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Rose Petals for Salad Can Be Home-Grown

QUESTION: In the produce section of my grocery, I saw an expensive package of flower petals--including roses--for use in salads. Can I use roses from my own garden in salads?

ANSWER: If you don’t apply pesticides, by all means use your rose petals in salads. A stunning opener to a meal is rose petal salad, consisting of endive, rose petals and toasted pine nuts served with a garnish of slivered limestone lettuce and dressed with raspberry vinaigrette.

-- Mary Ellen Guffey

Bird of Paradise’s Place in the Sun

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Q: What is the best location for a bird of paradise plant? Does it require an area where it will receive sun all-day long?

A: A bird of paradise needs full sun in our beach areas; however, in the warmer inland valleys, it does best in partial or filtered sunlight.

-- Bill Sidnam

Are Earthworms Good for Potted Plants?

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Q: If earthworms are good for the soil, are they also beneficial in my potted plants?

A: Earthworms enrich the soil with their castings, and their burrowing assists in aerating and draining soil. But some people consider them a nuisance in lawns and in pots. If you have an excessive number, consider a commercial worm killer (available at some garden centers). In my own pots, I’ve noticed earthworms in the soil, but they don’t seem to create any problem.

-- M.E.G.

Using Less Fertilizer May Be Solution

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Q: Using rabbit droppings has increased leaf size and the size of plants but at the expense of flowers and crops. What’s going on?

A: According to an old copy of the Western Fertilizer Handbook, rabbit pellets or manure contains 2% nitrgen, 1.3% phosphorous and 1.2% potassium. If it were sold as a fertilizer it would say 2-1-1 on the label. That would make it a mild and balanced fertilizer but too much of anything is not a good thing.

Lots of growth at the expense of flowers and fruit is simply too much fertilizer, nitrogen in particular. Simply use less, and give your extra to a neighbor who should be thrilled to get such a good fertilizer for free.

--Robert Smaus

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Excess Nitrogen Can Harm Epihyllums

Q: I have a small collection of epiphyllums and have always used Cactus Pete’s fertilizer on them. Now that he has retired, what is an appropriate fertilizer? The Sunset Western Garden Book indicates “low nitrogen.” Do they mean low or no?

A: Excess nitrogen can can cause small round areas of rot that later callous and become hard, but the orchid cacti do need nitrogen, so the answer is “low.’ Use any houseplant fertilizer where the second two numbers on the label are larger than the first, such as 5-10-10.

That first number is the nitrogen content. Fertilizers formulated this way are usually sold as promoting flowering so that information on the label is the tip-off. Also, use the fertilizer half-stregth, since epiphyllums are not heavy feeders. --R.S.

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Rotation May Help Boost Vegetable Yield

Q: Perhaps you can help me with a puzzling problem. I have planted a vegetable garden each spring for the last five or six years, however now the yield is way down, even though the plants are lush and green. I add amendments and fertilizer each time I replant, so what am I doing wrong? We live in a canyon area where sun is scant--a maximum of about five hours per day.

A: The problem could be not enough sun. Perhaps the trees have grown taller during the last six years. Too little sun would certainly cause plants to grow lush, but fruit poorly. You also might try fertilizing less, since that also promotes leafy greens at the expense of fruit, unless you are growing leafy greens of course.

You might also try crop rotation. Many plants shouldn’t be grown in the same spot year after year. This is even true of flowers, such as delphiniums. Harmful soil organisms build up in the soil where the plants grow, but moving them leaves these organisms behind. Put the tomatoes where the lettuce was, the lettuce where you grew carrots before and so on. --R.S.

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Espalier Planting at Long, Blank Wall

Q: We just moved into a newly constructed home that has a long, blank wall near the entry with only a foot of planting space. What can I grow in this space that will look attractive year round?

A: Why not espalier a plant on a trellis or on plastic-coated wire in the European fashion? Some good shrubs for training are pyracantha, Parney cotoneaster, xylosma, photinia, Burford holly, Wilson holly, and twisted juniper. In European gardens, fruit trees like apple, pear and peach are the usual espalier subjects.

-- M.E.G.

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GARDENER’S CHECKLIST For dedicated gardeners, here are suggestions from the California Assn. of Nurserymen on what to do in the garden this week: For a late show of color, plant petunias, marigolds, zinnias and lobelia.

Water roses well during hot weather and mulch to help soil retain moisture. Fertilize now if you want blooms into and through the fall.

Continue to mow the lawn at a high level. It helps keep the roots cool.

Look for cannas to bring a colorful and tropical look to your back yard.

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Keep bougainvillea vines on the dry side during their bloom season to ensure the brightest bracts.

GARDEN EVENTS Walks, Talks and Garden Shows Today: South Bay Bromeliad Associates Show and Sale, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 S. Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes Peninsula, (213) 664-6164. Admission: adults $3, students and seniors $1.50.

Today: Water-Conserving Plants for Your Garden, 1 to 4 p.m. Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, 1212 Mission Canyon Blvd., Santa Barbara, (805) 682-4726. Admission: $2.

Aug. 12: Rose Hybridizing, a talk and slide show, 2 p.m. South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes Peninsula, (213) 772-5813. Admission: adults $3, students and seniors $1.50.

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--Linda Estrin Send garden announcements to Linda Estrin, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053, at least three weeks before the event date.


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