Ask the gardeners
Our African violets have stopped blooming. Why?
One reason why flowering plants do not bloom is insufficient light. In winter many homes do not have enough light for buds to form.
Try this simple test: Hold your hand 18 inches above and a little to the side of the African violet; in other words, where the light is the brightest. If the shadow of your hand is barely visible, the light is just right.
Send us a self-addressed, stamped envelope, care of the gardening page of the Monitor, for our free guide, ''How to Grow African violets for Year Round Beauty.''
We want to grow some popcorn this year because our family eats so much of it. We've been told it shouldn't be planted near sweet corn. What is the reason?
The only time popcorn will affect sweet corn is when they bloom at the same time. The pollen from the tassels (blooms) will travel to the silk of the sweet corn and lower the quality of the kernels.
Popcorn is ''late'' corn so avoid planting it near late sweet corn if the maturity date (given in catalogs along with each variety) is about the same.
Popcorn is an excellent snack food, low in calories and high in food value. Some 6.5 billion quarts of it are eaten annually in the US - about 30 quarts for every man, woman, and child.
I want to grow some chestnut trees. I've tried sprouting some of the nuts I've gotten at grocery stores, but without success. Why?
Chestnuts from grocery stores are usually the European chestnut (Castanea sativa.) Usually the embryo has dried up and will not germinate.
You would do better to grow the Chinese chestnut, an Oriental type with resistance to the blight which came to the US in the late 1800s and destroyed most American chestnut trees.
Young, 18-inch trees from nurseries cost only a few dollars and bear in about two years.
Our house plants have tiny white puffs of cotton on the stems and leaves. I sprayed them with an insecticide but it didn't do any good. What are these little things?
Your plants have mealy bugs, pests covered with white, waxy ''coats of armor.'' The insecticide just rolls right off.
Take a toothpick with a tiny cotton swab and dip it in rubbing alcohol. Touch each cottony mass. The alcohol will penetrate the wax hiding the insect and dispatch the pest quickly.
You also can drench the plant with a solution of 75 percent rubbing alcohol and 25 percent water (room temperature), plus one-half teaspoon of liquid dishwashing detergent to one quart of solution. Then take a soft brush and go over the whole plant. The pests will wash off easily. Afterward, rinse with room-temperature water (about 70 degrees F.).
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.