Califonia Bountiful

Gardening Q&A

May/June 2015 California Bountiful magazine

As a California Bountiful reader, you have the opportunity to get your seasonal gardening questions answered by gardening expert Pat Rubin. Here are a few questions from other readers.

The gophers are getting into my garden and destroying plants. They ate the roots on all my pole beans, and I think they are nibbling at the potatoes. Help!

I've had the same problem. One year I planted pole beans around tall tomato cages, and each day a gopher ate one plant until they were all gone. Moles tunnel through the soil looking for grubs. Unfortunately, their tunneling disrupts and uproots plants. The solution is raised beds with hardware cloth on the bottom to keep these little critters from getting in. Hardware cloth is available at hardware and big-box stores. It isn't expensive. Once you've built your raised bed, staple the hardware cloth on the bottom. The holes are too small for gophers or moles to get through.

I was told some seeds need stratification before I can plant them. What does this mean?

In nature, a plant drops its seeds, and the seeds sprout the following year. They go through fall and winter before coming up in the spring. Some seeds have really hard seed coats; it takes several summers and winters to wear them down enough for moisture to get in and allow the seed to germinate. That is what stratification means, but you can speed up the process by gently nicking or sanding a spot on the seed so it germinates on your schedule rather than Mother Nature's. I remember learning to pour boiling water on western redbud seeds to break through the seed coat to get them to germinate.

About Pat Rubin, California Bountiful's gardening expert

Pat Rubin

For Pat Rubin, gardening is more than just dirt and plants. "It's about history, romance, adventure and people," she says. "And it should be fun."

California Bountiful's gardening columnist has lived and chronicled this fun, hands-in-the-dirt approach for years—and for additional publications including Fine Gardening, Pacific Horticulture, Christian Science Monitor, Family Circle and The Sacramento Bee. Pat has also volunteered as a Master Gardener, speaks to garden clubs and appears regularly on gardening radio shows.

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