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Frequently Asked Questions.
Q: How do I control the moss on the roof?
A. Moss-B-Ware is a commercial zinc sulfate product with the directions for coverage, etc. It is available at garden stores, hardware stores, or building supply outlets. Zinc sulfate is also available in larger quantities, but there is no recommedation nor instructions on the bag. (See the next FAQ.)
Q: What is the alternative moss trearment for sidewalks or patios?
A: Use 1 C chlorine bleach, 1/2 C Trisodium phosphate, 1T detergent, made to 1 gallon with water. Spray it on, let it sit awhile, then scrub with a stiff broom. Rinse to get rid of green. Some Hatch Patch listeners reported moss control on the roof or on sidewalks with a liberal sprinkling of Tide with Bleach. I have tried it on a limited basis and it seems to be working.
Q. When should I plant my garden?
A. In the Willamette Valley, the average last spring frost date is about May 1-5. Microclimates and years will vary at least 2 weeks on either side. Some cool season crops like cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, onions, kohlrabi, etc. may be planted as much as a month before frost date. Warm season crops such as tomatoes, peppers, melons, eggplants, etc. should not be planted until after danger of frost, about mid-May. Refer to the "Vegetable Planting Chart" in the Fact Sheet listing for more details. In the NW, we can plant in the late summer vegetable planting to extend the gardening season.
Q. Is fertilizer needed and when should it be supplied?
A. With our average rainfall, plant nutrients, especially nitrogen, the most needed element, is leached from the root zone. Nitrogen needs to be applied on all crops, including lawns. Start in the spring, about mid-March. For trees and most woody plants, one application is enough. Lawns should have small amounts added each 4-5 weeks depending on the green color you desire. Caneberries (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, etc.), rhodies, azaleas, perennial flowers, etc. may need another application in mid-June. Vegetables need a complete fertilizer at planting time and many require extra nitrogen during the growing season. For more details, see the fact sheet "Fertilizing for a Successful Crop".
Q. What causes the black, flat bottom on the end my tomatoes?
A. This is blossom end rot (BER), a non-pathological problem most often seen on the first fruits of the summer. The technical cause is calcium deficiency. Our soils usually are not short of calcium, but at times the plant is not able to move or utilize the element properly. BER is brought on by improper watering practices. Some varieties such as Roma are more likely to show the problem. The most frequent reason is over watering the plants. Tomatoes should not require watering every day. Thoroughly soak the root zone and don't water again until the upper inch or so of the soil is dry. The other cause of BER is letting the plants get too dry between irrigations. Even out the watering schedule, and mulch the soil with an organic covering such as grass clippings, compost, bark or sawdust. You'll see that the later fruits will form into better tomatoes. It wouldn't hurt to add a couple of tablespoons of dolomitic lime at planting time.
Q. How do I control clover in the lawn?
A. Clover and several other hard-to-kill weeds in the lawn do not respond well to ordinary lawn weed killers that contain only 2,4-D. Buy one that contains TRIMEC, a combination of 2,4-D and 2 other chemicals. The product is effective on a wide range of weeds that are common in the lawn. One of the reasons that some weeds, including clover and oxalis are hard to kill, is that the leaves are hard to wet and the spray rolls off the surface. Add a spreader-sticker, a specially formulated wetting agent to the spray. It will make the solution "wetter" and be absorbed by the weed better. Spray when the temperatures are 70-80 degrees, so that the heat doesn't evaporate the herbicide and affect sensitive plants. Grapes, tomatoes, and beans are very often damaged, even though the spray did not get on them directly.
Q. When should I prune my rhododendrons?
A. Rhodies can be pruned any time you want to shorten them! It's best done right as they finish blooming so that there is time for buds to form for the next years bloom. However, if you get drastic about the pruning and remove a significant amount of the plant, you may forgo bloom for next year. The plant will send out new growth, but it may be a year or two before blossom buds form. When possible, cut to a place on the branch where there is a side shoot, and don't leave just a sharp stub. To allay your fears, neglected rhodies that have gotten out of control can be brought down to a more reasonable size without killing them!
Q. My squash blossoms are not making good fruit. What's wrong?
A. That could be of a couple of things: One, the squash plant usually makes male blossoms first and they do not form fruit. Two, the flowers are not being pollinated. Many urban areas are short of bees because of misuse of insecticides and/or a mite that about wiped out honey bee populations. Without insect helpers, we will have to do the job ourselves. In the morning, go to the squash plants, and look for bright yellow flowers, freshly opened. The blossoms last only one day. If you see a flower with a miniature squash at its base, that means it is a female and needs pollinating. Find a male blossom, one with a long green stem and pick it. Tear off the petals, and touch the yellow dust-like pollen to the center of the female flower. There are usually more male blooms than female, but a male bloom will pollinate more than one female. Protect bees by using pesticides wisely, as little as possible, and never spray blooming plants.
Q. Tips on pruning Clematis.
A. In the first two years of growth, at the end of the growing season, cut
the stems back to a few buds above the ground to get a good root system established. Then choose from the following: Many clematis bloom on wood from last year's growth, or OLD wood. To get the most blooms, do not prune the plant until after flowering in the spring (Late May or so.) Then prune rather hard, at least one third of the plant to give new growth and a later flush of bloom. Other clematis bloom on the new growth, or NEW wood that sprouts in the spring. These are the summer bloomers. As the plant goes dormant in the winter, prune eavily, just above the lowest leaf nodes. This hard pruning will reward you with lots of bloom over a long period of time without the accumulation of old plant parts. Some clematis bloom on both old and new wood, so can be pruned either way. They all must be heavily pruned occasionally to prevent the overgrowth of dead, unsightly stems.