December 19, 2014
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The Magic Garden
Succeed with sharp shears this year
Morton White

I have some property in NH. I would like to start a cranberry bog. Should I start from seeds?
Steve, Gardener, MA

It would be better to begin with cuttings. Wild cranberry would be hardy but I would find an established bog and ask for permission to make cuttings. You need to take eight inch terminal shoots. Cut off the upper two inches. The bottom should be at an acute angle to expose he most cambium. Place the cuttings in a six inch deep box filled with coarse sand. Cuttings should be misted every day. Your bog is best bolt on a clay base with a foot of good organic material preferably peat on the top. Trenches should be bolt at regular intervals to flood the bog for harvesting. I would also suggest a poly greenhouse, if you intend to go into a commercial endeavor.

We have had a mild winter so far this year. I have not built the traditional tent over my Japanese Maples. They are five feet tall now. How long do I have to wait before I can leave them without shelter? I do mulch them every year.
Trevor, Branford, ON


Because you have put mulch under the trees, it should make it easier for them to survive. Zone 5, where you are, is the suggested limit for Acer palmatum and other Japanese Maples. Mulch allows for the insulation of the soil. Each fall I would add water under the mulch to help protect the plants. It is the alternating freezing and thawing that damages plants. The maples will thaw later in the spring but that is not a bad thing.

We had a great crop of watermelons this past summer, the best ever. However, no matter how long on the vine, even to rotting stage, the melons would not turn red. Can you tell me why the melons would not ripen? Plants were in two different beds. The results were the same. One bed was harvested seeds, one bed new package seeds, and then the compost pile. Cantaloupe did fine, as did the cucumbers.
Bobby, Central AR

Watermelons usually ripen in 100 days. Some varieties like Dixie Queen and Charleston Gray will mature in 85 to 90. The time difference could account for the sugars not appearing in the fruit but was on time in the other Cucumis. In zone 7, where you are , you should have had enough time this year. Ideal temps are 65 at night and 85 during he day. I understand that you had drought this year. Watermelons love humidity but not too much. This may have more to do with the fruit not ripening. Soils should contain plenty of organic matter to hold water and fertility. It is rare that watermelons ripen in zone 6 on time. I would try earlier watermelons next year.

How do you sharpen tools? Ron, Austin, TX

I use a 12-15 inch coarse file. There is a bevel on one side of each blade on cutting tools. The hedge shears, lopers and other cross blades will have the bottom beveled on the top blade and the top on the bottom blade. Do not file both sides of each blades of any cutting tool. This includes mower blades. On hard steel tools, you can add some oil to the file. Shovels that are used frequently are sharpened by the soil.


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