Garden columnist Dan Gill answers readers’ questions each week. To send a question, email Gill at

I’m growing a variety of peppers (Cayenne, Tabasco, Habanero, etc.). I know I can order seeds online, but what is the process to take seeds from my existing plants? How do you dry/treat/preserve them to be viable next year? David Mouton

First, allow the fruit to fully ripen. I like to wait until the pepper starts to shrivel slightly before I harvest it. Open the fruit and extract the seeds. Use a strainer to rinse the seeds thoroughly under running water. Spread the seeds out on a paper towel and allow them to thoroughly dry for a few days to a week. Then, store the seeds in an airtight container in your refrigerator until you plant them next year.

If you are growing any F1 hybrid pepper varieties, be aware that they do not come true from seeds. The offspring will be different from the original plants.

Also, if you planted your different types of peppers near one another, there may have been some cross-pollination. If this happens, the plants produced by the seeds will produce peppers that may combine the characteristics of the parents. If you see any atypical peppers being produced next season, that would be why.

We have some azalea bushes in our front garden. There are some random branches sticking above some of the bushes making them look less attractive. Is it OK to trim them to make the bushes more uniform at this time? I know this is late to prune azaleas, and I don’t want to ruin blooming next year. Beverly Hyde

Sure, go ahead and prune back the wild shoots. It’s not uncommon for azaleas to send up these stray, awkward-looking vigorous shoots that stick up above the rest of the bush. You will only lose whatever flowers the shoots would have produced.

Removing the individual shoots will not affect the blooming of the rest of the shrub. However, it is too late to do a general shearing back of azalea shrubs. Doing this will greatly reduce the number of flowers produced in the spring.

Radishes (copy)

Radish leaves can be eaten in salads.

This may seem like a silly question but here it goes. Are radish leaves edible? If so, when can you eat them? Charles Ferguson

Yes, the leaves are edible and make a great addition to a fresh green salad. You can eat them at any stage of growth.

This is a perfectly good question. You should always check before eating a vegetable part that is not typically consumed.

My bay leaf tree has a black coating on the leaves and white bumps on the underside of most of the leaves. The new shoots at the bottom seem to be OK. Would it be all right to use the leaves in cooking? The tree is quite large, over 8 feet high. Kathleen

The white bumps are scale insects, and the black stuff is sooty mold fungus. The scale insects feed on the sugary sap of the tree and excrete a sweet liquid called honeydew. The sooty mold fungus is growing on the honeydew — not attacking or hurting the bay tree.

The scales are hurting the tree. So, kill the scale, and this helps the tree, stops the production of honeydew and eventually the sooty mold will go away. 

Spray the tree two or three times with a horticultural oil spray, like Volck Oil, Year-Round Oil, All Seasons Oil or other brands. Make two or three application following label directions.

The leaves can be used in cooking. I wouldn’t use the ones with lots of sooty mold on them (although this can generally be washed off). To use the ones with scale insects, use your thumbnail to push off and remove the scale insects before adding the leaves to the pot.

Mint by Judy Walker.jpg (copy) (copy)

Fall is a good time for planting mint.

Garden tips

HERB TIME: Fall is an excellent time to plant many popular hardy herbs. Parsley, for instance, is far more productive when planted in the fall rather than waiting until spring. And this is a great time to select and plant mints in the garden. There are many kinds of mints, and whether you are making tea, jelly, Mojitos or mint julips will affect what type of mints you choose to grow. Other herbs to plant include lemon balm, thyme, oregano, chives, rosemary and lavender.

BUY BULBS: Purchase tulip and hyacinth bulbs in the next few weeks and refrigerate them for six to eight weeks. Plant them in late December or early January. Plant all other types of spring-flowering bulbs now. They do not need to be prechilled.

A TROPICAL PLAN: It’s time to make plans for how you intend to handle your tender tropical plants in the ground this winter. Decide what needs protection, how you will protect them and what you will leave unprotected (such as inexpensive easily replaced plants).

THINK CITRUS: kumquats are all ripe now. Oranges and grapefruits will mostly ripen in December. Citrus fruit store well on the tree for weeks after they turn ripe, so there is no hurry to harvest.

WINTER BLOOMS: Continue to add colorful cool-season bedding plants to your flower beds. LSU AgCenter Louisiana Super Plants selections like Dash dianthus, Supertunia Vista Bubblegum petunia, Sorbet viola, Amazon dianthus, Swan columbine, Redbor kale, Diamonds Blue delphinium, Homestead Purple verbena and Camelot foxglove are great choices. They will not be bothered by winter freezes.

Plant only native wisteria, plus there's still time to treat for lawn weeds: Dan Gill offers advice

Garden columnist Dan Gill answers readers’ questions each week. To send a question, email Gill at

Garden columnist Dan Gill answers readers’ questions each week. To send a question, email Gill at

Home vegetable gardeners put a lot of effort into producing the crops they put on the table. When you consider the work that goes into produci…


By admin