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And what to do this week This is the big week for planting most tender annuals and vegetables, but wait one more to put in tomatoes, basil, and peppers. Protect cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, beets, and Swiss chard from insects by covering them with floating row covers of lightweight spun polyester. Catnip, rosemary, chive, and thyme discourage some pests if planted in the vegetable garden. Always plant mint in containers or it will spread. Keep new plants watered. Tuck long pants into socks and spray ankles with tick repellent to protect against Lyme disease.

Q. A month ago, I started tomato seeds that I had saved from last year. In about a week they sprouted and then nothing. All I have are the cotyledons. They are frozen in time! I put them outside when the weather warmed up. Why have they stopped growing? Thank you for all the help I get from your column.

ARLENE COX, NORTH ANDOVER

A. It is probably still too cold for them to go outside overnight. Tomatoes are tropical plants and need warm soil to grow. Plant them outside the first week of June. Meanwhile, bring them indoors at night. To speed them up you can provide bottom heat for the roots by putting them on top of the refrigerator at night or on a heating pad set on low and wrapped in a towel. Hopefully, they will awake from their suspended animation once they warm up. Wait for the first set of true leaves to fertilize. Plant them outside the first week of June a couple of extra inches deep to encourage root growth from the buried stem.

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Q. We have a female ginkgo in our backyard. What can we do about the rotten-smelling fruit? I heard about spraying it to stop the fruit from growing, but I can’t find anyone in our area who can help.

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MARIA, MARBLEHEAD

A. Some trees have genders and only the females fruit. For example, most people grow female hollies for their berries, while most prefer male ginko trees so they won’t have smelly fruit to clean up. There are chemical controls to try. Florel Fruit Eliminator must be sprayed over the entire top of the tree to work, and the timing needs to be perfect. Snipper contains a synthetic analog of a growth-regulating chemical a professional arborist injects into the trunk during the last week of flower formation. These also work on sweetgum. Visit www.certifiedtreeandlawn.org to
find arborists near you and ask whether they do this service. You would have to repeat this every spring. Frankly, many experts would advise you to cut the female ginko down, perhaps replacing it with a male, which is the only gender of this handsome tree that most nurseries sell.


Please send questions to stockergarden@gmail.com and include your name and town.