August 11, 2008

Pruning and Fertilizing Can Affect Fruit Production


My apple trees are about 5 years old, but I haven't had any fruit on them yet. How long does it take?

All fruit trees have to reach a certain stage of maturity before they can grow fruit. Your trees should be at the point where they can begin setting and growing fruit.

Make sure that you are pruning them properly, because correct pruning ensures a long life of healthy fruit.

Make sure you are not over fertilizing the trees. Too much nitrogen will push the tree to grow foliage and away from producing flowers.

A 10-10-10 fertilizer should be applied in February at a rate of about 1 1/2 pounds per year of age of the tree, with a maximum of 10 to 16 pounds.

Remember that if your trees are surrounded by grass, they are getting additional fertilizer when the lawn is fertilized. Clear out grass under the drip line of the trees, and keep lawn fertilizer well away from the trees.

Also, when your tree flowers, remember you will need bees and other pollinators to move the pollen to get the fruit started. Make sure you are using biorational pesticides to protect your pollinators so that they can set the fruit.

I have a petticoat fern that was given to me as a gift. Is it cold-hardy enough to plant outside?

Your fern is a member of the Boston fern family, which should be hardy enough for the area. Planting it in the ground might take away from the cascading fronds, so you may want to keep it on a stand.

Remember that a plant's cold hardiness is affected by the weather as winter approaches. A gradual cooling will help plants become semi dormant and less susceptible to the cold temperatures. It's also important to consider the placing of plants. The southeast side of the house usually doesn't receive a direct hit from oncoming cold fronts, while the northwest side of the house is usually exposed to colder winter winds.

My impatiens have caterpillars eating them. How can I stop them once and for all?

You can treat for caterpillars with a bT (bacillus thurengenesis) product such as DiPEL, or Thuracide. This product will only affect caterpillars.

You can't prevent the problem in the future, because there will continue to be moths flying around, and if one lays her eggs on the leaves, the caterpillars will hatch out in a week or so and begin eating. You can check the leaves and smash groups of eggs you find on them, but with small-leaved plants like impatiens that may not be a reasonable approach.

My indoor Christmas cactus is dropping leaves. What should I do?

A Christmas cactus is a tropical kind of cactus and not as drought-tolerant as a desert cactus.

As our summer temperatures have heated up, the air-conditioners have been running much of time, taking out humidity and drying out plant soils.

Christmas cactus should be planted in a soil that drains well. Then the plant should be watered when the top half of the soil is dry. Excess water should then be poured off.

Getting too dry, or standing in water will cause leaves and branches to fall off. Pieces that fall off can usually be tucked into the soil and will grow new roots and be a new branch.

Christmas cactus outside should be able to drain freely, especially during periods of heavy rainfall.Becky Wern is a master gardener with the Duval Agricultural Extension Service and the University of Florida.GARDENER ON CALLA Duval County master gardener is in the Times-Union newsroom from 9 to 11 a.m. Tuesdays to answer questions from readers. Call (904) 359-4199 or (800) 472-6397 and ask for extension 4199.

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