If you give rosemary light, it will grow nicely indoors

BACKYARD Q&A

January 10, 1999

Q. I was given a very attractive rosemary topiary for a holiday gift. I love the scent and plan to use the leaves in recipes. But how do I keep the plant growing indoors?

A. Place it in the sunniest window you have or keep it under a grow-light or an ordinary fluorescent fixture for 14 to 16 hours each day. Water it when the top of the growing mix feels dry. And trim the foliage to keep your plant healthy and bushy.

Q. I have one spot in a perennial bed next to my house that stays under water after a rain. I'm afraid that this wet area may grow in size and cause water damage to my foundation. Is there anything I can do short of redoing the entire bed?

A. It's possible that a rock, board or some other object is impeding the movement of water through the soil. Dig down with a spade to determine if this is the case. If no object is found, continue digging with a post-hole digger as far as possible and fill the hole with a mixture of loose soil and large gravel.

You also might consider removing your mulch and regrading the bed with a rake (metal works best) so that water flows away from your house.

Q. Help! Just as we began taking our Christmas tree down, we noticed a family of praying mantises walking around our living room. Were they in the tree the whole time? We have them in an aquarium and they seem to be eating one another. Any suggestions?

A. The mantises hatched from an egg case that was attached to your tree. The indoor temperature tricked them into emerging early.

Mantises are cannibalistic. If you intend to keep the survivors in your aquarium, try feeding them wingless fruit flies (check with your local pet store). They won't survive outdoors at this time.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Prevent fungus gnat problems around houseplants by allowing the top of the potting soil to dry out between waterings.

2. Check for ticks after working in the garden on mild winter days. Ticks remain active as long as temperatures exceed 45-50 degrees.

3. Keep feeding wild birds if you started in the fall or earlier this winter. They're depending on you for a continuous food supply.

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