Q: I want to plant some sassafras trees in my yard. Are they easy to transplant from the wild?

Answer: Unfortunately, the sassafras tree is not easily transplanted because it has a large taproot. You may have more success with planting one grown in a nursery either in a container or ball and burlap. The sassafras is a desirable tree with interesting mitten-shaped leaves and good fall color. It has an interesting small yellow flower in the spring, followed by a blue-black drupe fruit in the summer. It is found growing along woods edges in our area. Sassafras tea was a staple as a spring tonic for many of our grandparents. According to N.C. State University’s Plant Database, there are several edible parts of the tree. Tea made from young roots. Only moderate amounts should be drunk. A spicy jelly can be made from strong tea with lemon juice, sugar and pectin. Green winter buds and young leaves can be added to salads. The bark has safrole, a weak toxin, in it. It is recommended that you avoid ingesting the bark as it has caused cancer in experimental animals. Read more about sassafras here: https://plants.ces.ncsu.edu/plants/all/sassafras-albidum/.

Q: Do you have any tips for starting okra seeds? I have not had much success with growing okra.

Answer: Okra is a heat-loving annual vegetable and grows best with moderate soil fertility. It does not benefit from high nitrogen fertilizers. In our clay soils, it is best to prepare mounded rows or beds for planting okra. The seeds have hard seed coats, so often germination is slow. Germination can be aided by scratching the seeds with sand paper or a file to scuff them up. Another trick is to soak the seeds overnight before planting. Because okra is a heat loving vegetable, wait to plant it in the garden when the soil temperature is about 70 degrees Fahrenheit, which is usually sometime in May. Space seeds about 9 to 12 inches apart. Try pruning the growing point or apical bud of several of your okra plants to experiment with multi-branched plants with more okra pods on each plant. With adequate moisture during the growing season, you can enjoy fresh okra until frost.

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Mary Jac Brennan is the agent for fruit and vegetable horticulture for small farms and local food for the Forsyth Cooperative Extension. Contact Mary Jac about commercial production, local foods, and sustainable agriculture questions. For information on home and gardening issues, contact the Forsyth Cooperative Extension office at maryjac_brennan@ncsu.edu or call 336-703-2850.

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