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Ask the Gardeners

Q Before our summer squash starts to bloom we need an answer to this question. Last year they bloomed profusely, but why were only two or three squash produced? Vine crops always produce more male blooms than female (the one with the tiny immature squash behind the bloom), so there will be plenty of pollen. You may not have had enough bees to transfer the pollen, as there is a shortage in some areas. You can use a small paintbrush to transfer pollen from stamen of male bloom to pistil of female bloom if bees are not present to do it for you. Weather can also be a factor. Damp, cold weather inhibits bee activity and hot, dry weather may cause blooms to wither before pollination can take place. Q Is there any harm in using kitchen scraps on the garden without first putting them into a compost pile?

If you put kitchen scraps on top of the soil, you may attract rodents and dogs. Also, odors will be produced while they are breaking down. The best way to dispose of the scraps is to dig holes or short trenches, since you need them 8 to 12 inches deep in spots where you won't disturb plants' roots. After dumping the scraps into the holes, cover immediately. Q I have a wisteria vine that is growing vigorously, but as yet it has not flowered. I started it three years ago from a seed I got from my neighbor. Am I expecting it to bloom too soon?

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Wisterias are often stubborn bloomers, some not producing flowers before they are six or seven years old. Seedlings usually take longer than grafted vines from a nursery. Our grafted vine bloomed the third year. It is planted in a sunny location in sandy loam soil. We watered every few days while the roots were getting established, but last year it came through a drought, with no added water.

If yours doesn't bloom by the fifth or sixth year, you can root-prune by using a sharp spade. Thrust the spade into the soil, making a circle about three feet from the trunk. At this time you can scatter some superphosphate (about 11/2 cups) in the cut circle and water it in. Some varieties will bloom sooner than others, so make sure the grafted variety is a ``fast bloomer'' by consulting your nurseryman. Q We have two shrubs which have dropping panicles of white lily-of-the-valley-type flowers (as a matter of fact, we call it lily-of-the-valley shrub). One of them is growing in full sun and is full of blooms each year; the other is shaded partly by a large tree and has far less blooms. We were told when we bought them that they were shrubs for semi-shaded areas. Could there be something wrong with the one that doesn't bloom as fully? Both shrubs look quite healthy, the main difference being the number of blooms. What is the botanical name?

You have Japanese andromeda, or Pieris japonica, which is often recommended for semi-shade; however, in their native habitat they grow mainly in full sun on the mountains and plateaus of southern and western Japan. In sunny situations they bloom profusely, with lush foliage, putting on a spectacular show each spring. They do best in a moist, acid soil, which is high in organic matter. Q I have heard so much about flowering kale that I would like to try some. All the garden stores are sold out of started plants. Is it too late to start some from seeds?

It will take about 60 days from seed planting to make a colorful show. Since kale survives frost and lasts even into the winter in many areas, it is worth starting for a later summer, fall, and early winter show. Although white and pink varieties of open pollinated types are showy, we find the Nagoya hybrids grow larger, and the color is more intense. Our flowering kale has survived at 10 degrees F. and continued to be colorful.

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