Diseases of garden plants
Flowers - Annuals
Flowers - Perennials
Native Plant gardening
|At the end of harvest of watermelons, do you need to pull all watermelon plants and start fresh with new plants come spring? Bonnie, Sacramento|
|Hi, Bonnie: Homegrown watermelon (Citrullus lanatus) is certainly a refreshing summertime treat! You are correct in thinking that after this season’s crop has been harvested the plants should be pulled and new ones should be planted the following spring. Leaving the plants in the ground will create an environment where insects or disease can overwinter. Making sure all plant debris is removed is considered good sanitation practice and will ensure for a healthy crop next year. This is also a good time to replenish the nutrients and add some compost to the soil. These warm-season vines are not tolerant of any frost and you may not have the winters like we have in Kentucky, but they still have to be replanted each year. The California Cooperative Extension Service, in collaboration with land grant universities, has publications available to home gardeners. For more information on growing watermelon in California, visit: http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/repositoryfiles/7213-54022.pdf
. The Sacramento County Cooperative Extension Service would be a wonderful source of information for you. The following is a link to their Web site: http://cesacramento.ucdavis.edu/
|Can you revive raspberry plants after they've been neglected for years? De De, Hibbing|
|Hello, De De in Minnesota: Raspberries are a tasty treat to have in the home garden. They do have specific growing requirements for optimal production and will gradually reduce harvest quantities if not properly cared for. As long as the plants are not diseased, the good news is that even after years of neglect you can revitalize your plants and encourage them to fruit. There are two main groups of raspberries, ones that fruit once per season and others that are ever-bearing; these fruit once in the summer and again in the fall. Pruning practices differ for each kind so it would be helpful if you knew what you were growing. Raspberries are woody perennials that produce biennial canes and fruit on the canes produced the previous growing season. These canes will only fruit once and then they should be removed. Neglected plants should be pruned back to the ground to encourage new growth. This seems drastic but it is the only way to rejuvenate your plants. Diseases over-winter in old canes so it is important to remove all canes and dispose of them. Like all plants, raspberries are more susceptible to insect and disease problems if not given optimal growing conditions. These brambles thrive in full sun and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Good air circulation is also important. If you have not had your soil tested recently this would be a good idea. The results will indicate if you need to amend the soil. This can be done through your County Cooperative Extension Service. For more detailed information on growing raspberries in Minnesota you can visit www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/DG1108.html.
|Do blackberries need to be prunned? If so, how do you do it? Tom, Eubank|
|Hi, Tom: Yes, blackberries will benefit from being pruned. There are three different kinds of blackberries but here in Kentucky we typically only grow two: semi-erect and semi-trailing. The trailing varieties are not usually hardy for us. As for pruning, they should be left alone for this season if they are newly planted. Future prunings will depend on what kind of blackberry you are growing. Semi-erect cultivars should be pruned for the first time during the winter dormant period. They should be cut back where the canes start bending over. They can also be pinched back during the summer months if at any time the canes have put on more than one foot of new growth. If you are growing semi-trailing blackberries, the first time you will need to prune them would be early next spring. At this time you will want to study each plant and pick out two or three of the most vigorous canes and remove the rest at ground level. For more detailed information on growing/pruning blackberries in Kentucky, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho15/ho15.pdf. This publication is provided by the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with land grant universities.|
|Do I need to cover my everbearing strawberries with straw, and when ? Ben, Taylorsville|
|Hello, Ben: It is that time of year again when we start thinking about putting our gardens to bed for the winter. There is still time to mulch your strawberries. You will notice the foliage on your plants turn from a green to a grayish color when the weather turns colder. They are fine until the temperatures dip into the 20s, which normally does not happen until December, but just to be safe keep an eye on the overnight lows until you can get the mulch down. Wheat straw mulch is ideal for strawberries but oat, rye, and pine will also work. Applying a straw mulch 3-4 inches thick over your everbearing strawberries will help prevent damage from winter weather and early spring frosts. When spring arrives, pull back the mulch from the base of the plants but still leave it in between the rows so it can easily be used to recover in case of freezing temperatures. Keep an eye on the temperatures until our frost-free date of early May has passed. Protecting your berries during this time will ensure a healthy and productive crop for you and your family to enjoy. The following link is to a publication on growing strawberries in Kentucky. It is aimed at professional growers but is still good, reliable information for the home gardener as well: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/PUBS/ho/ho16/ho16.pdf|
|How can I tell when to pick my cantaloupes? They are still green at the vine but feel hard. They look good, this is my first with them. Pete, Harrison City|
|Hello, Pete: Cantaloupe is a delicious treat to add to the garden. The easiest way to tell if your melon is ready for harvest is by gently pulling at the vine where it is connected to the cantaloupe. If the stem is easily released from the melon, it is ready to be harvested. This has been termed “full slip.” If it does not separate easily, wait a few more days and try again. Another indication is when the surface below the webbed-like growth, referred to as netting, turns yellow. It is best to harvest your fruit during the early morning hours. Avoid washing the melon until you are ready to eat it. This helps keep the handling down and in return the fruit can be stored for a longer period of time. Keeping your melons in the refrigerator after you harvest them will help preserve them and they will keep for about two weeks.|
|How do I grow big strawberries? Leon, Albany|
|Hi Leon: It is this time of year that strawberries are ripening and ready for harvest in Kentucky. Devoting a patch of garden to strawberries will provide you with many years of fruit. There is nothing better than fresh-picked strawberries! Everbearing varieties should give you fruit beginning in the spring throughout the fall, and June-bearing will give you the same amount in terms of production but will all ripen at the same time. Larger fruit size is dependent on moisture content, growing conditions, and cultivar selection. Allstar and Redchief are June-bearing plants that produce large fruit. Strawberries should be planted in a space where they will receive at least six hours of direct sunlight. They prefer a moist but well-drained soil with a pH between 5.5-6.5. You can have your soil tested through your County Cooperative Extension Service to find out the pH of your soil. Strawberries will benefit from a nutrient-rich soil. Adding 2-3 inches of compost to the soil when you plant your berries is a good idea. A well-balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 can be added to the soil either in granular or liquid form once a month beginning in June through September. One pound per 100 square feet is a good ratio to follow. Bone meal and blood meal are organic options. Always follow product instructions in terms of recommended dosage because over-fertilizing will promote foliar growth but will result in fewer berries. Remember to weed around your plants and harvest your berries as soon as they are ripe. If you would like more detailed information on cultivars for Kentucky gardeners you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho16/ho16.pdf.
|How should I take care of my potted blueberry and raspberry plants during the winter? Do they require straw or coverings, and if so, what types work best? Katherine, Frankfort|
|Hello, Katherine: Growing blueberries in containers has its benefits in terms of space and adjusting the soil pH, but we do need to take extra precautions to help protect them over the winter months. Depending on variety, most blueberries are very cold hardy; some can take temperatures well below zero. As a general rule, blueberries are very shallow rooted, which makes them easier to grow in containers but the roots will need protection from the cold weather. Adding a layer of mulch, a couple inches thick, on top of the soil will help insulate and protect the roots. Any kind of mulch will work fine. I personally would avoid using any dyed mulch since it can stain your container, but pine straw, hardwood, or bark mulch are all good choices. If you can find pine straw that would be my first choice since as it breaks down it can help acidify the soil, which is very important when growing blueberries. If possible, move your containers up close to the house where they will benefit from the radiant heat; this will also help protect them from harsh winds. You will want to avoid fertilizing during the winter months but you may need to hand water if they are under cover and Mother Nature cannot reach them when it snows or rains. Even though the plants go dormant we do not want the roots to completely dry out. Make sure the drain holes are not clogged so that excess moisture can freely drain out of the container. Too much moisture that is not able to drain can freeze and damage the roots. Another option would be to bury the actual pots in the ground and take them out next spring. As for your raspberries, treat them the same way but keep in mind that they have a more aggressive root system and tend to sucker, so if they live their entire life in a container you may need to root prune in the future.|
|I am harvesting blackberries from four rows. The berries are tasty and large but not completely black. They are black but have white spots. What can I do for next year's crop to prevent this discoloration? Irene, Nicholasville|
|Hello, Irene: There are a few different possibilities why your fruit has some discoloration. It is likely due to uneven ripening. Understanding the botany of the blackberry fruit may help to explain the different rate of ripening. Blackberries are considered an aggregrate fruit that develops from a single flower. Each aggregrate is formed by a cluster of drupelets each containing a single seed. It may be that the individual drupes are not ripening at the same rate and that is why you have discoloration in your berries. Typically when we see white spots on our berries it is due to a physiological disorder but it is difficult to say for certain what causes it. Ripening depends on several factors, including temperature, sunlight, and available moisture. Hot and humid weather without consistent moisture can cause bleach spots on blackberries. Is it also possible that your berries were not fully ripe before they were harvested? If they were not as dark as they should have been, they may have benefited from a bit more time on the plant. As we know, Mother Nature is not consistent from year to year so ripening time and harvesting time will differ from year to year. Other possibilities include a fungal problem, which would typically encompass the whole fruit, or stinkbug feeding, which can bleach out individual drupelets. For a positive analysis you can take a sample of your fruit to your Cooperative Extension Service. The Jessamine County Web site is http://ces.ca.uky.edu/jessamine, or you can reach them at (859) 885-4811. The horticulture/agriculture agent(s) will be able to help give you a more specific answer.
|I am looking for seedless blackberry plants. Our local fruit stand sold seedless blackberries last summer from North Carolina. Do you know where I could purchase seedless blackberry plants? Joy, London|
|Hi, Joy in Kentucky: Blackberries are certainly a nice summertime treat, and to be able to pick them in your own garden makes them even better. If you have a larger area in the garden that has well-drained soil and receives full sun, blackberries and other small fruits are a great choice for planting. There are many cultivated varieties of blackberries that are thornless, but to be honest I am not aware of any seedless ones available. There are seedless blackberry products where the seeds have been strained out, but as far as plants that produce seedless fruit I do not know of any. Just to make sure, I checked with a few reliable nurseries to see if they carried them or had heard of them, and they all said they were not aware of any. I know this is not the answer you were hoping for, but if I come across one I will be sure to let you know. If you want more detailed information on specific varieties grown in Kentucky or specifics on growing, pruning, and harvesting blackberries, you can read the following publication provided by the Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with the University of Kentucky: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho15/ho15.pdf|
|I bought a blueberry bush. What is the proper time to plant it and should I plant more than one bush? Also, I was told to add pine needles to the top of the soil--is that right? Michele, Shepherdsville|
|Hello, Michele: Having blueberries in the garden is such a treat! For best fruit production, it is best to have more than one plant. You want to plant another cultivar that will bloom at the same time for best cross pollination. There are early, mid, and late producers, so talk with your local garden centers/nurseries to see which cultivars they carry that will flower at the same time as the one you already have. Blueberries require an acidic soil, so mulching with pine needles will certainly help but you also might want to have your soil tested so you know exactly what you need to add to achieve a pH of 4.5-5.2. Contact your County Cooperative Extension Service about having your soil tested. Early spring is a good time to get your fruit in the ground. Make sure to choose a planting site that is in the full sun--at least six hours each day is ideal. If you have an area with full sun at a higher elevation, this would be a good planting area. The soil should be well-drained and rich in nutrients. For more specific information on growing blueberries in Kentucky, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho60/ho60.htm. This is a publication full of reliable information. It is available to home gardeners from the Extension Service in cooperation with land grant research universities.|
|I cut my navel orange tree too far back. That was several years ago. Ever since I pruned that orange tree it has taken off and now it has about 300 or more oranges on it. The thing is the oranges are too bitter for me to eat. I tried squeezing the oranges and adding store-bought OJ to it but it was still too bitter for me to drink. My husband loves that tree so I cannot cut it down. I hope you have some suggestions what I could do save that tree. Mary Anne, San Jose|
|Hi, Mary Anne in California: Oranges and other fruit trees are commonly grafted onto rootstock of another fruit that has superior qualities like mature size, hardiness, and disease resistance. Professional growers literally take the roots of one tree (understock) and connect (graft) it to the top of another tree (scion) to form a single tree that is genetically different from top to bottom. This may sound very confusing and I am not going to get too technical, but I mention this because it sounds like the oranges your tree is producing are that of the rootstock and not that of the navel oranges you intended to grow. Depending on how far back you pruned, you may have actually killed the navel orange and root suckers from the understock have taken over. There really is no way to know what the rootstock of your tree is but Sour Orange is the most common. In most cases, the understock is more vigorous and thornier than the scion but it does not have desirable attributes in terms of the actual fruit. Unfortunately there is nothing you can do to change the flavor of the fruit. If you do not want to replace the tree but have space in the garden, maybe you can plant another navel orange tree.
|I cut my persimon tree back; the branches and leaves all grew back but now it won't give fruit. Is there anything I can do or is it done with giving fruit? Abraham, Kingcity|
|Hello, Abraham in California: The persimmon tree is native to the Orient but has been grown in the States since the 1800s. There are thousands of cultivated varieties but they all require the same pruning practices. It is important to first understand the fruiting habit of the tree and the proper pruning techniques. Flowers develop on new growth during the spring months. This new growth emerges from last year’s growth, also referred to as 1-year-old wood. Fruit is then developed on the tips of the new growth. If you pruned earlier in the season you probably removed any potential fruit. The tree will bear fruit again but it may be a couple of years depending on how hard you pruned. If this is a young tree it is important to develop a central leader and open canopy. Pruning should be done during the colder months while the tree is dormant. The idea behind pruning is maintaining a framework that is conducive to bearing fruit and harvesting. The branching structure should be open and somewhat symmetrical. This allows for good air circulation and prevents over-crowding of branches. All suckers, crossing/rubbing branches, and dead or diseased branches should be removed as soon as you notice them. If you need more specific information on pruning your persimmon you can visit homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/8057.pdf.|
|I found a marvelous 1/2 whiskey barrel for sale in my town for only $10.00. It's heavy, and I know I will have to put it in a place in my patio that is permanent and raise it up. I will have to drill holes too, and clean it. But I didn't realize how big it was till I picked it up from the seller. I have decided to plant a tree in it. I wanted to plant a tree that will bear fruit. I have decided on the 'Improved Meyer' lemon tree after much research. However, the sun we get on our patio lasts from sunrise till only about 11 a.m. Then the patio from the floor above ours blocks the direct sunlight to our patio. So the tree will only get four to six hours of direct sunlight a day. The rest of the day it will get light, but it will be shaded. The next issue is I am in zone 6. Not a typical zone for tropical fruit, but I hear this particular lemon is hardy and I can bring it indoors before winter. If I put it out this summer, and bring it in this winter, I only have the patio doors that will really bear any light, and it won't be direct sunlight. Is it wise that I invest in this tree at all? Also, will my cats be affected if they eat the leaves, or will any thorns on the tree prevent them from going near it indoors? Rose, Erlanger|
|Hello, Rose: You got a great deal on your whiskey barrel! Yes, you will need to drill holes for drainage if you want to plant in it or the roots will be very susceptible to root rot. Another option would be to not drill holes and place a saucer in the bottom of the barrel and then drop a plastic nursery container down into the barrel. This would make it easier for you in terms of bringing it in and out during the winter months. So, yes, it would be nice to have home-grown lemons for lemonade and the ‘Meyer Improved’ is indeed a nice dwarf lemon tree to plant in a container. Like all fruit, it does require full sun for best production. Technically, full sun means a minimum six hours of direct sunlight each day and ideally we would want this to be more than just morning light. The more sunlight a fruit tree receives, the happier it will be. That being said, I do not think you should completely rule this option out since it will get filtered light throughout the rest of the day, and if fruit is what you are after then this would be a good choice. This lemon is hardy to zone 9 so it will need to be over-wintered indoors. Light levels are much lower during the winter months, so we do not expect our plants to put much growth during that time of the year. Mostly we are just trying to get them through the winter and then put them back outdoors for the summer. You are borderline in terms of light, but sometimes we just have to try plantings to see if they will work or not. You might consider purchasing a smaller plant and then choose some annuals to plant around the base to fill out the container. This way you will not have to invest so much in the fruit tree, and if it is not very productive you have not lost too much. As far as your cats go, according to the ASPCA the oils this plant produces are toxic to cats so you may have to check with your vet if this is the route you want to take. If you decide to go with a cold-hardy shrub instead, you will not need to bring it in during the winter months since they require a dormancy period. As with any containerized planting, you will want to fill it with a high-quality, peat-based potting medium such as Pro-Mix. Avoid using topsoil or any soil that you dig up from the garden. Check with your local garden center to see what they carry.|
|I grew a perfectly good watermelon. The second one that was ready was bitten into by a squirrel, but not totally, into the fleshy pink part. Is it safe to eat or will I get a disease or something? I hate to lose it. Adrena, St. Louis|
|Hi, Adrena: Squirrels like a tasty treat too but as gardeners we certainly do not want to share our crops with them. So yes, it is a concern that it has taken a bite out of your melon but if it only bit into the rind and not the actual flesh then you should be fine. If this melon was in my garden I would not give it to the squirrels; instead I would cut away around where it nibbled and then eat the rest. Of course if you want to be absolutely certain then you should not consume the fruit. I am not an animal expert but from the research I have done I could not find any documented cases of squirrels transmitting rabies or any other serious diseases to humans. It is nearly impossible to keep these critters out of the garden so next year you might consider placing a crate over the melon so they cannot get to it as it matures.|
|I have a 9-year-old Concord grape vine that is not producing fruit--can you help? Poncho, Liberty|
|Hello, Poncho: Grapes, like any other plant, will produce well if they are given ideal conditions in which to grow. Selecting a good cultivar is essential and Concord is considered a very hardy grape for Kentucky gardeners. Maintaining good fertility and annual pruning are just as important. How long has it been since your vine produced fruit? If this is the first year you are not seeing any fruit, it is still too early in the season for fruit set. They should just be flowering at this point. How long has it been since your vine was pruned? Every year the vine is not pruned it will become unproductive. As for the triple 19 you are using, I am assuming this is a well-balanced fertilizer; it is recommended that grapes older than 4 years should receive 2 pounds of 10-10-10 per vine. These vines should be fed during the late winter/early spring. Too much nitrogen later in the season promotes vegetative growth that can be damaged by the cold temperatures. You can always have your soil tested through the County Extension Service so you know exactly what you need to adjust if anything. You can also take a sample of the foliage if it does not look healthy to your Extension Service. The stream on your property should not be an issue.
|I have a friend who lives in Salyersville, KY. He has never seen a fig tree or fresh fig. He says the only fig he has seen is a Fig Newton. Can a fig tree grow outdoors in his area, and if so what variety should I buy for him? Kelly, Mt. Pleasant|
|Hi, Kelly: It is time for your friend to experience a true fig! Here in Kentucky there are a couple of varieties that are reliably hardy for us. ‘Chicago Hardy’ and ‘Brown Turkey’ both do very well in terms of hardiness and production. They require full sun (a minimum of six hours) and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. If given these growing conditions, these large shrubs will thrive and produce quite a bit of fruit. If we have a really cold winter they may die back to the ground but they will return the following spring. South Carolina has a longer growing season than we do in Kentucky and the plants themselves will not be as large as you are used to, but the fruit is just as tasty and well worth growing.
|I have a mulberry tree as you enter my driveway; in the bearing months it is such a mess. Is there any way I can save this wonderful tree but stop it from producing fruit? Sandy, Jonesville|
|Hello, Sandy: Mulberries can be nice shade trees but they certainly have a reputation for being messy. The fruit they produce is harvested in some cases to make jellies, jams, and even wine. The fruit is also a favorite with the birds, squirrels, and raccoons who snack on them and leave their droppings only to plant new seeds, which is more than likely how your tree got there in the first place. This can be a problem in situations like yours where the tree is growing close to the driveway and the fruit can stain the surface. Unfortunately, it is not possible to stop the tree from producing fruit. There are cultivars that are fruitless, but the red mulberry species (Moru rubra) will always produce fruit. This native has both male and female flowers on the same tree, which can be pruned back heavily each year to decrease the fruit production, but this would have to be done each year since the fruit is produced from the current season's flowers. This would require annual maintenance and may not be worth the effort. You might consider having the tree removed and planting another one that will provide shade but not be so messy.|
|I have a pumpkin growing in my yard. I noticed a small brown spot that has appeared on it. Can you tell me what it might be? Doreen, Brockton|
|Hello, Doreen: It is pumpkin season once again! There are a number of insect and disease problems associated with all members of the cucurbit family, including pumpkins, but most are associated more with the foliage than the actual crop. If the brown spot is not spreading or other ones have not appeared then it should not be a problem, as long as it is not rotting from the bottom up. Typically we would see evidence on the foliage of any problem so as long as the foliage looks healthy you do not need to be too concerned. I would be happy to look at a picture of your pumpkin if you like; you can send it to email@example.com. It may just be a soft spot or if there is a hole it may be where a worm entered. For future reference it is important to rotate your cucurbits every two years. This includes cucumber, watermelon, muskmelon, squash, and gourds. Crop rotation helps disrupt any possible infestation cycle that may over-winter on plant debris. Good sanitation practice is especially important with any edible crop. It will soon be time to harvest so make sure to clean up all foliage and you might even consider planting a cover crop for the colder months.
|I have an orange tree I purchased in Florida 12 years ago. So far it's doing good, but this year it decided to have small oranges, very bitter, and lots of blooms. I put it out in the summer and spring, and bring it in in the winter. I have cut it back and started two other trees from it, but the oranges are very small and very bitter. What can I do to make them sweeter? Also, if I wanted to sell it, what price should I ask and to whom should I sell it? Jill, Tompkinsville|
|Hello, Jill: Your orange tree sounds very happy! If it was grown from a seedling or a cutting it can take that long for it to produce fruit. Is this the first year that you have gotten fruit? If so it is possible that you are growing a Calamondin orange. These oranges are much smaller than your average orange that you buy in the grocery store. They are more equivalent to the size of a kumquat. They are very sour and not the most palatable of oranges. If your tree has produced fruit in the past and this year was just not as sweet as you remember, this is likely due to inadequate ripening time and/or nutrients. Oranges require a certain amount of days with warm temperatures and high humidity to ripen properly. As for selling your tree, this is not something that a garden center would purchase because in most cases they only purchase plants from certified growers. Your fruit tree is quite large and as long as it is healthy it would retail for around $150.00. That being said you might want to just prune it in order to bring it indoors. Citrus can be cut back pretty hard so if you do not want to get rid of your tree this would certainly be an option. If you are serious about selling it you should get in contact with the master gardeners in your county or any of the gardening clubs to see if any of them would be interested in purchasing it. I hope this is helpful.|
|I have gooseberries and blueberries that are not producing. I do not know why. I have had the gooseberry plants for about six years and the blueberries for two years. Is it the dirt? My gooseberries are at the back of my house (west side) and the blueberries are near the front of the house. Could you help me? Margie, Radcliff|
|Hello, Margie: There are a few possibilities why you are not getting any fruit from your blueberries or gooseberries. First, it is a good idea to have more than one cultivar of both that will bloom at the same time of year. This will help increase pollination and quantity of fruit. If you only planted one kind of blueberry or gooseberry, this may be part of the problem. Both berries require annual pruning and full sun for the best harvest. They should receive six hours of direct sun each day. Pruning should be done in late winter before bud break in the early spring. Older canes will not produce as much fruit, so they should be pruned back. Blueberries require an acidic soil and typically lower than what we have in Kentucky, so if you did not amend your soil before planting you should have your soil tested through your County Cooperative Extension Service. The ideal soil pH should be between 4.5-5.2 for growing blueberries. For more specifics on growing blueberries in Kentucky, you can read the following publication: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho60/ho60.htm
|I have grapevines to plant. We are still having frost, so I thought I would just keep them in the house until the frost was over. However, they are starting to get leaves and runners. Can I plant them outside now? Betty, Cadiz|
|Hi, Betty: Grapes should be planted in early spring so now is the time! The plants will be happier if you can get them outdoors and plant them in their permanent home as soon as possible. They will benefit from the spring rains and temperatures. Getting them in now will help them become established before the hot summer arrives. Some varieties are more cold-hardy than others; if you know which variety you have let me know and I can give you more detailed information. Also, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id126/id126.htm for more specific information on growing grapes in Kentucky. When planting, choose a space in the garden that receives full sun and has good air circulation. Grapes are quite adaptable to many soil types but will grow best in a nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Provide your grapes with something sturdy for them to grow on, such as a trellis or even a fence. If you have not had your soil tested, it is always a good idea just so you know if the pH needs to be adjusted or if nutrients should be added. This can be done through your County Cooperative Extension Service. Kentucky has a long history of growing grapes. In fact, Kentucky is home to the first commercial vineyard. Of course, they can be planted as a healthy snack or to make jelly as well. Once grapes are established they will give you many years of harvest.
|I have had several watermelon plants and they all seem to be growing well; we get lots of little baby watermelons to start but before they can get bigger than about the size of a large pea, they shrivel up and turn black. It's really very upsetting and I don't know what to do. I was thinking there is a nutrient deficiency, although we did get food for them, or maybe some type of bug or something? Rachel, Honolulu|
|Hello, Rachel in Hawaii: Watermelon are susceptible to several different diseases. Without seeing your fruit I cannot say for sure. What does the foliage on your vine look like? Is it healthy or is it also struggling? It is not likely a nutrient deficiency or even an insect problem, but more likely a fungus/pathogen issue. Have you grown other members of the cucurbit family in this space in the past? This would include cucumber, pumpkin, cantaloupe, and squash, and if so did you have problems with these crops? In terms of failure for this year's crop, possibilities include blossom end rot, anthracnose, mosaic virus, and bacterial wilt. With most of these we would first notice issues on the foliage and then on the fruit. It could also be a pollination problem. The best thing to do would be to take a sample to your Cooperative Extension office and have them send it off for analysis. It does not look like your Extension office has a horticulture/agriculture agent on staff, but they do have a master gardener program, so hopefully someone there can help you or they can send it off to the University to get a positive diagnosis for you. You can visit their Web site at www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/Site/ExtPrograms.aspx
. The only way to prevent future problems is to find out exactly what the issue is. You will want to pull all diseased plant material from the ground and turn the soil so the potential for disease does not survive from year to year.|
|I have planted three grapevines and can't get one to live: what am I doing wrong? David, Mt. Vernon|
|Hello, David: Grapes have been grown here in Kentucky since before Prohibition, both commercially and in the backyard garden. You want to make sure you are purchasing your plants from a reputable nursery/garden center. Just as important, you want to grow varieties that will do well here in Kentucky.
As with all plant material, if we do not give them ideal conditions to grow in we are making them more susceptible to insect and disease problems. Grapevines should be planted in full sun with good air circulation. This means the vines require a minimum of six hours of sunlight daily. Without any specific details in terms of what is going on with your grapes, I can only speculate. The most common problem found with grapes grown in Kentucky is known as black rot. This is a fungus that will cause infected berries to shrivel up and look more like raisins than grapes. It can be controlled by good sanitation and potentially a spraying program. Black rot will overwinter, so good sanitation practices are very important in keeping insects and disease problems under control. Remove and dispose of all infected grapes still on the vine as well as the ones that have fallen. Keep the area around your vines free of all plant debris. The most important step in eliminating the problem is to have it positively identified. I cannot do that without seeing your vine, so you should take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Service for the agriculture/horticulture agent(s) to look at. For more information on growing grapes, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id126/id126.htm.
|I have some blackberry vines in the back yard. Last year's crop was very small compared to the previous year. I read that the vines, after a season of fruit producing, become dormant and need to be trimmed back. I had other chores to do and did not get to the vines this year and I can't tell which vines are the dormant ones. Is too late to prune and how can I tell which is which?
|Hello, Ron: Blackberries go through a dormant stage during the winter months. At this time, they are conserving energy to produce fruit the following growing season. It is not that some of the canes go dormant and stay dormant, the entire plant goes through this process and then as warmer weather arrives they break dormancy. Each plant should be pruned annually for best fruit production. If your vines were not pruned last year, I suspect this is the reason for the lack of fruit. As Kentucky gardeners, we typically grow two kinds of blackberries: semi-erect and semi-trailing. As far as pruning, this depends on what kind of blackberry you are growing. Semi-erect cultivars should be pruned for the first time during the winter dormant period. They should be cut back where the canes start to bend over. They can also be pinched back during the summer months if at any time the canes have put on more than one foot of new growth. If you are growing semi-trailing blackberries, early spring is the best time to prune them, so go ahead and get your pruners out. At this time, you will want to study each plant and pick out two or three of the most vigorous canes and remove the rest at ground level. If you know the name of the blackberries you are growing, I can give you more specific information in terms of pruning. Otherwise, for more information on growing/pruning blackberries in Kentucky, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho15/ho15.pdf. This publication is provided by the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Blackberries are a delicious treat and as long as they are pruned annually and given the right growing conditions, they will provide you with many years of fruit.|
|I have tomato plants that when the tomatoes set on and are still small, they rot on the bottom. I also have grapes that dry up shortly after the set on the plant. I keep them watered. Why are they drying up? Evelyn, Blanchester|
|Hello, Evelyn: It sounds like your tomatoes have what is known as blossom end rot. This is a physiological disorder that is caused by a calcium deficiency usually brought on by consistently wet soil or uneven moisture levels. It is not that the soil is lacking calcium but it is not available for the plants to absorb. It will not kill your plants but you do want to remove all infected fruit. Consistent moisture will help prevent rot on future tomatoes. As for your grapes, there are many different fungal problems associated with this fruit but the most common problem found with grapes grown in Kentucky is known as black rot. This is a fungus that will cause infected berries to shrivel up and look more like raisins than grapes. It can be controlled by good sanitation and potentially a spraying program, but the most important step in eliminating the problem is to have it positively identified. Black rot will overwinter so good sanitation practices are very important in keeping insects and disease problems under control. Remove and dispose of all infected grapes still on the vine as well as the ones that have fallen. Keep the area around your vines free of all plant debris. As with all plant material, if we do not give them ideal conditions to grow in we are making them more susceptible to insect and disease problems. Grape vines should be planted in full sun with good air circulation. For a positive identification you can take a sample to your Cooperative Extension Service or to a local garden center with a knowledgeable staff.
|I have two dwarf pear trees about 3 years old and they have what looks like thorns on them. They are Bartlett and Kieffer. They have never died back and come up from the roots. Is this normal? Joyce, Morehead|
|Hello, Joyce: These pear varieties, like other fruit trees, are grafted onto seedling rootstock of another pear that has more desirable characteristics in terms of disease resistance, hardiness, and in some cases dwarfing attributes. Grafting is a propagation method used by nurserymen to create more desirable plants for the home gardener as well as commercial growers. Are your pear trees single-trunked or were they once single-trunked and now are multi-trunked? If this is the case, then it sounds like your pear trees are growing from the rootstock and possibly the graft did not take. This means you are growing a pear that probably does have thorns and not very tasty fruit. If there are any branches that do not have thorns, you can prune back all of the other growth and treat this like the new leader. At this stage you would essentially be starting over, and it is a bit strange that both the Bartlett and the Kieffer are doing the same thing, but certainly possible if they were not grafted properly. This is why purchasing plant material from a reputable grower is essential for the long-term health of our plants. Without seeing your trees it is difficult to say for sure if this is what is going on, but you are welcome to send pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.
|I have two trees, a Japenese plum and a strawberry guava. They both have suckers growing from their base. The plum has about 12 3-4 foot suckers and guava has several that are 10-12 inches. How do I cut and root them? Al, Riverview|
|Hello, Al: Fruit trees in a home landscape are very rewarding, especially given the zone you are gardening in and the choices of fruit trees you can grow. For those of us gardening in Kentucky we are much more limited in what we can produce. No matter what part of the country we live in, fruit trees that we purchase from our local garden centers are most commonly grafted. This means that the top of the tree is different from the bottom of the tree. So, the top of your Japanese plum is indeed that but the lower part of the tree a few inches above the base, including the root system, is that of another plum. Same goes for your other fruit trees. Growers graft fruit trees for several different reasons, the most importantly being that it makes the trees hardier because it can allow for optimal nutrients. Grafting can manipulate the size of the tree as well as make them more resistant to insect and disease problems. I tell you this because the suckers you have growing from the base of your tree are coming up from the root system of the Japanese plum and strawberry guava trees, not that of the fruit trees you are intending to grow. To take cuttings from those suckers will not give you the Japanese plum or strawberry guava you are wanting. These suckers should be cut back to the ground. Propagating fruit trees from cuttings in general does not have a very high success rate. The most successful means of propagation is grafting and if you would like more detailed information on how to do this, visit http://university.uog.edu/cals/people/PUBS/FRUITS/Mg24500.pdf. This is a publication made available to home gardeners from the Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with the University of Florida.|
|I killed my grapevines with Sevin dust 10%. How can I revive them? Wyvona I., Corbin|
|Hello, Wyvona: As gardeners we see insects on our plants and instantly think we have to spray something. Well, this is not always the best solution, and depending on the situation it can do more damage than good. As for your grapevines, there is no reversing the damage that has already occurred but depending on the extent of the damage and the real reason for the damage, it may not be as bad as you think. I am guessing you had an insect problem before you applied the Sevin, so unless it was not used as directed it may not be the culprit. Following recommended application rates is important when using any product in the garden, especially broad-spectrum chemicals such as Sevin. This product is a synthetic insecticide with carbaryl being the active ingredient. It is harmful to beneficial insects such as honey bees. Without being able to see your vines, it is hard to say exactly what is going on. What are the symptoms? You can always take a sample to your county Extension agent or to a reliable garden center/nursery and they can give you a better idea of what is happening. It is likely that the roots are just fine and it will hopefully put on healthy new growth next spring. I would not go as far as removing them yet. Wait until next spring and see what happens. Sanitation is important in the fall so that insects and bacteria do not have a place to over-winter. Keep the area free of fallen plant debris and this will help prevent future problems.|
|I live in New Hamphire and just bought a house. On the property there is an old neglected apple tree. It is a big tangled mess and I noticed that the tree actually grew sideways. The neighbor said it was knocked down in a storm and never fixed after that. I would really like to restore this tree. The half that is lying on the ground has branches coming up out of it and the other, what I would call the main trunk, also has branches and growth coming from it. Can I cut the sideways half of thhe tree off or will it kill the tree? Caylyn, Litchfield|
|Hello, Caylyn in New Hampshire: It sounds like your apple tree has had a stressful life. These are pretty resilient trees and can take storm damage as well as neglect with the best of them and live to still be fruitful. Of course, it is going to take a bit of recovery and help on your part, so to answer your question, yes, you can remove the branch that was damaged by the storm without harming the rest of the tree. The best time to prune your apple tree is from February through April. Make sure your tools are clean and sharp before making any cuts. It is always a good idea to stand back and look at the tree before removing any branch. When you remove the larger sideways branch be sure to make your cut at the outer edge of the branch collar. Avoid cutting into the healthy main trunk. Your next step should be to prune out dead, diseased, and crossing branches. Any branches that are growing straight up should also be removed, as well as any suckers growing up from the root system. You might also want to remove some upper branches to allow for better air circulation and light filtration. All of these cuts will help rejuvenate your tree. It may take a few years for the larger cuts to heal and you may not get an abundant crop for a few years, but it is well worth the effort in the long run. If you want more detailed information on pruning apple trees you can visit http://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/Resource000582_Rep604.pdf. Heavy pruning can be very intimidating so you might consider hiring a certified arborist to do the job for you.|
|I live just minutes from Brandenburg, KY, where I had found this wonderful magazine. My question is: last year my strawberry crop was the best crop in several years. I had moved it to a patch in a different area of the yard. Then at the end of the season, this weed took over my garden. Weeds have envaded my patch in the past and have never killed my plants so I had no concern, I just thought I'd have some work ahead of me. Then all at once my patch was gone. It looked like a desert. The only thing left were the runners here and there outside of my patch. What happened? Did they get a disease? Or was it the end of my strawberries' life cycle? I've been told that strawberries don't last more than four years. Tera, Central|
|Hello, Tera: It is always nice to hear positive feedback. We are glad that you enjoy the magazine! I cannot be certain what happened to your strawberries but here are a few things to consider. It is beneficial to move your strawberry crop every few years for long-term production so that disease and insect problems do not manifest. The main thing to consider when moving your fruit is the available sunlight and soil conditions of the new planting site. Strawberries require a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight and nutrient-rich soil. Strawberries are shallow rooted so it is important that the soil holds moisture. If you moved your fruit to a space where you previously had grown peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, or potatoes, it would have made them very susceptible to verticillium wilt. It is also important to grow your fruit in a weed-free space. Because they are shallow rooted, weed competition, if left unmanaged, can take over an entire crop very fast. Choosing disease-resistant cultivars is always a good idea. Earliglow, Allstar, Redchief, and Jewel are all good choices. Don’t let last year's happenings discourage you from growing them again. Make sure the space is weed-free before planting!|
|I planted a Burbank Elephant Heart plum tree three years ago. Last summer all the leaves shriveled up and fell off. I thought the poor tree was dead, but I left it. This spring I got lots of new leaves and blossoms but one week ago again all the leaves shriveled up and fell off. Any ideas? John, Lehi|
|Hello John: ‘Elephant Heart’ plum (Prunus salicina) is a Japanese variety that was developed by Luther Burbank. It produces larger fruit than the European varieties and typically matures earlier. For gardeners in Kentucky we cannot grow this fruiting plum because of our climate and soil conditions. In Utah it may be a popular variety for home gardeners. From what you have described it sounds like your plum is infected with a fungal leaf problem. As far as a specific one I cannot say without seeing your tree. The best thing to do is have a certified arborist come out and take a look or take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Service. The horticulture agent should be able to diagnosis it for you. Fungal diseases can over-winter on dead or decaying plant material that is left on the ground. This is why cleanup is essential throughout the year. Controlling fungal problems is done by applying fungicides on a regular spray schedule. Fungicides are preventive, not curative, so they will not be effective on the existing fungus but it will help prevent future spread. Fungicides are by no means organic and spraying them on a plum that is intended for consumption is a decision you will have to make. Japanese varieties are susceptible to many insect and disease problems, especially when they are not given the ideal growing conditions they need to thrive. For now clean up all the foliage that has fallen and get someone to diagnose the problem. In severe cases like yours it is sometimes best to replace the tree with one that is better suited for your growing conditions. You can visit the Utah County Extension Service Web site at www.utahcountyonline.org/Dept/exten/index.asp
or contact them directly at (801) 851-8460. They will be able to help in terms of diagnosis as well as providing information on replacement suggestions.|
|I planted fruit trees last fall, and all are doing well but the semi-dwarf Golden Delicious apple tree. The tree never got any leaves on it, but had lots of suckers growing from the bottom of the tree. The upper tree looks dead. Is the tree doomed? Erika , Rineyville|
|Hello, Erika: I am sorry to say that it does not sound good for your apple tree. If it did not have any foliage at all this year it is no longer alive. Plant failure can be a result of many different factors, including not enough or too much water, improper planting, and/or the plant not being healthy to begin with. Fruit trees that we purchase from our local garden centers are most commonly grafted. This method of propagation means that the top of the tree is different from the bottom of the tree. So, the top of your Golden Delicious is indeed that but the lower part of the tree, a few inches above the base, including the root system, is that of another apple. Growers graft fruit trees for several different reasons, the most important reason being that it makes the trees hardier because it can allow for optimal nutrients. Grafting can manipulate the size of the tree as well as make them more resistant to insect and disease problems. I tell you this because the suckers you have growing from the base of your tree are coming up from the root system of another apple, not that of the Golden Delicious. Go ahead and remove the tree, but check with the nursery you purchased your trees from and see what their guarantee policy is. They may replace it for you or give you a discount on a replacement.
|I run a small organization in Uganda, and we are trying to grow ever-bearing strawberries in the tropics. I understand that the strawberries will go through phases when they grow fruit, but is there something I can do to prompt them to start fruiting faster? Lee, Kampala|
|Hello, Lee in Uganda: Gardening in eastern Africa is certainly different than gardening in Kentucky, USA. The gardening fundamentals are the same but the growing conditions are very different. No matter where you are gardening, a healthy plant will bear fruit while one that is struggling will use up its energy to just get by. So, making sure that the strawberry plants are happy and healthy is essential in terms of fruit production. Fruit production and ripening is dependent on multiple factors, including age and environmental conditions; there is nothing else you can do to make the plants fruit any faster. It is true that your ever-bearing strawberries will go through phases of fruiting and storing up energy to fruit again, but they are perennial plants that will provide you with plenty of delicious fruit for years to come. Since you are growing in the tropics your plants may appreciate a break from the sun during the hottest part of the day. Even established plants may need supplemental water during dry periods and it is best to mulch your plants so the fruit does not come into contact with the soil. Mulching is also helpful for moisture retention. To prevent disease do not plant strawberries where peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, or potatoes have grown. As gardeners, it is sometimes hard to wait for the fruit of our labor but patience results in a sweet reward.
|I started some watermelon from seed this year but because of our crazy weather pattern, they are just beginning to grow and it is too late to put them in the ground for this season. Is it possible to pot them up and keep them til next year? Cheryl, Los Altos|
|Hello, Cheryl: There is nothing like enjoying a slice of freshly harvested watermelon. This large fruit takes 75-100 days to mature. Here in Kentucky it would be too late in the season to plant it and still get a crop. It really should be planted shortly after the frost-free date for your area has passed. Living in California your growing season may be a lot longer than ours so it may be feasible for you to plant it and still enjoy a melon but this depends on the weather in your area; more specifically when you typically get your first frost. I believe you are gardening in Hardiness 9 but you should contact the Santa Clara horticulture agent to get more specific information on growing melons in your area. The Web site for your Extension Service is http://cesantaclara.ucdavis.edu/
or you can reach them at (408) 282-3110. As far as keeping your plants until next spring and then replanting them, you are better off just starting more when the time comes. Unless you have a heated greenhouse it would not be worth the effort. It is easy enough to germinate the seeds.|
|I would like some info on fruit tree care: peaches, pears, apples, cherries, spray schedules, preventing diseases, blight, what safe products to use, organic, etc. Gabor, Shelbyville|
|Hi, Gabe in Kentucky: There are a few factors we should take into consideration when doing everything we can to prevent insect and disease problems. For fruit trees it is essential that they receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day. Nutrient levels and soil conditions are just as important. Stone fruit such as peaches and cherries are more susceptible to insect and disease problems than other fruit, and they do not thrive in the clay soil that we have here in Kentucky, so it is necessary to amend the soil for these trees. Good sanitation and cultural practices are essential in preventing insect and disease spread. Purchasing disease-resistant cultivars from a reputable source is the first step that should be considered when planting any fruit tree. Growing fruit organically is possible, but keep in mind that the fruit may not be picture perfect like we find the grocery stores. The following link is a publication provided by the University of Kentucky in collaboration with the Cooperative Extension service for home gardeners: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id21/id21.pdf. This publication is full of detailed, reliable information on disease and insect control programs for homegrown fruit in Kentucky. Dormant oil, fixed copper, and pyrethrum are all organic control options. See Table 8 for specific spray schedules.|
|I would like to know how far I can cut my blackberries back without hurting them and to make sure they produce next summer. Sharon, Clendenin|
|Hello, Sharon: Pruning blackberries depends on what kind you are growing. The two most common kinds of blackberries are semi-erect and semi-trailing; both are thornless. Semi-erect cultivars should be pruned during the winter while they are dormant. They should be cut back where the canes start bending over. They can also be pinched back during the summer months if at any time the canes have put on more than one foot of new growth. This will encourage larger fruit. If you are growing semi-trailing blackberries, the best time to prune them would be early next spring. Choose a few of the most vigorous canes and remove the rest at ground level. For more detailed ipictures and more nformation on growing/pruning blackberries, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho15/ho15.pdf. Good sanitation is always important in maintaining a healthy crop. Remove dead or diseased canes at any time of the year.|
|I'm familiar with apricots like those used in Smucker's jam, but what are "wild apricots" about? Donald, Caneyville|
|Hi, Donald: There are several species of apricot and even more varieties, all belong to the Prunus genus. Some have edible fruit used for drying and making jam, while others do not produce fruit and are grown specifically for ornamental value. Species that are grown around the world include the Japanese apricot, Tibetan apricot, Mandshurica apricot native to Korea, and the Siberian apricot, just to name a few. The wild apricot (P.Armeniaca vulgaris) is native to China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, this species is considered endangered. Threats to this plant include construction and harvesting for fuel and breeding programs. Like all plants that have been cultivated, the growers begin with the actual species; in this case the wild apricot is the origin of all cultivated varieties. Here in Kentucky we are more successful in growing the ornamental varieties as opposed to the fruiting ones. Our climate and soil do not allow for optimal growing conditions for these fruit trees.|
|Is it possible to restore a blackberry planting that has been neglected for five years? I was able to cut back all dead brambles and also some that actually bore. But with no one to water them during our severe drought the berries burned up. I pruned some last fall and the rest today. There are new leaves on some healthy looking brambles. Sharon, Ashland|
|Hello, Sharon in Missouri: Growing blackberries in the home garden is a great way to provide your family with fresh fruit. A neglected plant may take a couple years to become productive again but it certainly is possible. Pruning your blackberries will depend on what kind you are growing. The two most common kinds of blackberries are semi-erect and semi-trailing. Semi-erect cultivars should be pruned during the winter while they are dormant. They should be cut back where the canes start bending over. They can also be pinched back during the summer months if at any time the canes have put on more than 1 foot of new growth. This will encourage larger fruit. If you are growing semi-trailing blackberries, the best time to prune them would be now (early spring). Choose a few of the most vigorous canes and remove the rest at ground level. It might seem harsh but you will end up pruning pretty hard and it might take a couple of seasons for the vines to concentrate its energy on fruit production. Blackberries should be pruned annually for best results. It may be a good idea to have your soil tested where the blackberries are growing to see if you need to amend the soil. This can be done through your County Cooperative Extension Service. For more detailed pictures and more information on growing/pruning blackberries in your state, go to http://mtngrv.missouristate.edu/assets/publications/B39GrowingBlackberriesinMissouri.pdf.
|Is it safe to eat my blackberries after sprinkling with Sevin dust? I had to sprinkle for Japanese beetles. Dena, Rives|
|Hello, Dena in Tennessee: Japanese beetles can be a serious problem in the garden. Some years are worse than others but they can do major damage over a short period of time. Sevin is a pesticide that is labeled for Japanese beetles and for use on fruits. Carbaryl is the active ingredient in Sevin, which is not organic and should only be used according to directions. Sevin should not be used within two weeks of harvest and your fruit should be washed thoroughly before consumed. As far as pesticides go this is one of the safest, but for future reference if you want to use an organic product both Neem and horticultural oil are options but hand picking is very effective with these insects. Get a bucket of soapy water and go out in the early morning. Just pluck them off and drop them in the bucket. Not only is Sevin not organic but like many other chemicals this product is extremely harmful to beneficial insect such as honeybees. Insecticidal soap is also effective if it is sprayed on the beetles.
|Is it too late to plant fruit trees in Kentucky? I realize I won't get a yield this year. Nancy, Winchester|
|Hello, Nancy in Kentucky: There is still plenty of time to add fruit trees to your garden this season. Fall is actually the ideal time to install new additions to the garden. Everybody gets the gardening bug in the spring so it makes sense that this is when all the garden centers are loaded with plant material, but as far as trees, shrubs, perennials, and other hardy plant material it is less stressful on them to plant during the fall and less maintenance on your part in terms of watering. When we plant during the spring/ summer it is likely we will have to supplement with additional moisture during the hot dry periods. When fall arrives, temperatures cool down so it is easier on the plants in terms of getting their roots established before the winter arrives. No matter what time of year we plant it is always a good idea to add a thin layer of mulch to help retain moisture and keep the weeds down. Remember to spread the mulch evenly and not cone it up around the base of the trunk. This can lead to insect and disease issues. Fruit trees thrive in full sun and nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. Another bonus to planting this time of year is that you can normally find some good deals at Labor Day sales. When choosing the fruit trees that you would like, remember to choose varieties/cultivars that are disease-resistant and purchase from a reputable garden center/nursery. Depending on the fruit, it is best to plant at least two for optimal pollination. The following link is to several publications on growing fruit in Kentucky: www.uky.edu/Ag/Horticulture/comfruit.html. Kentucky has the climate for growing multiple fruit trees, including apples, pears, paw paws, cherries, and peaches. The stone fruits can be a bit finicky but don’t forget about the fruiting shrubs like berries and figs. These are great additions to the edible garden.
|Is there any chemical to control weeds in strawberrries? Bradley, Allensville|
|Hello, Bradley: Strawberry production can be very rewarding, but as with any fruit they require ongoing maintenance, which involves regular weeding. There is no such thing as a weed-free garden--there is always one hiding somewhere--so it is necessary for the home gardener to also be a part-time weeder. This job can be time-consuming but it is a very important task. Reducing the amount of weeds is necessary because they compete for moisture, nutrition, and sunlight. If not controlled they can take over and eventually be the demise of your fruit. On the brighter side, once they are under control the maintenance will be far less. Identifying the weeds should be your first step in tackling the problem. Having them identified will ensure that you are treating for the correct culprits. You can always take samples to your County Cooperative Extension Service for identification. The Todd County offices are located in the courthouse in Elkton. The phone number for contacting your local agriculture/horticulture agent(s) is (270) 265-5659. Hand pulling and proper mulching techniques will help eliminate weed populations. Any herbicide containing 2,4-D is going to be selective and only kill specific weeds. A nonselective herbicide such as RoundUp will kill most weeds along with anything else it comes into contact with, including your strawberry plants. Corn gluten is a safe product to use as a pre-emeregence herbicide. It will prevent seeds from germinating. If you would like more information on growing strawberries in Kentucky visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/PUBS/ho/ho16/ho16.pdf.|
|Last year I picked almost 100 gallons of blackberries. This year I may get 1/3 of that. With it being so dry, am I wasting my water and time using a soaker hose on these berries? Or is it automatic that one year they are bountiful and the next year not? Also,this year I think it is too late but what can I do to ward off the June bugs next season? Irene, Nicholasville|
|Hello, Irene: As a general rule blackberries do not produce less volume during consecutive years. Other factors at play such as Mother Nature can affect production. Drought like we had last summer may be a contributing factor in terms of fewer berries this growing season. So, no, you are not wasting your time, keeping your plants watered now will be beneficial for next year's crop. If overall the plants and the actual berries look healthy there is no reason to think the problem is anything other than lack of moisture. Low fertility can also affect berry production so if you have not amended the soil recently it may be time to do so. You can have your soil tested through your County Cooperative Extension Service. As for the June beetles, they are attracted to overripe fruit so be sure to keep up on your picking. Otherwise the damage they would do to the plant would be insignificant. Netting your plants and/or hand-picking the beetles into a pail of soapy water will do the trick; same goes for Japanese beetles if you have problems with them.
|My 7-year-old peach tree has so much fruit this year but I am so afraid to eat it because a dead cat was found near it. It was on a winter night when we heard some noises of animals that seemed like they were attacking each other. I did not know it until I started cleaning dried leaves that had somehow buried the cat for a while. I am afraid that the cat's decomposed matter may have gone in the dirt surrounding my tree and might cause the tree to be unsafe to eat. Is it unsafe to eat my peaches? Telly, San Leandro|
|Hello, Telly in California: I can understand your concern but in nature this is what happens and to my knowledge there is nothing that the plant would be able to take up that would make the peaches unsafe to consume. As the cat goes through different decomposition phases it will release different nutrients into the soil. The time frame of this process obviously depends on the time of the year the death occurs and how much insect/scavenger activity there is but ultimately, this is beneficial in terms of nutrient levels of the soil. It can increase the nitrogen, potassium, ammonium, calcium, and chloride, among other essential elements to improve soil fertility. It may seem a bit unorthodox but if this happened in the “wild” and we ate the peaches they would taste normal and have no adverse side effects, so go ahead and enjoy your homegrown peaches. If you are interested in reading a scientific article on the decomposition of mammals and the affect on soil conditions check out http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1256&context=entomologyfacpub&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fscholar.google.com%2Fscholar_url%3Fhl%3Den%26q%3Dhttp%3A%2F%2Fdigitalcommons.unl.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%253Farticle%253D1256%2526context%253Dentomologyfacpub%26sa%3DX%26scisig%3DAAGBfm2HbdvOxbyrvfUAYCFcdYUetaVcgQ%26oi%3Dscholarr#search=%22http%3A%2F%2Fdigitalcommons.unl.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1256%26context%3Dentomologyfacpub%22
|My blackberry vine is turning yellow. Is that normal? Lillian, Huntington Beach|
|Hello, Lillian in California: Blackberries are such a treat to have in the home garden. Yellow foliage on blackberries can be an indication of too much moisture, lack of iron (chlorosis), or other potential problems. Blackberries are subject to several different insect and disease issues. Like all other plants they are more susceptible to problems when they are stressed and not growing in ideal conditions. Blackberries thrive when they are planted in a space where they receive full sun. They require nutrient-rich, well-drained soil with a pH between 5.5 and 6.5. Severe mite infestation can cause yellow foliage but if the veins of the foliage are green and the rest of it is yellow, you may be dealing with a nutrient deficiency. I can’t give you a specific answer without a sample of your plant but you can take a sample to your county cooperative Extension service. The agriculture/horticulture agent(s) will be able to identify the problem and give you suggestions for control. You can also have your soil tested through the Extension service, which may not be a bad if you have not already done so. You can visit the Orange County Web site at http://ceorange.ucdavis.edu. If you are interested in reading a publication on growing blackberries in California you can visit http://cesonoma.ucdavis.edu/files/27140.pdf.|
|My blueberry bushes are about 5 years old. They have some limbs that look dead but have many leaves on them. Some limbs have grown in a curve sideways. They are about 1 inch round. Should I cut them back? I have new shoots that came up this summer. Kathy, Bardwell|
|Hello, Kathy: I hope your blueberries have been productive for you the past few years. Pruning is important in terms of fruit size and quantity as well as air circulation. Proper pruning will help to invigorate your plants and keep them happy, which will provide more fruit for you to enjoy. The best time to prune is while they are dormant from February through early spring before bud break. Pruning at other times of the year can decrease your crop. The larger, older canes that have the leaves on them are using more energy than the smaller new canes, so they should be pruned out. They can be taken back all the way to the ground. Any cane that is more than 1 inch in diameter is going to be less productive, so they should be removed. This will allow for better air movement and the energy can be concentrated on the younger canes that will provide you with more fruit. You will also want to prune out any crossing canes. For more information on growing blueberries in Kentucky, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho60/ho60.htm. This is a publication available to home gardeners from the Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with the University of Kentucky and other land grant schools.
|My dwarf cherry trees were loaded with cherries until this morning. Something has gotten to all of them. Will they bloom and produce again this year? Lori, Munfordville|
|Hello, Lori in Kentucky: Stone fruits, including cherries, are a bit tricky to grow in Kentucky. They are susceptible to a number of disease and insect problems. Are there any remnants of the actual fruit or were they literally eaten off the tree? If they were taken from the tree, it had to be birds that found a food source and did not stop until they harvested all your cherries for you. If there is still fruit on the tree but is half-eaten or deformed, it could be one of the many insects or disease issues these trees are prone to. The most common diseases and insects we deal with here in Kentucky are brown rot, bacterial canker, aphids, fruit fly, and tree borers. From what you described, it sounds like your trees are healthy and the fruit produced without any issues, but the birds just got to them before you. Unfortunately, they only flower/fruit once per season so you will have to wait until next year for another crop. Bird netting is always a good idea in these situations. To rule out any insect or disease problems, you can always take a sample to your county Cooperative Extension Service for analysis.|
|My first-year semi-dwarf Golden Delicious apples have lots of leaves, but there are small holes in the leaves, like something is eating them. What can I do? Erika, Rineyville|
|Hi, Erika: There are a number of insects and other diseases that can cause problems with apple trees. It is difficult to say what is feeding on the foliage of your apple tree without seeing a sample. Horticultural oil is an organic option for most insects, but I hesitate to give you spraying recommendations without knowing what the problem is. We do know that insects and disease are more likely to occur on plant material that is not disease-resistant or is not living in optimal growing conditions. Apple trees require fertile, well-drained soil and at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. Good sanitation practices are important for the health of your tree, so make sure to pull all surrounding weeds and any foliage that has fallen from the tree. It really is best if you can take a sample of the foliage to your County Cooperative Extension Service to get a positive identification from the horticulture/agriculture agent(s) and control options. The following is a publication from the University of Kentucky and the Cooperative Extension Service on controlling disease and insect problems with homegrown fruit in Kentucky: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id21/id21.pdf The Hardin County offices are located at 201 Peterson Drive in Elizabethtown. The phone number is (270) 765-4121.|
|My grapes turn brown and black and rot before they are ripe. I think it might be some kind of fungus. Is there any way to determine exactly what the cause is? Jason, Obetz|
|Hello, Jason: There are many different species of fungus that attack grapevines. Many of these can cause the actual fruit to rot. Each has its own characteristics so I cannot say for certain what specifically is going on with the grapes in your garden. For a positive identification you can take a sample to your Cooperative Extension Service for them to analyze in the office or to have sent off to one of the land grant universities in your state to diagnose. Typically the most common fungal problem associated with grapes is caused by the fungus Guignardia bidwellii, which causes black rot. The infected berries shrivel up and look more like raisins than grapes. Different varieties of grapes are more susceptible than others. It can be controlled by good sanitation and potentially a spraying program, but the most important step in eliminating the problem is to have it positively identified. Fungal problems will overwinter in the soil and on any plant debris, so good sanitation practices are essential in terms of controlling disease problems. For now, remove and dispose of all infected grapes still on the vine, as well as the ones that have fallen, and keep the area around your grape vines clean. As with all plant material, they are more likely to be attacked by insect and/or disease problems if they are stressed by environmental conditions. This is why it is so important that we give them ideal growing conditions to thrive in. Grape vines should be planted in full sun with good air circulation. The Franklin County Web site is http://franklin.osu.edu/.|
|My Japanese persimmon tree yielded a good crop of fruit the first year after I bought it, and then the fruits were not as good the following year. It almost died the third year. However, fortunately it has survived except that it has not produced any flowers ever since. The leaves still
look the same as originally and the tree appears healthy. Could this be just the original host tree and not the graft? Can you tell me what is going on with my persimmon tree and what to do next?
Julian, Virginia Beach|
|Hi, Julian: It sounds like your Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) has had a stressful few years. Not knowing the environmental conditions it is growing in, it is hard to say why it has been such a tough transition, but as with any tree it is necessary to give it ideal growing conditions for it to thrive. Full sun (at least six hours per day) and organically rich, slightly acidic, sandy soil will make this tree happy. As far as why it is not bearing fruit, there are a couple of different possibilities. Depending on the cultivar, some of them take three to five years to bear fruit, but since yours seemed to produce well the first season this may not be the issue. Another possibility is the hardiness of the flowers. These trees are hardy in USDA zones 7-9. This means it can handle temperatures as low as 0 degrees F. Is it possible that it has been colder than that the past couple of winters? If so the buds were killed by the cold temperatures, so no flowers resulting in no fruit. In this part of the country Japanese persimmon is usually grafted onto the native persimmon (Diospyrus virginiana), which helps in terms of cold hardinesss. It would have been rather obvious if the grafted plant died and the understock has taken over. It is possible but I am certain that you would have noticed if this happened. The foliage on the Japanese varieties tends to be a bit longer and wider but this depends on the cultivar. For now you can have your soil tested to see if it needs to be amended. Contact your county horticulture agent through your Cooperative Extension Service to find out about having your soil tested.|
|My red raspsberries and blackberry had full flowers and have fruit. But then they started to look like they were drying up. The plants are 4 years old. They don't have bugs, they have been fertilized just like the other plants, good location. Could you give me an insight on what may be happening? Terri, Bowling Green|
|Hello, Terri: As a general rule, black raspberries are more difficult to grow than blackberries and/or raspberries. They typically do not do well here in Kentucky due to environmental conditions and bird problems. They are susceptible to several disease problems but since you mentioned that the plant itself looks healthy we can rule out most of them. Without seeing your plant it is hard to say for certain but gray mold, also known as botrytis fruit rot, is a possibility. This fungus affects only the flowers and the fruit. It is most common when we experience extended rainy and cloudy periods at bloom time. The flowers turn brown and dry; this is known as blasting. The fruit mummifies and if left on the plant will eventually be covered in a gray mold. The only way to be certain that this is the problem is to have a sample of the flower/fruit analyzed. You can do this through your horticulture agent at the Warren County Cooperative Extension Service. The Web site is ces.ca.uky.edu/warren
. For now you will want to clean up all fallen flowers and fruit since this fungus can overwinter on plant debris.|
|Our Yellow Delicious apple tree was loaded with apples and they were growing well, then one day we went out and there was not an apple on the tree and there weren't any on the ground. What could have happened to them? Joe, Benton|
|Hello, Joe in Kentucky: Apples have their share of insect and disease issues, especially if they are not growing in ideal conditions or if we plant trees that are not disease-resistant varieties, but in your case this does not seem to be the issue. The only logical answer to this question is an animal, most likely squirrels or deer. Apples are a favorite among humans as well as wildlife, and once they find a source of food it is difficult to deter them. As you have discovered, they and their friends can eat all the fruit off your tree in a matter of hours, leaving no remnants behind. This is especially true if your tree is young and not at its mature height. Deer can take fruit off the tree up to 6 feet. The key is to start early in terms of protecting your fruit so it is allowed to ripen and you can enjoy it rather than the wildlife. There are many organic granular and liquid sprays that are available specifically for this purpose, but they have to be used early and reapplied according to product recommendations. Netting is another option, as well as hanging moth balls in your tree. Unfortunately, the crop for this season is gone but next year you will know to protect the tree early enough so you can actually harvest and eat the fruit. If you want more specific information on growing apples in Kentucky you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/anr/PDF/Growing%20Fruit%20at%20Home%20in%20Kentucky.PDF.|
|The leaves on my persimmon tree have gone brown after a couple of frosts. Is there anything to worry about?
Jim, Thousand Oaks|
|Hi Jim, in California: Persimmon trees are deciduous, meaning they will lose their foliage during the late fall/early winter months depending on the weather. So, not to worry, this is perfectly normal and it does not mean there is anything wrong with your fruit tree. During the colder months while the tree is dormant and defoliated is a great opportunity to step back and look at the branching structure. Proper pruning is essential to a healthy, long-lived tree and is especially important for fruit-bearing trees. Branches that are rubbing together or crossed should be removed as well as any branches that are diseased or weak. Persimmon fruit is quite heavy so it is important to encourage strong secondary branches that are close to the main leader. Pruning out thin branches and keeping the canopy open is essential for good light penetration and air circulation, which can help prevent potential disease issues. If you need more specific information on pruning your persimmon you can visit homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/8057.pdf. While the tree is dormant it will not require additional moisture or food.|
|We bought a house in March of last year. The property has peach, apple, and cherry trees, and grape vines. The property was vacant for a year and a half when we moved there. The fruit did not do well at all last year. Can you tell me when and what to spray the trees with? Leslie, Williamsburg|
|Hello, Leslie: The fruit on this property may have been neglected well before you purchased the land. If this is the case, spraying will not solve the problem. If the fruit was initially planted with the right conditions in mind, taking into consideration the available sunlight, soil drainage, and nutrients, as well as elevation and good air circulation, they may just need to be pruned. Assuming the fruit was cared for and properly pruned in its earlier years, hopefully it just needs to be rejuvenated. It is hard to say what condition your trees/vines are in without seeing them, so you may consider hiring a certified arborist to come out and take a look. Contact your county Cooperative Extension Service for arborist suggestions. Tell them you are specifically concerned about fruit trees. The Extension Service is a valuable resource and they have many informative publications available for home gardeners. The following are a couple that will give you specific pruning information on peaches and grapes: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho57/ho57.pdf
Ask your county agent for a copy of the publication Growing Fruit at Home in Kentucky. You should also consider having your soil tested to make sure there are nutrients available for your fruit trees and vines. This can also be done for a small fee through your county Extension Service. Phillip Meeks is the agriculture agent in Whitley County. The phone number is (606) 549-1430. I realize this is not a specific answer to your question, but hopefully it will get you on the right track.|
|We have newly planted blackberry vines. We were told not to let them bear fruit this year and now we want to know if we should cut them back to just above the ground for next year's harvest or leave them alone. Priscilla, Waco|
|Hello, Priscilla: Blackberries are a delicious treat to add to the garden. If given the right conditions to grow in and are properly cared for, they will provide you with many years of fruit. There are three different kinds of blackberries but here in Kentucky we typically only grow two: semi-erect and semi-trailing. The trailing varieties are not usually hardy for us. As for pruning, they should be left alone for now. Future prunings depend on what kind of blackberry you are growing. Semi-erect cultivars should be pruned for the first time during the winter dormant period. They should be cut back where the canes start bending over. They can also be pinched back during the summer months if at any time the canes have put on more than one foot of new growth. If you are growing semi-trailing blackberries, the first time you will need to prune them would be early next spring. At this time you will want to study each plant and pick out two or three of the most vigorous canes and remove the rest at ground level. For more detailed information on growing/pruning blackberries in Kentucky, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho15/ho15.pdf. This publication is provided by the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service in collaboration with land grant universities.
|We live in southeastern Kentucky in Knox County. We have grapevines that start out fine but when the grapes start to get ripe they rot. Do we need to fertilize our vines? Vivian, Girdler|
|Hello, Vivian: I do not think fertilizing is the issue with your grapevines. Although making sure they have enough nutrients is important to your grapes, this sounds more like a fungal problem. The most common problem found with grapes grown in Kentucky is known as black rot. This is a fungus that will cause infected berries to shrivel up and look more like raisins than grapes. It can be controlled by good sanitation and potentially a spraying program, but the most important step in eliminating the problem is to have it positively identified. I cannot do without seeing your vine so you should take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Service for the agriculture/horticulture agent(s) to look at. The Extension Service also has publications available to home gardeners; the following link is one on growing grapes in Kentucky: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id126/id126.htm
. Black rot will overwinter so good sanitation practices are very important in keeping insects and disease problems under control. Remove and dispose of all infected grapes still on the vine as well as the ones that have fallen. Keep the area around your vines free of all plant debris. As with all plant material, if we do not give them ideal conditions to grow in we are making them more susceptible to insect and disease problems. Grape Vines should be planted in full sun with good air circulation.
|What apple, peach, and plum trees would you recommend for Hardin County? I would like two of each. Last year we dug six holes for the trees, but never bought any as it was late in the season. I would like one yellow apple and one red apple that will be able to be used for cooking and keeping through the winter. Will Georgia peach do well here? Mary, Vine Grove|
|Hi, Mary in Kentucky: Growing fruit in the home garden is a great way to provide your family with fresh produce, not to mention the money you will save in the long run. As with any new addition to the garden, it is essential for the long-term health of the plant to make sure you can provide optimal growing conditions for these fruit trees. They will require a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight, excellent drainage, and nutrient-rich soil. If you have not had your soil tested yet, it would be a good idea to do so before planting. You can contact your County Extension service for more information on soil testing. Although some fruit trees are self pollinating, for optimal production it is a good idea to plant two that flower at the same time. Choosing disease-resistant varieties is essential in terms of health for any fruit tree. Liberty and Jonafree are both disease-resistant red apples that produce in the fall. Golden Delicious would be a good yellow apple that is also a fall producer. These are just a couple to mention but there are a number of disease-resistant apple varieties that do well here in Kentucky. The following link is a publication provided by the University of Kentucky in collaboration with the Extension service for home gardeners: http://www.ca.uky.edu/anr/PDF/Growing%20Fruit%20at%20Home%20in%20Kentucky.PDF This publication is full of reliable information on growing fruit in the home garden for Kentucky gardeners. As for peaches and plums, these are certainly more tricky for Kentucky gardeners. They are not happy growing in our clay soils so it is necessary to amend the soil before planting. These stone fruits are also more susceptible to insect and disease problems. It is possible to grow them, but it may require a spray routine and more maintenance on your part. The fruit publication has varieties recommended for Kentucky growers. Enjoy!|
|What are the white spots on blueberries (the fruit itself, not the leaves)? Peggy, Everett|
|Hello, Peggy: Without seeing your berries I cannot say for certain what the white spots are. This is not usually a symptom of blueberries. On the foliage yes, but not the actual fruit. Powdery mildew is common with blueberries but affects the foliage. What does the rest of the plant look like? Is the foliage healthy? Are the white spots possibly under-ripe portions of the fruit from the way the berries were hanging in clusters and the inner parts did not receive the same amount of light? Bloom scar found on the bottom of the berry can sometimes be white but the rest of the berry would not be spotty. Mummified berries that are attacked by a fungus will turn white and if left hanging will shrivel and drop. These are all just possibilities but for a positive diagnosis you can take a sample to your County Cooperative Extension Service for your horticulture agent to analyze. You may have disease problems in Washington state that as a Kentucky gardener I am not aware of.|
|What causes a purple spot on nectarine fruit to shrivel and look like a prune? Every nectarine on the tree had this problem. Jim, Belton|
|Hello, Jim: Nectarines (Prunus persica nucipersica) are a delicious treat in the summertime, but they are not a low-maintenance fruit tree and they certainly have their share of insect and disease problems. There are varieties that are less susceptible than others but for the most part they are not the best choice for a minimal pesticide garden. They require a regular spray and fertilization schedule as well as annual pruning. There are way too many insect and disease problems to mention, but from what you have described it is not an insect problem. There are many bacterial/fungal problems associated with nectarines, including brown rot, scab, and bacterial spot, all of which could be possibilities. Without being able to see your tree it sounds like brown rot may be the problem. This fungus overwinters on mummified fruit that is left on the tree or on the ground. Did you notice any fruit last season that looked more like a prune instead of a nectarine? Good air circulation is essential for these fruit trees, and proper pruning will increase air movement and prevent future problems. In some cases the problem is first noticed on the foliage. For a positive diagnosis you should take a sample of the fruit as well as the foliage to your County Cooperative Extension Service. The agriculture/horticulture agent(s) will be able to look at your sample and give you a definitive answer. They also have the ability to send it off to have analyzed if necessary. The Muhlenberg County Web site is: http://ces.ca.uky.edu/muhlenberg;
the phone number is (270) 338-3124. For now you will want to remove and destroy all infected fruit both on the tree as well as the fruit that has already fallen.|
|What friuts and vegetables grow in Maysville, Kentucky? Scoti, Maysville|
|Hello, Scoti: Depending on the available sunlight and nutrients we can grow many fruits and vegetables successfully here in Kentucky. To have an abundant crop, both fruit and vegetables require full sun. This means they should be grown in a space that receives a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. As long as you can provide adequate growing conditions there are many options for planting. There are some vegetables such as asparagus that are considered perennials for us but for the most part we have to start fresh each year. Vegetables are divided into cool-season and warm-season crops, so depending on the time of year we can grow most any vegetable. As far as fruit the hardy choices we can grow most are berries, grapes, apples, cherries, pears, figs, and paw paws. Melons and other fruits need to be planted each year. Some berries such as blueberries require acidic soil so it is always a good idea to have your soil tested and amended if needed before planting. Growing your own fruits and veggies is very rewarding and well worth the effort. For more specific information on growing vegetables at home in Kentucky visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf. This literature is for home gardeners provided by the University of Kentucky in cooperation with the Cooperative Extension Service. It is full of very detailed information on all the vegetables we can grow. They also have publications on specific fruit that you may be interested in growing. You can reach the Mason County offices at (606) 564-6808 or visit their Web site at: http://ces.ca.uky.edu/mason/
|What is the best variety of apple trees to grow in Kentucky that are disease-resistant? Joseph H., Brownsville|
|Hello, Joseph: Picking apples in your own garden is very rewarding. You are wise to choose a disease-resistant variety. Planting an apple tree that is less susceptible to insect and disease problems will be less maintenance on your part and give you a better crop in the long run. Just as important as choosing the right tree for your landscape is choosing the right space to plant it in. Apple trees require a site where they will be exposed to a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. Good early morning sun is important so that it can dry off the dew, eliminating potential problems. Good air circulation and good drainage are essential for the health of your apple tree. Apple trees should be fertilized each spring and pruned annually in March. If you need detailed information on pruning your apple tree, the Ohio Cooperative Extension has a good publication you can read at http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1150.html
. As far as disease-resistant varieties, Enterprise, Liberty, and Jonafree are all good choices for those of us gardening in Kentucky. For more specific information on these varieties as well as others visit www.uky.edu/Ag/Horticulture/homefruitrec07
.pdf. As with any new addition to the garden, make sure you purchase your plant material from a reliable source. Visit your local garden centers and talk with knowledgeable staff members who can help you choose the right apple tree for your landscape.|
|What is the easiest and hardiest tomato plant for Dry Ridge, Kentucky? Maurice, Cincinnati|
|Hello, Maurice in Kentucky: Tomato plants are not considered hardy in Kentucky. They will not survive our winter temperatures so they need to be planted each year. After the average frost-free date passes (May 10) Kentucky gardeners are safe to plant tomatoes. Choose a space in the garden that receives a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. Tomatoes thrive in nutrient-rich, consistently moist but well-drained soil. There are so many tomatoes to choose from that it is hard to decide what to plant. Determinate tomatoes that are typically more of a bush form and set fruit over a limited time are ideal for some growers. Early Girl and Celebrity are good choices for this group. Indeterminate tomatoes that are more vine-like and produce for an extended period of time are preferred by some gardeners. Better Boy and Pink Girl both do well for Kentucky gardeners. Then you have other heirlooms, as well as your cherry tomatoes, to choose from. If you plant several tomatoes you might want to opt for a few of each. Sweet 100 is a delicious cherry tomato. For a detailed list of tomato cultivars recommended for Kentucky gardeners, you can visit http://ces.ca.uky.edu/jefferson-files/Horticulture/seasonal/Vegetable_cultivars.pdf
. This publication is provided to home gardeners from the University of Kentucky in collaboration with the Cooperative Extension Service.|
|What is the name or address of the hall at OSU where I can send a sample of my grape vines to find out if they have black rot and how to treat it? Jason, Obetz|
|Hi, Jason: Black rot is a common fungal disease among grapes. It can over-winter on the vine as well as on any mummified fruit left on the vine or on the ground. This is why good sanitation is essential for grape vines. Ohio State University has a pest and plant diagnostic clinic at the Ohio Department of Agriculture campus in Reynoldsburg. The C. Wayne Ellett clinic is located at 8995 East Main Street in Building 23. This is where you can take a sample of your vine/foliage to be diagnosed. Visit their Web site for directions and more information at http://ppdc.osu.edu/map
. You can reach them by phone at (614) 292-5006. They will be able to give you a definitive diagnosis and potential fungicide program if necessary. http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1423.html is a link to an OSU publication on growing grapes.|
|What would be the lowest maintainance fruit or nut tree for our region that is also handsome enough for the front yard? DJ, Xenia|
|Hello, DJ: There is always a certain amount of maintenance involved with fruit and nut trees. Maintenance to one gardener is not the same to another, so it will all depend on how much energy you want to put into your new addition. Certainly some fruit trees have more ornamental characteristics than others, and some are higher maintenance than others in terms of pruning, but there are a few good options to choose from. Selecting a disease-resistant variety is essential. A fig would be a good option although it is more of a shrub, but is very low maintenance with interesting foliage and delicious fruit. The fig will die back to the ground if we have a really cold winter, but will come back in the spring and put on plenty of new growth and produce quite a bit of fruit. Some are more cold-hardy than others but Brown Turkey and Chicago are both good choices. Persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) trees are certainly an option. They are columnar in growth habit, reaching 40-50 feet tall. These trees have beautiful fall color and require little pruning. Paw Paw (Asimina triloba) would be another good option. These native trees are pyramidal in growth habit and will reach 30 feet at maturity. Apples and Asian pear trees are ornamental in my opinion, although they do require a pruning schedule and picking up fruit that has fallen would be maintenance on your part. As for nut trees, it really is best to plant several together or your crop may not be as plentiful. They are much larger trees and they can be considered messy. That being said, you may be better off planting a fruit tree, although if you have the space, Northern pecan (Carya illinoensis) trees would be a nice addition. The Nolin River Nut Tree Nursery is a reliable mail order source for all the trees mentioned. You can visit their Web site at www.nolinnursery.com.|
|When is best time to transplant thornless blackberry bushes? Should the bushes be trimmed? If so, when and how much? Stephen, Garrison|
|Hello Stephen: Transplanting blackberries can be done throughout the year as long as the ground is not frozen. As with any other plant, there is a good time and a not so good time to transplant, so ideally you want to avoid moving them while they are flowering or setting fruit. The best time to transplant is late winter or early spring whlie they are dormant, after they have been pruned and before they put on new growth. This will give them enough time for their roots to get settled before the hot summer arrives. Treat them as you would any other new planting and keep them watered if Mother Nature does not. Avoid fertilizing for the first season until they become established in their new home. When it is time to transplant, it is always a good idea to have your new holes pre-dug so you can get the roots back in the soil as soon as possible to reduce stress on the plants. Be careful when digging up the existing plants that you do not injure the roots. After transplanting, add a thin layer of mulch to help keep the moisture in and the weeds down. Blackberries should be pruned annually for best fruit production. It sounds like you are growing semi-erect blackberries as opposed to semi-trailing. Semi-erect cultivars should be pruned for the first time during the winter dormant period. They should be cut back where the canes start to bend over. They can also be pinched back during the summer months if at any time the canes have put on more than one foot of new growth. Always make sure to use clean, sharp pruners when making your cuts. For more detailed information on growing/pruning blackberries in Kentucky, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho15/ho15.pdf
. This publication is provided by the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Blackberries are a delicious treat and as long as they are pruned annually and given the right growing conditions, they will provide you with many years of fruit.|
|When is the best time to pick your pear tree of fruit? Mark, Scottsville|
|Hello, Mark: The two most common kinds of pears grown in our area are European and Asian. Harvesting time will depend on which pears you are growing. Visually Asian pears are a more rounded fruit; they are sometimes referred to as the apple pear. Flavor and texture also differ between the two; European varieties are usually sweeter and Asian varieties are more tart and crisp. So, as far as harvesting your fruit, European varieties should not be allowed to ripen on the tree. To reach the optimal flavor and texture these pears should be picked and ripened off the tree. As soon as you notice them turning from green to yellow go ahead and start picking. If they stay on the tree too long they will become gritty and less palatable. Ripen them in a well-ventilated space at room temperature for one to two weeks. Asian pears, on the other hand, can and should be allowed to ripen on the tree. Harvest them as they turn a golden yellow and feel more firm than hard. Both will last longer if stored at cooler temperatures if not eaten right away.|
|When is the best time to spray/fertalize my small fruit trees? Marta, Rochester|
|Hello, Marta: Each fruit has different requirements in terms of fertilizer as well as disease and insect control programs, so without knowing exactly what you are growing I cannot give you specific advice. With most fruits the nitrogen levels should be the highest during the spring and summer. They should be lower during the fall as they prepare for the winter. This will make them less susceptible to winter damage. Each state/county has different recommendations for homegrown fruit care. You should contact your County Cooperative Extension Service and ask the horticulture/agriculture agent(s) for local advice. They will have publications available for you to use as a reference. Healthy and productive fruit trees begin with choosing disease-resistant cultivars and then planting them in an ideal location. Fruit trees are best planted in a space where they will receive full sun and good air circulation. The soil should be rich in nutrients and well-drained. Properly pruning young trees as they mature is essential for good fruit production. For more information about your local extension service, visit http://counties.cce.cornell.edu/monroe/
|When is the best time to trim apple trees in my area? Also, how far back do I need to trim Triple Crown blackberries? Melvin, Mckee|
|Hi, Melvin in Kentucky: Apple trees are a great addition to the home orchard. Healthy, well-pruned trees produce high yields but are not maintenance-free plantings. March is the best time to prune your apple trees in Kentucky. Pruning begins at the time of planting and continues each year to promote ideal branching structure for fruit production and harvest purposes. Ideally, a mature apple tree should have a central leader, with four to five lateral branches evenly spread throughout the tree. The central leader can be pruned back at a young age to help maintain the overall size of the tree. This helps when it comes to harvest time. All dead, diseased, and broken branches can be removed any time of the year. Pruning older neglected apple trees will require consecutive years of removing larger branches to get it back into shape and make them more productive. If you need more detailed information on pruning your apple trees, you can visit http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publication/HG_363.pdf
. This publication is from the University of Utah but it has nice detailed pictures on properly pruning apple trees. As for your blackberries, each plant should be pruned annually for best fruit production. As Kentucky gardeners, we typically grow two kinds of blackberries: semi-erect and semi-trailing. ‘Triple Crown’ is a trailing variety that can be trellised to grow upright, but should be pruned in the early spring. When this time comes, you will want to study each plant and pick out two or three of the most vigorous canes and remove the rest at ground level. For more detailed information on growing blackberries in Kentucky, you can read the following publication provided by the University of Kentucky in collaboration with the Extension service: www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho15/ho15.pdf. Enjoy your fruit!
|When is the best time to trim blackberry bushes and how much do I trim? Ben, Huber Heights|
|Hello, Ben: Blackberries are a wonderful treat to grow in the garden. Annual maintenance will ensure a healthy crop year after year. Pruning blackberries depends on what kind you are growing. The two most common kinds of blackberries are semi-erect and semi-trailing; both are thornless. It sounds like you are growing a semi-erect cultivar. They should be pruned during the winter while they are dormant. They should be cut back where the canes start bending over. They can also be pinched back during the summer months if at any time the canes have put on more than one foot of new growth. This will encourage larger fruit. If you are growing semi-trailing blackberries, the best time to prune them would be early next spring. Choose a few of the most vigorous canes and remove the rest at ground level. For detailed pictures and more information on growing/pruning blackberries, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho15/ho15.pdf
. Good sanitation is always important in maintaining a healthy crop. Remove dead or diseased canes at any time of the year. Make sure when you prune that your tools are clean and sharp. If you are removing diseased canes you will want to sanitize in between cuts to prevent disease spread.
|Where can I find a gooseberry plant? Edith, Danville|
|Hi, Edith: There are a few different varieties of gooseberries, although most of them are derived from the European gooseberry (Ribes uvacrispa) and the American gooseberry (Ribes hirtellum). These berries are typically grown for making jams, jellies, and pies, but some varieties are very tasty just by themselves. As far as purchasing these berries, you might first call around to your local garden centers/nurseries or check out your local farmer’s market. If your local suppliers do not have them, you can always ask if they are willing to try to find them for you. In most cases they are happy to do this. If you cannot find them locally, there are several online sources that have these berries on their mail order lists. Gurneys, located in Indiana, can be reached at (513) 354-1491. Their Web site is gurneys.com
. Stark Bros., located in Louisiana, is another online source. Their Web site is www.starksbros.com and they can be reached at (800) 325-4180. I personally have never ordered from either of these sources, so I cannot speak to their reputation, but they both have guarantee policies in place. For more information on growing gooseberries in Kentucky, visit www.uky.edu/Ag/NewCrops/introsheets/currants.pdf.|
|Where can I find strawberry plants for fall planting? Ron, Lancaster|
|Hello, Ron: It may be hard to find strawberry plants in a garden center this time of year. At this point it is better to wait until next March-April to plant. Fall planting of strawberries is discouraged because of potential damage caused by freezing and thawing of the soil. Buying disease-resistant cultivars from a reputable source will ensure that you are getting quality plants that will provide delicious fruit. You might call around to your local garden centers to see which cultivars they usually carry. That way you can decide which kind you would like to grow and get the soil ready for spring planting. There would be no benefit to planting them now since they will not fruit until next season. We can plant them before our frost-free date in early May. There will be plenty of time in the early spring to get them planted, and for the plants to get their roots settled before the hot weather arrives. Choose a space in the garden where they will receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. They will benefit from a soil that is well-drained and rich in organic matter. For more information on preparing the soil and growing strawberries in Kentucky, visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/ho/ho16/ho16.pdf. If you need local suggestions, contact the Garrard County agriculture/horticulture agent(s) at (859) 792-3026.|
|Where is the best place to buy fruit trees in Kentucky? I am looking into buying about 40. Melissa, Shepherdsville|
|Hello, Melissa in Kentucky: Planting fruit trees is a great way to provide you and your family/friends with healthy, homegrown snacks for many years. Unfortunately, Kentucky is not a state that has growers choosing to grow fruit trees. From a garden center/nursery perspective, we typically purchase them from the northern states as well as some southern states. For any garden center to have the quantity you are looking for, I would suspect this would have to be a special order. You might start by contacting the local garden centers/nurseries in your area to see if this is something they can bring in for you. Otherwise, if you are willing to drive to Louisville, The Plant Kingdom (502) 893-7333 would be happy to special order them for you. The following are a couple of reliable online sources for fruit trees: Starks Bros. in Missouri, www.starkbros.com
, or TyTy nursery in Georgia, www.tytyga.com. No matter where you purchase your plants, make sure to buy disease-resistant varieties recommended for Kentucky gardeners. If you need a list of these you can visit www.uky.edu/Ag/Horticulture/homefruitrec.pdf, or if you would like information on disease/insect control you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id21/id21.pdf. Both of these are publications available to home gardeners provided by the Extension service in collaboration with the University of Kentucky.|
|Why do my boysenberries have some secondary limbs with briars and others with none? Saundra, Oak Hill|
|Hello, Saundra: I apologize for the delayed response. I had to do some research on your question; just to be certain we are on the same page, I assume the briars you refer to are thorns and the secondary limbs are new growth. So, here are the facts: Boysenberries are a hybrid fruit found by chance in California. Nurserymen have since selected and released named varieties of this bramble fruit. There are thornless varieties, but boysenberries can sport readily. In the horticulture world, this means an individual plant can have different characteristics from branch to branch. For your boysenberry, this means some canes on the same plant can produce variations in terms of fruit size, shape, time of harvest, and even thorniness of the canes. Removing these thorny canes will result in reduced fruit, but if it is important to you not to have any thorns then this would be your only option. Thanks for your patience.|
|Without thinking I dug up my 2-year old Concord grape vine. Can I plant it now? If not, will it survive if I keep it inside until spring and then plant it? Louetta, Shelbiana|
|Hello, Louetta: We all make mistakes in the garden but this is how we learn right? So, yes, you should get your vine back in the ground as soon as possible and treat it like you would any other new addition to the garden. As long as the roots have not dried out it should be fine; grapes are pretty tough plants. You will want to give it additional moisture when you get it back in the ground and add a couple inches of mulch to help keep the moisture in and help to insulate the roots during the winter months. You will not need to water like you would in the spring since the temperatures and light levels are much lower at this time of year. Avoid over watering since this can cause root rot. Avoid fertilizing this time of year since we do not want to encourage new growth that will be susceptible to winter damage. For now just get the vine back in the soil and water it in. Next spring you will know if the vine survived and then go ahead and fertilize if you want to. If the vine is still alive it will not have a better chance of surviving indoors. It will be much happier planted back in the soil outside. This is not true for all plants but it is for this woody vine, so get your spade out!||