Ask Avis



Honey bee in borage

Here’s chance for all of you far flung fans to ask me questions about gardening. No question is too simple. Gardening is a wonderful, yet perplexing activity.  Why something works once and then the next time it’s a total bust can be frustrating. Nature will have her way, but there are methods that work to ensure  success in the garden.  After 40 years with my hands in the dirt, I’ve probably made as many mistakes as you could imagine, but trust me, I haven’t given up yet.  And you can be the beneficiary of my experience.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Yours in the joy of gardening,



  6 Responses to “Ask Avis”

  1. On your self-watering- pots webpage, you show a self-watering pot which has a cage. I have not seen that brand / model before. Can you advise to me name of manufacturer.


    • Hi Mike, The containers with the cages come from The Gardener’s Supply catalog. They have a lot of great tools and supplies.

  2. So Avis, I have this basil plant I bought at Trader Joes. It was a great bargin and I’ve been using it for cooking for months now. It is on a window sill facing North, if that makes a difference. It now has millions of little white spots under the leaves which, if I shake the plant, take off in a cloud of little white flying bugs. Do I need to replace the plant? Or is it salvageable? I forget to water it regularly and it wilts, but a little water brings it back. I usually kill plants, but I’ve tried extra hard to keep this one alive because it is so expensive to buy fresh basil leaves and only use a few in a meal. Any suggestions?

    “After all, what is adventure, but inconvenience properly regarded?”
    C. Donahue

    • Hi Dave,

      Despite your ability to kill houseplants, you’ve obviously done something right to keep them alive so long. Don’t give up now. You’ve got white fly on your basil. It’s harder to keep plants healthy inside the house where there are no predators. Since you’ve gotten your money’s worth on this plant, I suggest you move it into the garden and let it toughen up in the real world.

      There are ways to treat whitefly. The whitefly is a tiny winged insect that gather in groups, usually under the leaves of plants, and suck plant leaves until they turn yellow and fall off. They also transmit plant disease. If you brush up against your plant and see a small cloud of white flies move away then this is your problem.

      You can use Safer Sticky Stakes insect traps or spray them with an organic insecticidal soap, like Safer Soap. These are lethal to the insects, but harmless to everyone else.

      It might be time for a new basil plant. Give it plenty of light and if possible, try to remember to water it before it wilts. That keeps it a little stronger and less prone to insect infestation.

      It’s great you’re using fresh herbs.

      Thanks for your question.


  3. I sowed my vegetable seeds in pots and they didn\’t grow. What did I do wrong?


    • Hi Galen,

      Thanks for your question. Sowing seeds can be a little tricky. When you get the seed packet be sure to read the directions and notice what season your plants will grow in, how deep to sow the seed and how long they take to germinate. Your problem could have been any of the following: seed was old and not viable, your seed dried out, it was either too hot or too cold for the seed to germinate or you have to give it a little more time. There’s no simple answer to your question, but try the following suggestions.

      Generally the smaller the seed the less they need to be covered. A big seed like pea or bean can go 1/2 inch to 1″ under the soil. A lettuce seed just needs 1/8 inch of soil covering. Then be sure to keep the surface moist. But not so wet that green algae grows on the surface.

      Once the seeds germinate they will need plenty of light. Be sure to read my post on getting seedlings started for more information.

      Good luck and let me know if this helped.


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