Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pruning Peach Trees

My peach tree got out of hand and grew much bigger than I wanted. This year it was loaded with peaches and a large limb broke and split off. Question is: How much pruning can be done without killing the tree? I would like to get it back to a normal size.

-- Bettie

Anne's Response:

Peach trees require quite a bit of pruning to provide good fruit and a plant strong enough to support the weight of a good peach crop. If you look at trees in most of the commercial orchards you will notice the plants are kept short for ease in picking fruit. They also have a broad limb structure so the fruit has maximum exposure to sunlight. The tree is pruned in late February; a good rule of thumb is not to remove more than 1/3 of the tree in any one year. It may take two years to get your tree to a healthy shape. Check with your Dept. of Agriculture' s Cooperative Extension Service for a copy of their brochure on peach trees for a good diagram of the pruning process for peach trees.

Promoting Crepe Myrtle Growth

I bought a new home in October of 2007. The builder put in a 12 foot Crape Myrtle near the front of my home. As is typical of builders, they did not prep the soil or do anything but dig a hole and stick it in. In the Spring I put in some Azaleas and I added some garden soil to the dirt around the Crape Myrtle. I also put some of the Bayer Feed and Protect on the top of the soil. My problem is that it has not bloomed. I looks healthy to me. Is there anything that you would suggest that I do in the Fall to promote growth and blooming for next year? I have thought about digging away some of the soil and adding some peat and better soil and fertilizer. Help!

-- Linda

Anne's Response:

Crape Myrtles seem to do well in unamended soil so if the plant leafed out this spring and seems generally healthy I would not worry about the blooming. It sometimes takes a year or so for the root systems to develop on a large transplant and plants often postpone blooming until a root system develops. You may find that the combination of crepe myrtle and azaleas is not that beneficial to the azaleas. The azaleas need more shade than crape myrtles provide in winter and crape myrtles are not that happy with supplemental watering in a dry fall when azaleas may need more water to produce good blooms in the spring.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What Killed our Cherry Trees?

Dear Anne,
We live in South-Western Durham and have a lot of heavily wooded area all around our back garden. When we returned from vacation, we noticed that the leaves on a small Cherry Tree were showing signs of what we thought was a severe fungal infection, and we decided to cut it down because the area needed thinning to give some more space to a nearby Sugar Maple and we feared that whatever disease the tree had might spread to our other trees. We carefully raked up and disposed of all the fallen leaves to help prevent it from spreading. So far, we have not noticed similar problems on any of our other trees. I have just spent a couple of hours on line trying to research what the problem may have been and whether it might spread to our other trees. It does not seem to match the pictures and descriptions I find on line of Leaf Spot, Brown Rot or Canker. A neighbor of ours had a similar problem with a small cherry tree. Is there some new blight attacking only cherry trees? Can we do more to prevent it spreading to our other trees or is it something that only attacks cherry trees? Please advise, and thanks in advance for any information you can offer

Bill & Heather

Anne's Response:

Sometimes such damage is caused by bacteria (Xanthomonas pruni). The center of the infection eventually falls out leaving a "shot hole" that is similar to the damage caused by some of the fungal diseases. In most cases of these diseases the plants that will be damaged by the same disease will be members of the prunus family- beach plum, peach, flowering cherries, and flowering almonds. I would not expect it to cause a problem with other trees. The best source of information on identifying these problems is the Cooperative Extension Service. There is a very good master gardener program in Durham and the horticultural extension agent in the Durham County office does an excellent job of identifying insect and disease problems.

When to Plant Crepe Myrtles

Dear Miss Anne,
Could you tell me when the best time is to plant a sprig of a crape myrtle tree? Also, I was wondering if you knew how to dry out hydragaena blooms. I appreciate your help and enjoy watching you on News14..the one for you. Looking forward to hearing from you.

Anne's Response:

Cuttings are made from crepe myrtles in June and July before the wood hardens off. They do have to have a strong root system if they are to be be planted in the ground the year the cuttings are made. It is sometimes necessary to overwinter the cuttings in a pot that is kep in an area that does not get below freezing and then plant them in the ground the following summer. There are two ways tha hydrangeas can be dried. Some people just cut the stems and put them in water. When the water dries out of the container the leaves get stripped from the stems and the blooms are allowed to continue drying in the container in an area out of the direct sun. You can also cut the blooms, strip the leaves off the stems and hang the blooms upside down in a warm dry space. (People used to do it by hanging the stems in an attic over the summer.)

Curling Leaves on Tomato Plants

All of our tomato plants' leaves are curling under. They are producing tomatoes like crazy, though. We fertilize them with Miracle Grow -- don't know what's up with them.


Anne's Response:

Curling leaves on tomato plants can come from uneven watering - especially too much water. It is also caused by insect damage - especially spider mites and aphids. You can usually see signs of insect damage on the back of the leaf. Washing the insects off the back of the leaf with a strong stream of water from a hose is one safe way of taking care of the problem. You may need to add some lime to the soil to counteract the acidity of a lot of nitrogen fertilizer from the Miracle Gro.

What is Attacking my Pecans?

I have two gigantic pecans that I thought were very healthy. This year I have noticed a few branch tips have tent canterpillars? (I'm not sure that's what they are, but that's what I've always referred to them as) on them and the tree is dropping browned short branches for the past couple of weeks. The tree otherwise looks healthy and it is loaded with nuts ripening. What should I do?


Anne's Response:

Tent caterpillars are quite common in pecan trees. Many years ago farmers lit an oil soaked rag on a stick and burned the nests to kill the caterpillars. That is dangerous but you can use a long pole to strike the nests to break them open so the birds can get in to eat the caterpillars.

The loss of small branches from the tree is caused by and insect called a twig girdler (usually Oncideres cingulata). The insect girdles the twig, laying eggs for the next generation. A strong wind will break the stem at the point of the girdling and the stem falls to the ground with the eggs inside. To control the problem remove all the branches that fall to the ground and destroy them. If you don't the insect hatches in the spring, climbs the pecan tree and repeats the prcess for another generation.

Unhealthy Maple Tree


I have a Red Maple that is not doing as well as my others. It gets the same water and sunlight. However, the leaves are a bit smaller. I have noticed tiny, black spots on the bark of the tree. Any thoughts?

Anne's Response:


There are often differences in the size of leaves on two different red maple trees. If plants are the same named cultivar they will be quite similar but for seedling grown trees you can expect variability in size and color of leaves and ultimate height of the plant. There are a number of canker diseases that will form spots or lesions on the trunk and twigs of red maples. Some of them will cause the plant to produce smaller leaves. If the spots are on limbs and twigs but not the main trunk of the tree the limbs can be pruned to remove the infected area. The usual remedy for canker lesions on the trunk of the tree is to remove the tree to keep the infection from spreading to your other trees. My advice is to find a certified arborist to diagnose the problem and recommend a treatment procedure.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ligustrum Leaves Turning


I have a ligustrum that the leaves are starting to turn upside down. It is getting plenty of water and 6+ hours of sun. It is not turning brown or wilting. Just the leaves are starting to turn upside down. It is the strangest thing. I live in Richmond VA. Any advice?

-- Di and the Boys

Anne's response:

It is not unusual for ligustrum to have such problems with leaves after high winds or ice storms. Sometimes the leaves will recover but often the change does not occur until the old leaves fall and the new ones come in. I can’t find any disease or insect problems in my references that produce that symptom. The level of light would not be a problem. Ligustrm does not like wet feet but the symptoms are usually loss of leaves; with drought the leaves wil curl backward but the shiny face remains facing up to the sun.

Holly Losing Leaves

I have a “Mary Nell” holly. It is also losing leaves, primarily on the back side (shadier side). I thought it might be some type of insect, like a spider mite but now I’m not sure. The one side is almost bald. Even the new growth will curl and eventually drop. I am really upset b/c we spent a lot of money on this tree. Could you please advise me on what to do or who I could call to take a look. We are in Apex.

-- Anonymous

Anne's response:

The symptoms you describe on the holly are similar to the damage that comes from chemicals. Could the back of the plant be facing a house that was power washed with strong chemicals or spray painted? Could it have been exposed to a herbicide spray. There are several sprays that cause problems when temperatures get above 70 degrees. With serious problems on major trees and shrubs in my landscape I rely on the services of a reputable tree service such as Bartlett Tree for a diagnosis and treatment.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Protecting Bradford Pear Trees

Dear Anne,

We really like the look of Bradford pear trees, but the trees are not very strong and the severe thunderstorms seen in the Carolinas have already killed three of our pear trees over the years. Is there anything we can do to help protect the trees. Also, is there a tree that would be a good substitute for the Bradford pear that looks similar but is a little stronger?


Steve and Sherry

Anne's Response:

The Capitol Pear has shape and plant habits similar to the Bradford but has a slightly wider limb angle at the trunk so there is not quite the problem with splitting and breaking. Many landscapers are recommending it instead of the Bradford. Kousa dogwoods might be another substitute with a similar bloom time - and the added interest of the large red seedpods in the fall.