Linda G. of Sebastopol asks: How do you know when to start sowing and planting fall vegetables? I seem to get it wrong every year.
Answer: You can tell the right time for fall vegetable sowing and planting of beets, cabbage, chard, greens, turnips and more, just by subtracting 8 to 10 weeks from the first fall frost, which is, on average, Nov. 15.
Debbie S. of Kelseyville asks: Why do some of my plants wilt during the hot part of the day, and then look revived once the sun starts to go down?
Answer: If your plants are wilting earlier in the day but perk up in the late afternoon as the temperature starts to go down, they probably can’t take the heat. Impatiens and squash are two good examples of plants that collapse when it’s hot, and then perk up again once the temperature cools. Water the plants well, using whatever watering system you’ve been using, and then cover all bare soil with organic matter. That’s called ‘mulching’. The mulch will help keep the soil cool during the hottest times of the day. If you have perennials or shrubs that wilt, try spreading an inch or two of small wood chips or other attractive mulch around the plants and you will see great improvement.
Becky D. of Sebastopol asks: Can you tell me the best way to dry and save sunflower seeds? I’d love to add them to my bird seed mix that I make to feed the birds.
Answer: Here’s an easy way to dry the sunflower seeds. When the flower heads sag cut them off, leaving enough of the stem so you can hang them upside down. Let them air dry for a month or so in a very well ventilated area out of the sun like a garage or storage shed. You can use them in fall arrangements or just let them hang in the kitchen from a hook or put them in a vase without water.
Tom K. of Santa Rosa asks: I have a hard time pulling out my carrots. All I get is a handful of leaves. Is there a trick to harvesting them?
Answer: The soil of your carrot patch is probably a little too dry to be able to pull carrots out easy without breaking them off from the leaves, and thus, having a handful of foliage with no carrot attached. Try watering the soil, making it just moist enough to soften the soil. The carrots should come out much easier.
Sandy R. of Windsor asks: My chrysanthemums are doing beautifully right now, but tend to look a bit peaked as they start to flower. Should I be feeding them with anything?
Answer: You can give your chrysanthemums a weekly drink of fish emulsion or make some manure tea, and feed them until the color starts to appear.
Katy G. of Santa Rosa asks: I added quite a few diseased plants into my compost pile and my friend told me I shouldn’t have done that. Why not?
Answer: Well, adding diseased plants into the compost pile is a no-no, and since you did, you can sleep well at night if you make sure that the compost pile heats up to at least 160 degrees to kill any and all pathogens that were introduced. The important thing is to make sure the pile is turned every few days so that all of the compost reaches 160 degrees for a sustained period. Generally, the outer part of the pile is cooler than the center. That’s why you turn it often. Purchase a soil thermometer to make sure that your compost pile is reaching this temperature.