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By Marianne Binetti
August 26, 2004
Q: I must be the only one who has trouble growing zucchini. I planted three plants and they are still very healthy looking and have a lot of blossoms. One zucchini has formed and got about 4 inches long but then rotted. So far only six healthy zucchini from the three plants. What could I be doing wrong when everyone else seems overwhelmed with too many zucchini?
-- B.D., Seattle
MB: Don't throw in the trowel just yet. The clue here is that the plants are very healthy. Could that mean large green leaves? A sure sign of too much water. Summer squash that are overwatered will form fruit that will then rot or drop from the plant when just a few inches long. Here's the easy answer. Don't water for 10 days. The leaves will even wilt a bit. Then give them a drink and you'll be harvesting bushels of zucchini and leaving them on the neighbor's doorstep, just like everyone else is doing this summer.
Q: At a garden tour I heard you talk about a garden mulch that was nice and black and cheap. It not only kept down the weeds but also fed the soil and was made from municipal waste. You gave some people written information but you ran out of the sheets. What was the name of this mulch? Can I use it to redo my sad lawn?
-- T.T., Olympia
MB: That handsome dark stuff is called Tagro, from Tacoma. The important poop on this sewage sludge is that it has earned a Class A rating for safety from several government agencies and even can be used for growing food crops. It comes in three mixes: one for mulching (not currently available), one for mixing into soil and planting lawns, and one to use as a potting soil. You do have to go to downtown Tacoma if you want to start mulching and topdressing your lawn right away. There is a backlog of requests for delivery of Tagro at this time. For prices and more information, go to www.tagro.com or call 253-502-2150.
Q: I have a really cool summer blooming bulb called a Eucomis. I notice that small seeds have formed on the flower stem. Can I plant these seeds and if so, how long before I get blooming plants?
-- L.M., Enumclaw
MB: The Eucomis or pineapple lily will dole out seeds that can be planted, and those seeds will bloom in about four years. Not that I have ever been patient enough to do such a thing. The pineapple lily also produces little bulblets from the side of the mother bulb and these can be planted in the spring for new blooms in just a year or two. Pineapple lilies prefer warmer winters, so grow yours in pots and store in a garage when they go dormant in the fall. Or you could scoff at such a protective attitude and gamble that these bulbs will survive our wet winters. Then if they turn into pineapple Popsicles, you'll be happy that you have some seeds to remember them by.
Marianne Binetti, an Enumclaw writer, is the author of several garden books. Her latest are "Easy Answers for Great Gardens" and "Perennials for Washington and Oregon". She also gives daily one-minute gardening tips on KIXI-AM/880, at 11:37 a.m. and 3:37 p.m. Her column appears Thursdays in the P-I. Send questions to her Web site -- www.binettigarden.com -- or to: Ask Marianne, P.O. Box 872-PI, Enumclaw, WA 98022. Selected questions will be addressed on the P-I garden pages each week.
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