Roanoke Times
                 Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc.

DATE: SUNDAY, May 6, 1990                   TAG: 9005070356
SECTION: HOMES                    PAGE: D-6   EDITION: METRO 
SOURCE: John Arbogast
DATELINE:                                 LENGTH: Medium


Q: I have a slight hill, sloped about 3 feet, on the south side where I have planted azaleas and quince. My idea is to remove the remaining grass and plant bulbs, which would be near these bushes as they grow. I see advertised "weed block" fabrics/net. Would it be good for me to dig out the grass, put down the weed block and then plant the bulbs this fall? Also, in the same south area, I want to add a white quince and a pink one from my home in North Carolina. I have tried rooting from stems and also tried to dig out a rooting; both attempts have failed. What specific suggestions: time of year, amount of root, cuttings, etc., should I use? I have also tried the "root grow" type products. J. B., Blacksburg

A: The new weed control fabrics are used over soil in tree and shrub beds to be covered with mulch the same way that black plastic used to be used to cover the ground under mulch. The fabrics are better than plastic, though, since they let air pass through both ways thus preventing stagnant soil and they allow moisture to enter, thus letting the whole soil area receive water from a rain or irrigation.

However, you'll have to decide based on your situation just what is best for you. The weed control fabrics are useful in slowing down the weed growth from the bare soil in large mulched areas. Some weeds can grow through the fabrics, though, so weed-block fabric may not be 100 percent effective if certain weed problems exist, such as wiregrass. Also, a few weeds may sprout in the wood mulch layer placed over the fabric.

These negatives shouldn't prevent use of the materials, though. What would be important is this: Since the foliage and buds of bulbs would not be able to penetrate the fabric, you would have to leave strips or areas without the cloth under the mulch where the bulbs will be planted in the fall. If you have the plan of naturalizing with bulbs, which basically means planting them in varied patterns or arrangements rather than in rows or formal beds, this will mean that large areas will have to be left without the fabric.

Your quince project can be handled in a variety of ways. You have already tried removing a rooting, as you called it, which I'm assuming means a sprout dug out from the base of an established quince. I'm surprised that this didn't work, since older quince plants tend to produce these suckers freely at the base, which may be removed and used if they are well rooted.

You can try this again when the plants are dormant, either this fall or early next spring. Select a sucker that's coming up several inches out from the main quince. Thrust a pointed shovel deeply into the ground about halfway between the sprout and the main plant to sever any connecting roots. Dig around until you have the sucker with some good roots free from the mother plant.

If you want to try stem cuttings again, try the procedure I explained for azaleas. Take 4- to 6-inch leafy cuttings from the ends of partially matured quince growth in late spring and pull off most of the leaves. Usually a root-stimulating hormone is necessary for quinces, which you said didn't help you before.

Be sure to follow the directions for whichever rooting hormone you try, since too much hormone can actually injure the base of the cuttings. Also, quince cuttings need high humidity to root. That's why commercial growers use a mist system on a timer for them. At home, a clear plastic bag can be placed over the pot of quince cuttings to hold high humidity provided that the rooting pot is kept in a location of indirect sunlight and a well drained rooting media is used.

Quinces are also started from cuttings taken from vigorous roots in late fall. These roots are cut into 2- to 4-inch lengths and stored in the vegetable drawer of the refrigerator until spring, when they are planted horizontally about 1 inch deep in a protected garden location. New plants should grow from those roots.

Got a question about your garden, lawn, plants or insects? Write to Dear John, c/o the Roanoke Times & World-News, P. O. Box 2491, Roanoke, Va. 24010.

 by CNB