinavia. The winters were long, and bringing greens in the house gave hope that spring would soon be coming. It must have worked, as we still do it today. If your evergreens are overgrown, now is the time to prune them back into shape and use the greens for decorations. Don’t be afraid to take the pruners and whack those evergreens. To be safe and to have a cleaner home, avoid using boughs of Norway spruce because they will drop their needles faster than you can vacuum them.