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Ask the Gardeners Q&A

Q In a column a few weeks ago to help a reader locate plantsmen selling a geranium variety named Skies of Italy, you gave the name and address of a person who represents the International Geranium Society. You also mentioned a publication entitled ``Avant Gardener,'' but you did not give the address. Can you supply it? ``Avant Gardener'' is a horticultural news service published monthly by Thomas and Betty Powell, which focuses on new developments in horticulture. In one of the issues was a list of the plant societies of the United States as well as the addresses.

It is an excellent publication and costs $15 a year. Anyone wanting to inquire about it, as well as the plant-society list, should write to the following: Avant Gardener, Horticultural Data Processors, PO Box 489, New York, N.Y. 10028. Q After several years of city living where we had no garden, we've moved to a rural setting. I sent for several seed catalogs in January but was disappointed not to find Golden Bantam sweet corn in any of them. I recall this as being one of the best ever. Do you know of a source?

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While there are a few seedsmen who list Golden Bantam, we suggest (as we have to many others) that you try some of the new varieties. Plant breeders have given us hybrids that are far sweeter and retain flavor longer. Choose from early, mid-season, and late varieties that now offer yellow, bi-color, and white choices.

If you have a short growing season, you can lay black plastic between the rows to hasten growth and maturity. The plastic traps heat in the soil. Corn does not germinate well in cool soil.

Butter and Sugar (mid-season) and Silver Queen (late) are two of our favorites. Most seed houses now offer the supersweet varieties as well, such as Kandy Korn, Sugar Loaf, and Illini Xtra-Sweet.

Q I come from a family of nongardeners, and although I enjoy growing things, I am unfamiliar with many of the gardening terms. I often come across a word in gardening articles that confuses me. What is meant by ``pinching''?

A horticultural textbook, ``The Commercial Greenhouse,'' by James W. Boodley, defines pinching as: ``The procedure by which a small part of the growing tip of the plant is removed to cause the development of auxilliary roots.''

We tell people to use the fingernails of the thumb and forefinger to snip out the tip of the plant so the remaining stem will be stimulated to throw out side shoots. If it is a plant that has joints, such as geraniums, the tips can usually be snapped off. If it is a tough-stemmed plant (a small shrub or evergreen), use a pruning knife or nippers.

Snapdragons are a good example of the benefits of pinching. Pinched when 3 or 4 inches tall, transplants grow into well-branched, husky plants, giving more blooms for bouquets.

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Q I recently read about a bean (for drying) that can be grown in an arid climate, but I cannot recall the name. Can you help? We're soon moving to Texas.

One with which we are familiar is tepary bean. These white beans resemble navy beans in size and are native to the Southwest. They germinate very quickly without irrigation and produce much more heavily than other beans in an arid climate.

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