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Ask the gardeners

My husband and I have used only organic matter on our garden, such as garbage , grass clippings, leaves, etc., either dug into the soil in fall or composted and added later. A neighbor told us our soil is now too acid and we should add lime in the fall because our plants will become weak-stemmed. Is our neighbor correct?

Composting organic matter is good business. Many folks follow your method of gardening with no problems. Organic matter doesn't necessarily make a soil acid.

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Weak stems usually indicate a lack of potassium (potash) or excess nitrogen.

Most garden plants do well at a pH range of 5.6 to 7. If your soil has high acidity it could be ''tying up'' the potassium so it is unavailable to the plants. A simple pH test will tell if soil is acid or alkaline. Test kits are available at garden stores.

Even if a test shows that your soil is alkaline, however, it still could lack potassium. A test for this would require a more elaborate test kit (also available), but you may want to call on your Cooperative Extension Service to test your soil.

The service can make complete recommendations to help solve the problem. Ask it to recommend the organic alternatives to chemical compounds.

We are bothered with rabbits eating our broccoli plants. Fortunately, we start our own seeds and thus sow more for a midsummer planting. We grow lettuce in raised beds which the rabbits don't touch, but we can't do this with broccoli. What can we do to deter the rabbits?

You can use a box trap, if you wish. One is called ''Have-a-Heart,'' but there are others with lids that drop down as the animal goes in to eat the bait. The animal can then be transported to another location and released.

Hot Tabasco sauce, 1 tablespoon to 2 quarts of water, is effective. Don't breathe the spray, however.

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We've never had so many inquiries, such as yours, as this year. As man spreads his habitat farther into the domain of the animals, he is squeezing them into smaller spaces. The animals haven't moved to the urban and suburban areas. Rather, the urban and suburban areas have moved out to them.

In addition, foxes, one of rodents' main predators, have been killed off by hunters, who want their pelts. NOTE: Readers are asked to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope, including ZIP code, when writing for a bulletin or personal reply to a question to this column. Canadian readers can send American postage or coins.m

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