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Take A Hint. Or Not.


One of the great things about being a columnist is that when you run out of ideas you can steal them from other people. Not only the ideas, mind you, but the actual words. Especially when people write you and say things like, “My aunt spat on her tomato plants every day during the growing season for sixty-three years and you’ve never tasted better tomatoes” or “I’ve invented a trowel that is so ergonomically perfect that it doesn’t just help older folks dig in their gardens, it actually cures their arthritis and re-grows hair!”

To quote Yakov Smirnoff, who at last report was gardening in Branson: “What a country!” See? I’m stealing words already.

Anyway, I’m taking the day off while my brilliant and inventive correspondents from all over the country offer you their favorite garden tips. You might want to tear this out and hang it on your refrigerator.

Or you might just want to tear this out.

Nothing works better as a garden border edging than old CDs. They go into the ground easily and you can use them for deadheading. One odd thing I’ve discovered is that the Yanni CDs keep the slugs at bay. — Bob, Palos Heights, Illinois

Bob,
How do molluscs react to John Tesh CDs?

As my old Mema used to say, “Pocket lint, pocket lint, pocket lint.” Which was actually very hard to understand when my toothless Mema said it. She used it as a fertilizer for practically every plant in her garden and, of course, all of her indoor plants. I’ve taken to scooping out the lint trap of my dryer and spreading it on my flower beds. By the way, my husband is leaving me. — Heartbroken in Huntington

Heartbroken,
Obviously, your husband doesn’t understand you. Could he understand your Mema?

Did you know that many antacids are excellent insecticides? Once a week I walk around the condo with a big bottle, treating my plants. My rule of thumb: two shots for the greens, one shot for me. Once a month, I reverse the dosage. Gets me through the week. — Cindy, Evanston, Illinois

Cindy,
Mint, cherry or original formula?

I had the most difficult time getting my seeds to germinate properly until I started sleeping with them. I know that sounds weird but I bring them under the covers with Mr. Jowls (my dog), Bada-Bing (my cat), and Mr. Scaly (my iguana) and we all keep each other warm. Not only that, but my germination rate is up to 97%! What do you think is going on? — Buffy, Bloomington, Indiana

Buffy,
I don’t really know but Mr. Creepy (my ferret) is jealous.

Did you know that you can create decorative holiday wreaths by jamming holly branches and other colorful plant parts into automobile air filters? Used carburetors can become terrific objects d’art in the garden. Spent spark plugs can be used as markers for bulbs once their foliage has died back. I also find that old gas tanks that have been split along their seams and dug into the ground make absolutely perfect small ponds. — Gracie, Warren, Michigan

Gracie,
I’m worried about the amount of exhaust fumes that you inhale each day.

Whenever I need to rototill my soil, I attach chains to the tires on my big, honkin’ SUV and do figure eights in the garden. I figure that if I can drive the dang thing through a river I might as well find another good use for it. It’s so soothing and Zen-like that I rototill the soil nine or ten times during the growing season. Don’t know if it will work with a little pansy car. — Butch, Boise, Idaho

Butch,
You’ve given a whole new meaning to the concept of mashed potatoes.

I’ve been a fan of those gas-powered leaf blowers for years, so I was absolutely amazed when a neighbor showed me this incredible gizmo that costs nothing to use and makes no noise at all!! It’s rather simple, really—flexible metal prongs on a stick. That’s all there is to it. He calls it a rake. Believe me, somebody is going to make a fortune on that design once they hit the chain home stores! — Darryl, Carbondale, Illinois

Darryl,
They’ll never catch on.

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questions

I have a nicely sheltered, rounded 7-foot tall Japanese red maple on the southeast corner of my backyard. Half of the tree has lost its leaves, the formerly red bark is turning gray, and a good-sized square of bark has been stripped off on the side that faces the yard. I sprayed the exposed bark with black pruning spray to close any entry for insects. I have not cut off any of the branches.

Does the winter have any effect on the tree? Should I look for some insect infestation? What should I do now?

Late last year most of the leaves on my year-old seven-son tree (Heptacodium) turned brown, starting at the tips. It had some new growth on the tips and buds. I used a tree ring soaker hose every two weeks.

What trends do you see in container plantings, such as type of pot, materials, sun or shade, foliage or flowers.

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