Pigeon peas appeal to eyes and taste buds

Published July 8, 2006

I am trying to find pigeon peas to grow as a flowering hedge and for snacks. Do you have any ideas where to find them? A second question: My green beans developed a powdery mildew after a recent rain. They're in their second blooming period and are still producing beans. Are the beans still edible? How can I avoid mildew?

I found pigeon peas, also known as gandule beans, in a Hispanic market. You'll love growing them.

Sure, I'd consider those green beans edible. Powdery mildew might mean the plants are failing from old age if they have been producing all along.

Applying oak leaf mulch

When you make oak leaf mulch, do you grind the leaves or treat them in any way? I'd like to know how to enrich my soil rapidly.

I just spread the leaves 6 to 8 inches deep all over my gardens, and my periodic organic soil amendments like fish meal, dolomite lightly annually and horse manure allow them to break down into a nice, earthwormy humus. My original dry sand turned long ago into dark, moist soil.

Use for shredded paper

I have a large bag of tiny paper chips from a paper shredder. What are the pros and cons of recycling it for my garden? What steps should I follow to turn it into usable mulch?

You could incorporate those paper shreds, which are high in carbon, into a compost heap, or place them beneath a natural mulch, where available nitrogen could allow microbes and fungi to decompose it for you. Various inks might contain heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, so it might be wiser to use the shreds in ornamental beds rather than a vegetable garden.

John A. Starnes Jr., born in Key West, is an avid organic gardener and rosarian who studies, collects, cultivates and hybridizes roses for Florida. He can be reached at johnastarnes@msn.com.