Any "trick" questions to ask at garden center...

Can anyone suggest some simple questions to ask at a garden center to really see if the person you are talking to knows what they are doing?
I'm tired of asking questions and getting the answer that helps make the biggest sale.
I also don't want to nag all of you with all of my questions, especially when the answers would be more relevant for my yard when asked locally.
Thanks!
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really
Why don't you ask a question you know the answer to?
Shepherd
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I don't expect all gc staff to be knowledgeable, so the best question to ask is "Is there someone here who can tell me more about X".
I quite often ask if I can look up a plant in their behind-the-counter reference books. Keen knowledgeable staff will offer to help and take an interest in what it is you're trying to find out. It's a very bad sign if they don't know where it's kept, or start leafing through the index in a puzzled way, trying to remember whereabouts X comes in the alphabet.
Janet.
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Scan the web for articles and discussions. Read through some books on lawn or anything else you are looking to care for. There are many answers that go in many directions, from purchasing $1000 in advance water management to Jerry Baker's Grandma's recipes of beer, dishwashing liquid and ammonia. Not everything will work, and half the time you can't know if things are growing better because of what you did or because of the many environment factors that are constantly changing.
DiGiTAL ViNYL (no email) Zone 6b/7, Westchester Co, NY, 1 mile off L.I.Sound 1st Year Gardener
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1) "Is Sevin good for controlling spider mites on spruce and juniper?"
The answer is no, it makes the problem worse. Do not use carbaryl (Sevin) or cyfluthrin (Tempo 2) as these stimulate mite egg-laying! One reason that spider mites become problems in yards and gardens is the use of insecticides that destroy their natural enemies. For example, carbaryl (Sevin) devastates most spider mite natural enemies and can greatly contribute to spider mite outbreaks. Malathion can aggravate some spider mite problems, despite being advertised frequently as effective for mite control. Soil applications of the systemic insecticide imidacloprid (Merit, Marathon) have also contributed to some spider mite outbreaks.
2) "Are botanical insecticides made from natural products toxic to pests but harmless to other living things?"
No. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Plant-derived poisons are only sometimes less toxic to man than synthetic agrichemicals. Rotenone, from the roots of derris plants, is toxic if swallowed or inhaled.  Both pyrethrum and rotenone are low in toxicity to mammals yet highly toxic to fish. The yardstick for comparing acute, short-term toxicity is the LD50 or lethal dosage needed to kill fifty percent of a group of test animals (rats, rabbits, etc.).  When you compare LD50 figures, the chemical insecticides malathion and sevin rank safer than nicotine sulfate, a botanical poison derived from tobacco.
3) "Is fall the best season for pruning?"
No. This is false for several reasons.  Shrubs and trees store carbohydrates (food materials) in their branches and leaves, so fall pruning can reduce their cold hardiness. Azaleas and other spring-flowering plants would bloom poorly if pruned in fall, as next year's flower buds are present at that time.  Such plants are best pruned in spring right after petals fall.
4) "Do mushrooms and toadstools sprouting in your lawn mean that the soil is deficient in nutrients?"
No. In actuality, these plants are merely the above-ground growth of fungus organisms living in soil.  Some fungi live on buried lumber, dead roots, or fine particles of organic matter.  Others live in harmony with tree roots, assisting in the uptake of water and nutrients.  A few cause plant disease. The sudden appearance of mushrooms does not mean the lawn needs lime, fertilizer of anything else. If you object to their sprouting in lawns or gardens, use a rake to dispose of them.  There is no chemical control for mushrooms.
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wrote:

really
<snip>
Thanks for the information! A wee bit more than I was looking for, but still quite helpful.
The reason I've posted my question is that, numerous times, I've asked a question and gotten what sounded like a reasonable answer. I then went about my business in the store and something else came to mind, so I would ask someone else a question and they would start questioning the what the first person said (not knowing where or how I got my information from, of course). At this point who's giving me the bad advice????
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The questions I posted were from common garden myths perpetrated in the industry according to extension agents. The various extension agents try to curb these myths, but some garden center clerks never attend the extension programs nor do they read the plethera of good literature available. You can only find out if your garden center is perpetrating myths if you ask them the "trick questions" which in reality are the most frequent misconceptions in the industry.
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"If a chicken-and-a-half can lay an egg-and-a-half in a day-and-a-half, how long does it take one chicken to lay one egg?"
Best regards, Bob
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Around here the trick question is usually, "Hey can I get some help, please?"
Dave

how
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"Sir, KFC is across the street. They stopped serving eggs at breakfast."
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Hows about doing some research and finding out on your own. Oh, that may be beyond your scope.

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be
Hrm... Going to someplace where they actually deal with the subject and asking questions... Definately sounds like research to me.
... I'm not into locking myself in the closet and yanking my pecker like you, sorry.
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My pecker!
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