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We have a two-acre homesite covered with large trees so that very little sunshine reaches any part of it. We would like to raise some shade-tolerant fruits and vegetables. Any suggestions?

There are wild food plants that will tolerate a lot of shade, but our cultivated garden crops need at least six sunny hours a day, not counting very early and very late hours of sun, to produce well.

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Study your situation and see if removing some of the limbs will let in enough sunlight. You could resort to containerized plants on moveable platforms and move them into the sunny spots as the sun's rays move.

Removing limbs properly (at their collar) will allow wounds to heal well and not damage the trees.

Small mushrooms often spring up on our lawn and we would like to know if they are edible. To us they look similar to the ones bought in stores. A friend tells us to put a silver spoon in boiling water with a couple of them. If it turns black they are safe to eat. I'm a little squeamish about accepting this test without checking with some authority about it. Are you familiar with this test?

Toxic and nontoxic mushrooms will turn a silver spoon black because they both have sulfur, a tarnishing ingredient.

In our opinion, the only way to become a proficient identifier of edible mushrooms is to study field guides and also go into the field with an experienced mushroom hunter until you are absolutely sure which ones can be eaten.

Which species of poppy has the seeds that can be used for cooking? I would like to plant some in my garden.

It is the Opium poppy, Papaver somniferum. The seeds, which do not contain opium, are used to produce edible oil for baked goods. It is the milky juice which contains the narcotic. In the United States it is illegal to grow them without a license.

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We've had a terrible time getting tiny seeds like petunias, especially begonias, scattered evenly in the seed boxes. When they come up they're all in bunches.

Put a tablespoon or so of unflavored gelatin in a clean, dry salt shaker. Sprinkle the seeds on top, attach cover, and then shake well before tipping the shaker at an angle and ''salting'' the gelatin (with seeds) back and forth across the sowing medium. You can also buy pelleted seeds.

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