April "In The Grow" - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

April “In The Grow”

Q: I read your article about cat litter in the garden. Now I have a problem. We have had cat litter in the garden for years. Besides my throwing it out there, when my husband makes the garden in the spring, my cats are thrilled because they have a large, easy-digging, litter box. Now what can we do? Is there something we can do to neutralize all this? From now on, I can throw the litter in the field, but the cats don’t know not to use the garden. – Joyce Nussbaum, Monroe, Ind.

A: You can start wearing gloves in the garden to reduce your exposure to any litter there. Teaching the cats not to use the garden is almost impossible. Teaching cats to do ANYTHING is almost impossible. Some people have good luck enticing their cats to do their thing somewhere else by creating an outdoor litter box of sand or a combination of sand and perlite. This is usually more attractive to the cats since it’s even easier digging than garden soil.


Q: HELP!!!!!!! I have some very old redbud trees on my property. They are so fragile it seems as if the least little thing will break off twigs and branches. Not too long ago, after some high winds, I found a branch broken off one of the trees. It is about as big around as my forearm. I decided to look closely at it and noticed that something has burrowed into the center of this branch. Whatever these things are they are about a third of an inch long and look like some sort of gray larva. No one seems to know what they are, but I believe they are weakening my trees. I would like to get rid of these things, but I don’t know what to do with them. There are several of them just in this one spot, and you can see the burrows they have made all up the core of the wood. Please tell me what to do as I suspect they may be in all my redbuds. – Lu Anne Harrison, Lebanon, Ind.

A: There are many kinds of borers that attack trees and shrubs. They usually favor weak, wounded or newly planted trees. Healthy trees and shrubs respond to borer attacks by producing great quantities of sap, which makes the plant inhospitable to the insects. Weak trees can’t produce enough sap, so borers are free to bore away.

Cut down and destroy infested stems and dying plants. Chemical control has to be done BEFORE the borers enter the tree. For advice on a preventative chemical control, take a sample of the insect to your county Cooperative Extension Service office. Keep plants healthy by fertilizing and watering regularly.


Q: I have a coffee tree I brought back from Hawaii 10 years ago. It is 2 inches from touching the ceiling. Last fall, it bloomed. Then green beans came out. Then they turned yellow, then red. They are starting to shrivel up now, so I picked most of them. Now a lot of leaves are turning brown and falling off. Can you help me? I don’t want to lose it for sentimental reasons. – Mary Hacker, Buffalo, Ind.

A: It could be several things. Did anything in the environment change &emdash; such as light, watering or fertilizing? Are new leaves continuing to develop? Yellowing and dropping of older leaves could be a normal shedding process. If you’re not fertilizing, the setting of fruit could be a big drain on the plant’s resources. Pamper the plant with proper care, and perhaps it will come out of it.


Q: We have had a houseplant for many years. So far, nobody had been able to give me the name of this plant. It grew from a stem, but is now getting too big. There is a new, weak sprout coming out next to the stem. Could I cut off the side branches, and can I expect new growth? Or will the plant die?

Also, I have flower beds with crocus and snowdrops (Galanthus and Leucojum). I often find small new plants coming up about 1-2 feet from the plants in the grass next to them. It seems that they must come from seeds. However, these plants are always sold as bulbs. Is there a reason that seeds are never sold? – Dr. Alfred Meckel, Lawrenceburg, Ind.

A: From the photo you sent, I can tell you have a dracaena. It will probably continue to grow from the new basal sprout if you remove the top. But to guarantee you have a houseplant in the future, why not propagate the stem pieces you cut off? Cut the stem into pieces several inches long and remove any leaves from the lower part of the stem. Dip the lower end of the stem in rooting hormone and stick it in potting soil. Keep them moist, but not wet, in a warm location.

Crocus, snowdrops and many other plants usually sold as bulbs will grow from seed, but it takes much longer to produce a flowering plant. Daffodils, for example, can be grown from seed, but it takes about 7 years for the plant to bloom. When you purchase them as top-sized bulbs however, they’ll bloom the first year.


Q: I would like information on how and where to grow button mushrooms. What is the price for the seeds? Where do you get the seeds? – J.R. Wells, Westport, Ind.

A: Mushrooms actually grow from spores, not seeds. Sources for growing kits include Fungi Perfecti (800-780-9126) or Pinetree Garden Seeds (888-52-SEEDS). Prices vary, but the kits typically include complete instructions and growing medium.


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