Q: A patch of stiltgrass appeared in our backyard a few years ago. Now it is all over the yard and spreading to the front. How do I get rid of it and prevent further spread?
Ellen Francis, email
A: Stiltgrass (basketgrass, eulalia) is an annual grassy weed that loves shady, moist areas. I have gotten good control using pendimethalin (Halts, etc) pre-emergent every spring in early March.
Q: On your website you say that only canning makes Kieffer pears palatable. I’ve found an exception. A few years ago I had a bumper crop of hard pears. I gathered a paper bag full and left them it in my storage room for several weeks. Much to my surprise, the pears were as fragrant, soft, and delicious as any table pear.
Anna Kreid, email
A: My mother used to do the same thing. If memory serves, she would look for the most perfect pears and wash them gently with diluted bleach water. She put them in a brown paper bag in a dark place and checked them every day. Sometimes they would rot but sometimes they’d be soft and delicious like yours.
Q: I am heartbroken! My New Dawn rose has contracted rose rosette virus. Watching this wicked disease destroy such a stately specimen is sickening. Please tell me there is a cure on the horizon.
Judy Cannon, email
A: There is no breakthrough yet but the USDA hosts a website (www.roserosette.org) that will have the news when it comes. Scientists in Texas recently planted hundreds of roses in a research plot to see which ones might naturally resist the virus. The roses were only planted this year, so no news will be forthcoming for a while. The vast majority of roses have no resistance to this fatal disease. The best advice is still to dig and destroy any plant that shows symptoms of the virus.
Q: I planted a ‘Celebrity’ tomato. The label says it is a determinate type. But mine already has six vigorous stems and doesn’t look determinate to me. I thought I’d have more of a bushy plant.
Dan Cowles, Cumming
A: I once saw a toddler at a garden center pull labels from pots to make a “collection.” I then observed the harried mother take the labels, put them back in random pots, and hurry the kid away. So even though the label says ‘Celebrity,’ that might not actually be the tomato you have. ‘Celebrity’ is the most popular determinate tomato variety but it really is “semi-determinate.” Shoots of semi-determinates produce several flower clusters on the side of an apparent main stem, like indeterminates, but eventually the shoot terminates in a flower cluster, as in other determinate plants.
Watch your plants for a week or so and note where the flowers form. On a truly determinate tomato, flowers occur at the ends of branches and will all be about the same size at the same time. An indeterminate variety will have flowers in various stages of maturity, some having small fruit and some not.