Pomegranate pollination can be done by hand

Q: I have a pomegranate bush. Each year the bush is loaded with blooms but soon they all fall off. What could help this situation? Bill Jones, email

A: It sounds like the blooms are not getting pollinated. Pomegranate flowers are pollinated by insects, so it’s possible your garden has few of these helpers. Plant perennial salvia, annual zinnia, bee balm and rosemary near your pomegranate to bring pollinators. You could also try hand-pollinating the blooms by transferring pollen from flower to flower using a small artist’s brush or a cotton swab.

Q: What is your recommendation for growing vegetables over a septic leach field? Paul Vanderhorst, Lithonia

A: Although we commonly fertilize gardens with animal manure, the potential for vegetables to come in contact with human waste makes some folks queasy. That said, a properly functioning septic leach field should not allow pathogens to the soil surface. I’m not an environmental expert but I would have no problem growing tall vegetables like okra and corn over a leach field. I’d stake or trellis tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and peas. I’d grow squash, making sure to wash it when harvested. I would stay away from root crops and leafy vegetables. In my opinion, if you use normal sanitation practices for your harvest, you can garden over a septic leach field.

Q: Our corn will soon be silking. How do I keep keep earworms out? Mildred Chandler, email

A: Earworm caterpillars come from eggs laid by a moth soon after the first appearance of corn silks. Some gardeners try to physically exclude them by placing a clothespin at the point where the silks emerge from the shuck. Others put mineral oil or vegetable oil at the same spot two days after full silk, when the silks are beginning to brown. Timing is important: too-early treatment causes non-pollination at the tips of the ears. Chemical dusts containing carbaryl (Sevin) or permethrin (Eight) give a wider window for treatment.

Q: I recently had two large black locust trees cut down. They had shelf fungi (conks) growing on the trunks. A friend of the ax man wanted the conks. Do you have any idea what uses one would have for these? Milton Young, Hendersonville

A: I don’t know why they wanted the conks, other than for decoration. Artist’s conk, Ganoderma applanatum, is not the same fungus. That fungus has a very smooth underside, which generations of artists have used to apply their handiwork. The shelf fungus you had, Phellinus robiniae, is not the same thing but might be used similarly.

Q: I have seven Vanilla Strawberry hydrangea shrubs. All have a great abundance of green foliage, but they have no flowers. One is in 60 percent sun, three are in 30 percent sun, and three are in 20 percent sun. Frank Frederick, Gainesville

A: Unlike common mophead hydrangeas, panicle hydrangeas like full sun, so shade is definitely a problem for yours. I’d hold off on pruning for a couple of years. This would give them more leaf surface to absorb the energy needed to bloom. If flowers still don’t appear, move them to a sunny spot.

Q: We are growing acorn squash on a trellis to keep it from taking over the entire garden. The fruit are already large and we are concerned about them breaking the stems. How should we support them? Richard Leff, email

A: I recommend making a sling from discarded pantyhose. The nylon dries quickly, unlike cloth material.

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Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on AM 750 and 95.5 FM News-Talk WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Fan Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.