June 15, 2008

Best Bet is Replace Gnarly Peach Tree With Small Variety

Q. I recently purchased property that had a very old peach tree on it. It produced very small, hard, inedible peaches . The trunk is very gnarled and bark is peeling off. Is there anything that can be done so the tree will produce edible fruit?

- B. Hurst, Virginia Beach

A. The best thing you can do with that gnarled tree is to cut it down and replace it with a new peach tree. Plant a small variety that is easy to spray and makes picking the peaches easier. Spring, fall or winter is a good planting time.

Fight onions one by one

Q. My lovely bride and I bought a town home two years ago and reworked the place. We are in our late-60s and did not want to do a lot of yard work, so we hired a contractor to rework the yard. We have a large, long bed with beautiful plantings. My problem started in the fall of 2007 with many wild onions everywhere. I have tried to pull them up but only break the tops off and then they come right back. My best guess is I can't live long enough to dig each one out. Is there anything I can spray or put on these things to get rid of them?

- Ron "The Onion Man" Kilmon, Virginia Beach

A. Wild onions and wild garlic look similar, so you may have either or both. You are correct when you say you probably can't live long enough to dig them all out. The green method of getting rid of them is to mow them off very short two or three times; by the laws of nature, you've cut off their food supply and they should die. The fast way to get rid of them is to make a funnel from an old newspaper and spray each one with Roundup. More than one spraying may be required. They are bulbs and sometimes form little bulblets that could come back to haunt you next spring. If that happens, you'll have to repeat the steps.

Tree is a problem

Q. For 15 years, I have had a 5-by-60-foot raised vegetable bed in my backyard that was put in by my late mother. I've been trying to keep it in her memory. My neighbor's Bradford pear tree has grown so large that all but five feet of this bed is now in shade. The only area that gets sun is against the back of the house for 20 feet and the middle of the yard. I've had tomato plants against the back of the house before but had so many ants that were a disaster. How do I work and prepare this area for tomato plants, or should I just use big pots? Maybe I should tear down the raised bed and distribute the good soil on all the low areas of the yard. Another option is to turn it into a flower bed. What do you think?

- Belinda Raney, Virginia Beach

A. You have several options, none of which may satisfy you. First, don't turn your raised bed into a flower bed. Many flowers require sunshine to bloom.

Tomato plants have deep roots so you could till the area back of your house and use it for tomatoes. It is not necessary to control ants in an outdoor environment, say environmental experts. However, there are any number of ant baits in the supermarket. Or you could till the raised bed and try once more to see if it can produce anything. The shade from the Bradford pear is preventing healthy growth, but that area also is hiding roots of that pear tree, which grab the water and fertilizer before anything in the raised bed can receive it.

Finally, if you have no luck this year, do as you suggest. Tear down the bed and use the soil to fill low places in your yard. Seems to me that would make your Mom happy.

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