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Garden Gossip

February, 2020

Spraying Fruit Plants

As of this date all your fruit plants should have had at least one dormant oil spray.

Knowing what to spray and when to spray can be very confusing. We have put together spray kits for Apples and Pears and one for Stone Fruit which includes everything you need to keep your trees healthy. If you are using the organic approach we have one for you too.

If you are having a problem with white fly or other insects you can spray Malathion oil at anytime. Imidacloprid is especially effective on white fly. The plant can be drenched with it and it is absorbed into the root system. It is fine for citrus at this time of year. If there is fruit on the trees you have to wait 30 days before eating the fruit.

Copper sprays can be important for early disease control and are generally applied in February and March near early bud break through petal fall. It is applied every two weeks at the rate of 2 tablespoons per gallon of water at bud break, 1 tablespoon per gallon of water two weeks later and then 1/2 tablespoon to 1 gallon of water through petal fall. Trees should not be sprayed after there is dime size fruit on the tree.

When dormant oil or copper sprays are being applied, always separate the different sprays by 2 to 3 weeks. During winter there are certain precautions gardeners should follow to minimize potential problems with fruit plants.  For example, don’t apply pesticides (especially oil sprays), do any pruning (especially severe) or do any planting within 48 hours of a hard freeze (temperatures below 32 degrees F).  Not following these rules can result in loss of fruit buds, branch damage or complete plant loss.

Fire blight can be a problem on apples and pears. The best time to spray your trees for this disease is during bloom. Spray every 10 days with Streptomycin, sold as Fire Blight spray, to control this very damaging bacterial disease.

For the organic gardener who wants to control Fire Blight without the use of antibiotics, Serenade is suggested. It contains Bacillis subtillis a soil dwelling bacterium that controls leaf blight, black mold, powdery mildew and many other diseases.

To control cork spot and bitter pit in apples and pears, Dr. Powell adds 2 to 3 tablespoons of calcium nitrate to all of the sprays that he puts on these fruits trees

Fertilizing

Mid-February we can begin to fertilize blueberries and pecans. For the pecans and nut trees use a fertilizer with zinc and also one that has all the micro-nutrients for a good crop of nuts. Many garden centers and farm supply stores carry this fertilizer in 40 or 50 pound bags. For adult trees, the application of the 10-10-10 fertilizer should be 4 lbs. for each inch of pecan trunk diameter.

The fertilizer should be broadcast applied, beginning 3 feet from the trunk and extending just past the canopy. At Petals we use Fertilome Citrus, Pecan and Fruit Tree fertilizer.

Blueberries should be fertilized about the middle of February also. We use Growers Special which is a 12-6-6 fertilizer that was formulated for blueberries. Always use ammonium forms of nitrogen such as urea, ammoniun sulfate or ammonium phosphate and avoid fertilizers that contain more than 10% of nitrogen in nitrate form. Three applications are ideal during the first two years. Use 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons per plant and double these amounts the second year. Beginning the third year apply 5 or 6 oz. per plant. Fertilization should increase annually by 2 ounces per plant (1/4 cup) until an annual rate of 14 to 16 ounces per plant is reached. Ph of the soil should be maintained at 4.5 to 5.5.

Wait to fertilize your blackberries until March. Muscadines can be fertilized with 13-13-13 usually about 1/2 to 1 cup per vine in late February and again in April for new plantings. Older gardens can use 3 to 4 pounds per vine of 19-5-10 in late February.

Pruning

Roses should also be pruned in February. Repeat flowering roses may be pruned by 1/3 into a vase shape. Roses that only flower in the spring should not be pruned now but after they finish flowering. Spring flowering climbing roses should only have the stray canes cut back. Save the major pruning until they finish flowering. When you are finished, fertilize all roses with rose food. I use the rose food with the systemic insecticide in it to kill any aphids that will attack the tender new foliage.

Prune crepe myrtles, Lilac Chaste trees and pomegranates as well as other summer flowering shrubs such as summer flowering spireas, Annabelle, Peegee and Limelight hydrangeas and abelias.

All ornamental grasses should be cut back now. That includes Pampas Grass, Miscanthus, Pink Mulhy Grass and Zebra Grass. They should be cut back all the way to the ground. This cleans up the area and gets rid of the old grass and blooms. Pampas Grass is very hard to cut back because the blades of grass are very sharp. Often this grass is just burned down to the ground. While not totally necessary, you can give your grasses a little fertilizer now to promote some new growth.

Muscadines should also be pruned this month. Begin pruning about mid February. Cut back all growth of the previous summer to spurs with 3-4 buds. It is a good idea to remove old fruit stems since they are a source of disease. Remove the tendrils that wrap about the arms or spurs since they girdle the plant and reduce production.

Pruning peach, plum and nectarine trees has always confused me. Dr. Powell now has a new video out to explain the correct way to prune your stone fruit. He has many other educational videos too. Go to the https://petalsfromthepast.com/educational-videos/ page on our website and you will find videos on pruning and caring for blueberries, blackberries, pomme fruits such as apples and pears and many others.

Persimmon 'Izu'-0

Pollination

It is a good time to review some of the pollination requirements for small fruits as well as tree fruits. We will soon be planting these and it will be good to know what varieties we need for productive plants. All the blackberry varieties that we carry are self-fruitful. That means you only need one plant to produce a crop of berries. All varieties of blueberries that we carry require cross pollination. You will have to have another variety to produce fruit. It is wise to plant three different varieties just in case you were to lose one plant you will still have a fruit crop. All the bunch grape varieties we carry are self-fruitful. Muscadines need for cross pollination varies among varieties. Some are female plants while others are perfect flowered which are capable of pollinating themselves and female plants.

The following are perfect flowered muscadine varieties that pollinate themselves and female plants: Creek, Dixie Red, Granny Val, Ison, Lane, Nesbitt, Noble and Tara.

The following varieties are all female plants that require cross pollination by any of the varieties listed above: Black Beauty, Black Fry, Darlene, Fry, Pam and Supreme. Kiwi varieties all require a pollinator.

All the raspberries we carry are self-fruitful. All strawberry plants we carry are self-fruitful.

All apple and pear trees require a different variety for cross pollination. All persimmon, pomegranate and fig trees are self-fruitful.

I hope this was a helpful guide to planning your fruit garden. If you are in doubt just consult with one of our sales staff they are up to date on this subject.

Seeding Tomatoes

Start planting your tomato seed this month. Our selection of tomato seed is excellent. We have many heirloom selections as well as the newer varieties.

Sow the seeds in flats indoors or in a greenhouse in a sterile soil mix, such as Pro-mix or Fafard. Make furrows with a pencil about 1/8″ deep in the damp soil mix and drop seeds in. Cover with the soil, making sure that the seeds make direct contact with the soil. Place the container in a warm place about 75 to 80 degrees. Germination should take place in 5 to 10 days. As soon as the seeds emerge it is important to provide very strong light such as a very sunny window or florescent bulb. Once the true leaves have emerged it is time to transplant the tomatoes to a larger container. When the weather has warmed up and the night temperatures are above 55 degrees it is time to set out your plants

Harden off your seedlings by moving them out in the sun for a couple of hours at first and gradually increasing the time over a week so they are in full sun.

If starting your plants from seed isn’t your thing, we are offering several varieties of tomato plants this year. Our plants will be ready for sale about the middle of March.

Weeds

If you have a weed problem now would be a good time to spray with a pre-emergent herbicide. This type of herbicide prevents the weed seeds from germinating thus reducing your weed population. However it has to be sprayed before the seeds germinate. If there are little weeds present already, you will have to use something to kill the weeds then spray the pre-emergent.