Answering Your Questions
I’ve Fallen A Little Behind…
A lot of you have posed questions to my Facebook page which I can’t always get to. I do apologize and now that I have a bit of free time, have decided to answer these questions through the blog so my answers can be a bit more thorough.
Question 1: I have a lime tree in my living room. It was started by seed in a yogurt container then graduated to a big pot. It has now reached the top of our cathedral ceiling in the living room. It looks awkward, at the bottom part of the tree it has about five branches then shot straight up with a long six foot stretch. Can I cut it off at the top of the last branch? – KJ Esthetics
First off, way to go! As for the pruning, timing is important: late summer or early spring is ideal (when the plant is dormant). At this time, you want to remove dead or broken branches. Don’t take off more than a third at a time to ensure the plant has enough leaves to continue a healthy life. Always use clean, sharp pruners to help keep the plant from being damaged. You’ll be removing the “leader” branch so you’ll notice it start to spread out at the top a little more. You’re coming up to the ideal pruning time this year – good luck!
Question 2: I have three mature [60 year] Birch trees. In years past I painted the trunks with Cygon but since it went off the market I have not used anything. Is there a product out there equivalent to Cygon. – Maureen Tokic
For those who don’t know, Cygon is a chemical that was historically used to control the bronze birch borer. Truth is, the borer does not do permanent damage to the birch tree so, really, now that it’s not available, you’re saving the environment and your money. Let the tree be, it’ll do fine without any help from you. Keep in mind that the European birch will live to about 80 years. If you’re considering planting another birch, why not go native with the paper birch?
Question 3: How do we remove clover from the lawn? It seems to taking over. – Grant Best
This is a common question with a simple (ish) answer. Clover thrives where nitrogen is low. The simple answer: fertilize three times a year and overseed spring and fall until the lawn is more grass than clover. After that, I would recommend you still fertilize but only overseed when necessary. It will take time to get the job done right. Patience is a virtue.
Question 4: We live in Edmonton, Alberta and have an apple tree. Usually I prune in the spring before the sap is running but this year we were away and got back too late to prune. We will likely find the same next year so we wonder if it would be feasible to prune in mid October? – Richard Wallace
Pruning apple trees in the fall can be risky since the cuts may not have time to heal before winter. Cold temperatures can easily damage freshly pruned trees. With that said, it is possible – you just need to be cautious. The longer answer is far too long for this blog but I encourage you to give this info page a read. I refer to it quite frequently: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/00-005.htm
You may also be interested in this book from Alberta Ag and Forestry: http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex22
Question 5: For decades, we had several white phlox plants that bloomed bright pink this year. Does this mean it was a hybrid and has gone back to its original state? – Dana Giedriunas
Very interesting, Dana! It’s likely that the white phlox hasn’t changed at all but that it has self sowed and seeds not true to the parent germinated – it does happen and often is how we get the ‘exotic-looking’ species that we see in garden centres these days. I noticed in my garden this year that the pink phlox bloomed several weeks before the white phlox did.
Question 6: I have an outdoor hibiscus. It has lots of green leaves but no flowers… Toronto, Ontario. – Irene Morrison Hollett
It’s likely that your hardy hibiscus needs a little pruning. They’re pretty easy to grow but definitely benefit from a trim every few years because flowers only appear on new growth. To encourage new growth, prune to several inches from the ground after the first good frost in the fall/winter. If you want to keep the foliage full, don’t prune as much but understand that new growth from the roots is where your flowers will bloom from.
Question 7: The few large tomatoes that have ripened on my deck container pot have blossom end rot. Boo Hoo. Do I just throw the whole thing out or can I salvage the green tomatoes to ripen inside? Thanks. – Mara King
That’s too bad, Mara! Next year, try to avoid the problem by crushing up some eggshells and placing them into the pot right before you put in the tomato plant. Blossom end rot is caused by a lack of calcium.
Unfortunately, once blossom end rot has set in, it’s there for the life of the plant. If you still have blossoms, you can add calcium to the soil and give the new blossoms a chance but, really, it’s just a chance. On the plus side, you can still eat tomatoes affected by rot – just cut out the bad parts…or use them green! I’ve had delicious green tomato salsa in my day – can’t go wrong!
Question 8: Can somebody tell me why this year that my cucumber plants didn’t produce cucumbers…lots of blossoms but no cucumbers? – Marie Brousseau
Is it possible that your cucumbers didn’t receive enough pollination, Marie? The plant having flowers tells me that it’s healthy but when they don’t get pollinated, they fall off and no cucumber is produced.
There are a few options here: hand pollinate (use a paint brush to transfer pollen from one flower to another) or plant a whole bunch of flowers around your veggies. The latter should increase pollinator activity and they will find their way to your cucs.
Question 9: How do we get rid of chinch bug in our lawn? – Jean Goodfellow Murphy
The first step is to rake out the thatch. They love that stuff. Next, fertilize and overseed to create a thick healthy lawn. Finally, consider shading the lawn a little more – chinch bugs love sun. A tree or tall shrub that provides some shade to the heavily infested areas can deter them from moving in again.
If the affected area is small, an organic insecticidal soap can remedy the situation or you can try diatomaceous earth.
Question 10: Why are my tomatoes not turning red…cherry toms and large ones are still green and we planted beginning of June in Fenelon Falls? – Brenda Makela
Some plants will take longer than others. I’ve planted cherry tomatoes and had one plant turn red weeks before the other.
Despite what most people think, it is heat and not just sunshine that causes tomatoes to ripen. Consider where the plants are located – are they shaded and therefore not receiving as much heat? In future years, plant against a south- or west-facing wall as the wall itself will retain and bounce heat back to the plant.
If your tomatoes don’t ripen before frost hits, place them on the window sill next to other fruit. The heat and ethylene produced by the fruit will cause your tomatoes to ripen fairly quickly.
Well, I hope this has been informative; I’ll do it again sometime! Happy planting, harvesting, and garden wandering to all!