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Ask the Gardeners

I have a white Christmas cactus that has bloomed for two years at the proper time. Now it has gone limp and the leaves just hang down. No insects are apparent. What kind of fertilizer can I use to get it back in shape? Fertilizer is not the answer. It may have been overwatered, especially if it has been in a cold room and in a plastic pot. This would cause the roots to rot.

If it sat next to a cold window during the extremely cold, windy weather of the last few months, it could have been chilled. It may be too dry if in a clay pot and in a warm room.

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The top of the soil can feel moist while the root area remains dry if the plant is not watered sufficiently.

The cactus may have grubs in the soil which are eating the roots. If the roots have been destroyed, take cuttings from the top and root them.

We have an evergreen magnolia tree which keeps its leaves all winter. It is 10 years old and has never bloomed. When should I prune it to make it bloom? Do not prune it. The chances are this magnolia is not completely hardy in your area. Although the tree survives, the winter kills the flowering buds.

Enjoy the foliage which is handsome by itself.

Last year woodchucks burrowed deep tunnels and came up in the middle of our garden. We've used fences, including electric, and smoke bombs, but to no avail. We're discouraged. Any suggestions?

Woodchucks are difficult because they avoid fences by going underground.

Farm stores have materials that will destroy them if it is put into the tunnels and soil is used to seal up the holes.

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A more humane way is to sprinkle cayenne pepper into the holes in your garden or use a solution of 1 tablespoon liquid detergent and 5 tablespoons tabasco sauce in a gallon of water.

Hopefully, this will persuade them to stay on their own side of the fence.

My husband trimmed off some branches of our maple tree. Now we wonder if the wounds should be painted with something. The only advantage of painting a wound is cosmetic.

Tests show that many kinds of coverings, previously recommended, did not help the trees and some even harmed trees, according to Alex L. Shigo of the US Forest Service.

The important thing is not to leave a stub when pruning or removing a limb because the tissue cannot grow over the wound unless the cut is almost flush with the trunk or remaining branch.

If you have a question about your garden, inside or out, send it to the gardening page, The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, Mass. 02115. Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists, authors of several books on gardening, and greenhouse operators for the past 25 years.

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