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Past Questions and Answers | December 2011

Question #1

Question:  I purchased a duranta gold mound in September. Is it an annual or a perennial for this part of the south? Will it last through winter? It is a mature plant, at least 24 inches. I am very fond of it, and do not want the winter to kill it.

  Pamela N Anderson, Chapel Hill, Carolina


ANSWER:   This plant is hardy to zone 10, and you are in about zone 7. This means your plant will not survive the winter there. You can bring it inside, put it in a sunny window, and over winter it that way. Otherwise, it will function as an annual at your location.

Question #2

Question:  I have brought in 3 of my hanging geranium plants for the winter. I would love to keep them going. I have placed them in a sunny window. They have been there for 2 weeks already, and they are in full bloom however, I have noticed some of the lower leaves turning brown. Am I watering too little? The soil is moist. Thanks so much for your help



ANSWER:   Geraniums need to be kept in a cool location in the sun. Too hot and the leaves sunburn, as you have observed. Move them to a cooler location, not cold but where they do not get quite so much sun. Soil should be damp but not spongy.

Question #3

Question:  My aubergines are flowering but not producing fruit. I have them planted in between garlic and zucchini which are both going well, 4 plants in total in good sunlight but not full heat of the day, sesol weekly, good quality soil. How can I get fruit?

  Toni Montefione,, Pittsworth, Queensland, Australia


ANSWER:   The first flowers of the aubergines often do not set fruit. Called eggplant in the United States, each flower contains both male and female parts, so are self pollinating. However, you can hand pollinate and help things along. Just tap the flowers to distribute the pollen across the female parts.

Question #4

Question:  I have two apple trees that are at least 18 years old and they have never been pruned. Can they be pruned? Our yield is abundant however the quality and size is not what it should be. We are now in early November in Atlantic Canada do think we can start pruing now since there isn't any new growth? How should we proceed? Any advice would help.



ANSWER:   You prune during the dormant season. While pruning will help the tree, and can be done, it sounds like you need to thin your fruit as well. Small fruit that are not very good may mean too many fruit set and the tree cannot grow them all to the size they should be. Thin the fruit to one every three inches and see if that helps them grow bigger and better.

Question #5

Question:  I need pruning advice (top, side and bottom) for my Thuja Smaragd hedges and also when is it best to prune?

  John Feneley, Dollard des Orneaux, Quebec


ANSWER:   These hedges can be pruned into almost any shape. You prune in early spring before the new growth starts.

Question #6

Question:  My cucumbers and zucchini had blotches develop as they were growing. They were fine on the interior but looked bad. Not raised just a variation of the normal skin tones. What could be the cause of this?

  Nancy Staley, Rea, Missouri


ANSWER:   There are a number of virul and fungal diseases that could cause these symptoms. Without a picture, it is difficult to say completely what they have. The best way to prevent the problem is to rotate crop families in your garden over a three year plan. One year, plant curcubits such as zucchini and cucumbers. One year plant beans, legumes, or some other plant. The third year, plant members of the nightshade or cole families. Rotating families of plants makes it harder for diseases or pests to take hold.

Question #7

Question:  I have a small 20x20 veggie garden plot which I turn over by spade in the fall. Is it OK to turn under fall leaves and grass clippings at this time?

  Frank Graber, Parma, OH


ANSWER:   Fall is the ideal time to spade in leaves and grass clippings. These rot over the winter to produce a rich, fertile soil by spring. Just do not use anything that is sick, or you can spread the disease over your garden.

Question #8

Question:  My avocado tree is 6 yrs. old and finally bore 3 avocados. In prior years all the blooms would just fall off. Does this mean next year I will get more avocados and WHEN & how much do I prune the tree. I'm afraid to prune too much and at the wrong time of year.

  Joe Alas, Chatsworth, CA


ANSWER:   Pruning is unnecessary for avocados except to cut off diseased or damaged limbs. Your tree is just now mature enough to start setting fruit and should start producing more. Take care to thin the fruit to prevent any limb from bearing too much weight. However, a mature tree will yield two to three bushels a year.

Question #9

Question:  With what and when should table-grape vines be fertilized?

  Joan DiRito, Graham, WA


ANSWER:   Grape vines generally do not need fertilizer if grown in fertile soil. Some weak nitrogen fertilizer, such as a 3-0-0 can be applied before June of the year. After that, you risk stimulating late growth and causing freeze injury.

Question #10

Question:  How can you distinguish a kumquat tree from a loquat tree? I have one that I planted about three years ago. It has never borne fruit. However it has started to bloom this year. Do I just have to see what fruit it produces to distinguish the type of tree it is?

  E.J. Meadows, Cleveland, TX


ANSWER:   Most fruit trees do not bear fruit until they are four or five years old. Kumquats and loquats are quite similar and the bloom and fruit are the way to tell them apart. You will have to see what it produces to see what it is, or take a sample of the a short branch with flower, leaves, and about six to twelve inches of stem into your extension agent for a positive identification.

Question #11

Question:  Are you familiar with malibar spinach ? I have plants potted in the greenhouse for winter consumption. I am finding that they are setting flowers and seed at 12 inches, and leaves are getting smaller as the plant vines. Any suggestions on keeping this vine from flowering?

  Sheryl, Irving, TX


ANSWER:   Malibar spinach does grow in the winter. However, you must pinch off the flowers as soon as the buds appear, before they develop, to keep the plant growing well. Trim the plant back when you harvest the leaves will keep it from getting so leggy and the leaves will be larger when they come back, as well. Finally, do not over harvest it. Remember it needs to send food to the roots or they will starve, also resulting in small leaves.

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Keep Some Birds Away

When you have worked very hard to grow your grapes, fruits and vegetables, it's hard to not be bothered when birds come in and take the best of everything!

A few tricks that work well are: netting over grapes, mylar strips tied to branches of your fruit trees, even blow up owls work.

If you use a blow up owl, or scarecrow, keep in mind to move them every few days so they appear to "move." Othewise the birds get wise fast and they are no good.

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