Q: A friend of mine has one of the healthiest specimens of Ficus nitida I've seen growing in a pot indoors. He says that it's a brand-new variety . Do you have any idea what it is?--G.M., Burbank
A: It sounds like the Green Gem ficus. Unlike other ficus species commonly grown in containers both indoors and out, Green Gem is said to be less prone to leaf drop. It also has a denser growth habit, which makes it better suited than other ficus for outdoor hedges and screen plantings.
\o7 Q: This past fall, I planted garlic for the second time. On my first attempt, I harvested the bulbs too soon and found that many had rotted. Where did I go wrong?--D.S., Pacific Palisades\f7
A: Garlic reaches full maturity in late spring. A bulb is ready to pull up when four to six of the leaf tips have dried back at least halfway to the stem. Bulbs should then be cured for two weeks in a dry, warm location away from direct sunlight. Rot is usually a result of over-watering. But to grow well, garlic needs some soil moisture, so irrigation must be precise.
\o7 Q: I know that winter and spring are good times to fertilize trees\f7 . \o7 But how much?\f7 --\o7 V.B., Tarzana\f7
A: Generally, ornamental trees benefit from the application of one to two pounds of actual nitrogen each year. The fertilizer can be spread over the entire root zone, or it can be placed in holes spaced within the area defined by the "drip line" of the tree. Fruit and nut trees thrive on one to four pounds of actual nitrogen, depending on the size of the tree. Here, it is best to divide the required amount into two applications, one given in winter and the other in spring. Shrubs should be fertilized several times during their active growing season, rather than all at once.