Bath water is good for plants -- just don't pour it on...

BACKYARD Q&A

August 22, 1999

Bath water is good for plants -- just don't pour it on leaves

Q. I'm trying to conserve water at home and wonder if it's OK to irrigate my small vegetable garden with bath water.

A. Yes, bath water is fine to use. However, depending on the kinds and amounts of soap and shampoo you use, pouring water directly on foliage could result in leaf burn. Water around the base of your plants only. That's where it will do the most good, anyway.

Q. I'm very frustrated with a couple of old peach trees I inherited from a previous owner of my property. One has two trunks and one of these trunks is split and falling over a bit. The other has large gobs of sticky sap all over the lower trunk. On top of that, the trees produce very few peaches. Are they worth saving?

A. Probably not. Peach trees, especially those that have been neglected, have a relatively short useful life -- about 10 to 15 years. Double-leader trees are inherently weak and tend to split out.

The sap you see is probably the result of peach tree borers feeding directly under the bark. These pests can go undetected for some time. The No. 1 killer of peach trees in Maryland, borers are drawn to trees that have been stressed by drought, low fertility, compact soil, disease problems, etc. You might want to consider removing the trees and selecting a hardier, more pest-resistant fruit variety.

Q. I was given an heirloom tomato plant named Golden Queen by a neighbor who got the seeds in Lancaster County. It produced the prettiest, best-tasting golden orbs. Can I can save and replant seed from these tomatoes even though there are other varieties growing nearby?

A. Yes, by all means save and replant the seed next year. Golden Queen is an open-pollinated cultivar and will come true from seed. However, tomatoes can be cross-pollinated by bees, so there is a slight chance that saved seed will be contaminated with genes from the other varieties.

To ensure absolute purity next year, you should cover your Golden Queen plants with screening or a floating row (from flowering on).

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Transplant broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and turnips into open garden beds. Dig in compost before planting and treat young plants with a soluble fertilizer.

2. Water specimen shrubs and trees once a week during dry periods, particularly those that are young or newly planted. Apply water directly from a hose; do not use a sprinkler (whether water-conservation rules are in effect or not).

3. Harvest pumpkins for jack-o'-lanterns. Choose fruit that are full-sized and well-colored. Store in a cool, dry location until Halloween.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.

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