Q: I was bragging to a friend that my sliced watermelon is always sweet because I choose the round female ones and not the longer male fruit. He laughed at me and said this was an urban myth! Who is right?
Kay Spencer, Atlanta
A: Although it is true that watermelon vines have male and female flowers, the fruit is not male or female. Upon consideration, I suppose it could be said that all watermelon fruits are “female” because they are theoretically capable of producing seed. Look for melons that have a yellow “belly.” These are usually sweeter than those with a white or green part that touches the ground.
Another myth involves eggplant. There is no evidence that those with a round blossom scar (“male”) are meatier and have fewer seeds than those showing an elongated scar.
Q: We’ve lived in our house for 11 years and done no landscaping. Now we have lots of low spots and weeds. I’d like to start doing some landscaping, but I’m not sure what to do first.
Rachael Takei, email
A: Landscaping a neglected yard can be a daunting task. Take my advice and work slowly and methodically. Choose a couple of spots where landscaping would improve the look of the house and dig up the soil there. If it is mostly clay, add soil conditioner to make it loose and productive. Print out some pictures and take them to an independent nursery on a Tuesday morning when they are not busy and ask if someone there can give you some quick advice on what plants to use initially. When you are satisfied with the first areas, move on to a couple more. Rome was not built in a day!
Q: Do you know the stinger length of a yellowjacket compared to a honeybee? Would a bee suit protect me from yellowjackets?
Mike Kerr, North Fulton County
A: University of Georgia honeybee expert Keith Delaplane says the average yellowjacket is much smaller than a honeybee worker. That means that a beekeeping suit designed to deter bee stings will be plenty within specs for deterring yellowjacket stingers.
Q: What could cause pellets of black stuff to fall from my trees?
Susan Dooley, email
A: Undoubtedly caterpillars feeding high in the tree. Early fall is when their leaf consumption goes into high gear and their fecal pellets become noticeable. Even so, their damage is negligible. There’s no need to control them.
Q: I had the worst year ever for tomatoes. The plants didn’t produce as many tomatoes and the tomatoes themselves were smaller than normal.
Philip Hasty, Roswell
A: I think it was just the vagaries of your local environment. Several things can cause small tomatoes. Incomplete pollination, cloudy days, too much heat at the wrong time, not enough fertilizer, etc. could all be causes of poor fruiting. Sometimes you just have to roll with the punches and look forward to next year.