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Past Questions and Answers | March 2014

Question #1

Question:  Hi. Some seed packets say to sow "as soon as the ground can be worked". I live in a 6a zone and wonder when that is?

  Shell Well, Halifax, Nova Scotia


ANSWER:   This is the point where the ground thaws enough to till it and make rows for your seeds. It differs depending on the weather and so I cannot give you a definite date, but it is usually about two months before the date of your last freeze in the area, which for you is May 1st.

Question #2

Question:  Is there a household product that I can use as a pruning spray on my roses?? Such as Vaseline?

  Judith Shull, San Leandro, CA


ANSWER:   No, you cannot use a household product such as Vaseline on your roses. It is too heavy and will damage them. You must use a horticultural oil specifically formulated for that purpose.

Question #3

Question:  We have 30 year old apple trees which bore lots of fruit in 2013. They have not been pruned in many years. What time of year is best to prune these old trees? We also have trees which are over 100 years old, which also bore lots of fruit in 2013. When is the best time in 2014 to prune these old trees?

  Jacqueline Eschenlohr, Rock Stream, New York


ANSWER:   You should prune the trees when they are dormant. Dormant pruning should be done as late in the winter as possible to avoid winter damage to the new cuts. For your location, late March is a good time to prune your trees. Start with the oldest ones first than do the younger ones.

Question #4

Question:  We have several 6 year old Wax Myrtles that have grown great but have recently been attacked by squirrels. They bite off the small twigs and leaves from the major limbs. How do I get rid of them? They are stripping the trees!

  Hank Nesbitt, Austin, Texas


ANSWER:   Put a squirrel guard on the trunk about three feet off the ground. A squirrel guard is also called a predator guard and is a round piece of aluminum that is placed around the trunk of the tree. The squirrels cannot climb over it so can’t reach the tender shoots of the tree. You place it up about three feet high so the squirrels can’t jump over it.

Question #5

Question:  Is it ok to plant radishes next to yellow onions?

  Shirlee Watson, Tucson, Az


ANSWER:   Yes, there is no problem with planting radishes next to yellow onions.

Question #6

Question:  I have 2 very healthy looking pohutakawa shrubs which have never flowered. Both have lots of new growth but ..... What do I need to do to encourage flowering?

  Anne Clarke, Masterton, Wairarapa


ANSWER:   Usually when a shrub grows very well but doesn’t flower it is getting too much nitrogen and not enough phosphorus, which encourages blooming. Do a soil test and adjust your fertilization to the results. You can contact your local Extension specialist to get the information on submitting a soil test in your area.

Question #7

Question:  How do I prune blueberries and get rid of the blue fungus on the trunk and branches?

  Marie Myers, Balsam Grove, NC


ANSWER:   Prune blueberries by removing any dead or diseases canes, cutting canes that are too long or spindly, and cutting the canes that produced blueberries the year before. Blueberries are produced on two year old canes, so once the canes have had blueberries, they won’t have them again. It is better to remove them so the two year old canes can grow better.

As to the blue fungus on the trunk, use a copper fungicide approved for use on edible plants and follow the directions on the product label.

Question #8

Question:  I have what I think is an elderberry tree in my garden. I would like to use the berries. Is there any other tree that resemble them that might be harmful? The birds love them.

  Alan Walker, Southamptom, Hambshire


ANSWER:   There are trees that resemble elderberries and are harmful. Before eating the berries, take a sample branch of the tree with the berries on them to your local horticultural specialist for positive identification.

Question #9

Question:  I have a crab apple tree which every year blooms beautifully and then within few days after new leaves come they start to have brown spots and eventually leaves start falling throughout the spring and summer season. This happens every year and I have tried various sprays for fungus with no results.

  Surinder Chadha, Old Tappan, New Jersey


ANSWER:   You probably have frogeye leafspot. The only thing you can do is prune dead limbs and rake dead branches and leaves away from the tree. For a definitive diagnosis, take a sample branch with the effected leaves to your Extension agent for diagnosis.

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When a tree, or any plant for that matter, has to compete for water, food and nutrients, it can place extra stress on it.

Try and keep the area under trees and plants weed free. They will grow faster, and healthier.

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