Sweet potatoes are easy to grow

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.

Q: Look what I grew in my garden! I had a hard time getting it out of the ground but this sweet potato weighs 3½ pounds! I can't wait to see how the rest of my plants produce. Rani von Württemberg, Lawrenceville

A: Sweet potatoes are extremely easy to grow. All you need is loose soil and a sunny spot that allows the vines to grow unchecked. "Beauregard', 'Jewel' and 'Georgia Jet' are favorites of many gardeners. Unlike white potatoes, sweet potatoes are grown from rooted stems (slips). If you can't find slips locally in spring I have tips on growing them yourself at bit.ly/GAsweetpotato.

Q: I purchased some seeds for exotic roses, including Black Dragon and Abracadabra but I don't know beans about growing them. Can you give me quick tips? Morris Devereaux, email

A: The best time to plant rose seeds is in late April, in a sunny spot outdoors. You won't have success sprouting them indoors. The flowers of the roses you get from the seeds will not be like the pictures you saw when ordering. Roses do not come true from seed: they will have characteristics from both parents. Even if both parents were so-called Black Dragon, the offspring will be a mix of colors. That said, I encourage you to plant the seeds next spring and see what you get. When they bloom a year later you may get a flower you like very much.

Q: What is the latest safe date to plant pansies? K. Martin, email

A: Pansies can be planted anytime the ground isn't frozen. They are perfectly cold-hardy. You'll get better blooms from plants sold in 3-inch-to-4-inch pots, not growing in plastic six-packs. Further, be sure to water the pansies at planting and every week for a month, to keep the root ball from drying out as it becomes established in cold soil.

Q: My husband and I have been battling poison ivy in our backyard. I am dreadfully allergic and I want to protect myself from another doctor visit. How can I eliminate it? Liz Settle, email

A: You can't "eliminate" poison ivy, since birds scatter the seeds randomly in their droppings every year. I think your best course is to keep a spray bottle of glyphosate (Roundup, KleenUp, etc) in a handy place and take a weekly walk around your landscape during the growing season. A couple of squirts from the bottle will kill any "leaves of three" you see.

Q: With what should I spray my scheffleras to eliminate pests before I bring them in for the winter? Cathey Eves, DeKalb County

A: I once had a neighbor who would cover his houseplants with a paper sack and stick a lit cigar in the soil. He left it covered for only a few minutes. He said it "fumergated" his plants. They seemed to have no pests during the winter but they were a bit pungent for a few weeks afterward. I don't recommend you follow his example but you can examine the leaves of your plants for spider mites, mealy bugs and aphids. If found, spray outdoors with insecticidal soap or spinosad to control them.

Q: Can I safely spray Roundup on a privet hedge growing under a mature oak tree? Rich Shriver, Cumming

A: Glyphosate (Roundup, etc) is mostly absorbed by leaves but can be absorbed by a tree trunk or roots if applied heavily. If you are careful to spray just the privet leaves, you could use the chemical under an oak.