Question and Answer
Q. I am a resident of Orange County, just outside of Paoli. I recently
noticed that my red horse chestnut tree, which had previously lost all
of its leaves due to drought, has sprouted several red flowers. Some leaves
are coming out and MANY buds are swelling. Many buds are not swelling,
and I hope they stay that way.
The drought tricked the tree into early dormancy, and now the recent
rains have awakened the tree into thinking it is springtime. The problem
is that frost and winter are just around the corner. Will my prized red
horse chestnut tree be killed by winter's cold? Should or can anything
be done to re-establish dormancy?
Many other gardeners and landscapers may be facing similar problems due
to the drought. -- Curtis Thill, Paoli, Ind.
A. Your tree has been tricked! It's fairly common for some plants to
jump the gun and bloom. in the fall if the weather is unusual. Last year,
many forsythia and magnolias bloomed in the fall. Unfortunately, the buds
that bloom prematurely will not be available to bloom next spring. Fortunately,
usually only some percentage of the buds burst early, so some flowering
may still take place next year. And this doesn't usually damage the plant
long-term. It only reduces next spring's flowering. There's little you
can do to change the situation.
Q. My neighbor gave me a yucca plant the year before last. It lived but
didn't bloom. And guess what? This year, it bloomed and I love it! The
yucca plant is now full of seed pods, and I am wondering if it is possible
to plant them and get LOTS of yuccas. If so, how do we do this? Indoors?
-- June DeSpain
A. Remove the dry seeds from the pod, and store them dry at room temperature
until you're ready to plant them. Germination can be aided by soaking
the seeds in water for 24 hours. Plant the seeds outdoors in spring in
a sunny area with good drainage. If you'd like to start them indoors,
choose a flat with drainage holes, fill it with potting mix and plant
the seeds. Germination takes place slowly, and it will take 4-5 years
before the new plants are old enough to bloom. Yuccas require full sun
and sharply drained soil.
Q. We would like to transplant some rhubarb and were wondering when is
the best time, what is the best soil type to move it to and what is the
proper way to do it? -- Jody Huhn and Kerry Belstra, DeMotte, Ind.
A. You can propagate your own plants by dividing the crown of a healthy
plant, preferably in early spring before new growth begins. Leave as many
roots as possible with each division. Rhubarb divided in late fall should
be protected with a winter mulch of straw or similar material after several
hard frosts. Place the crowns 3 feet apart in rows that are spaced 5-6
feet. Use shallow furrows so that crowns will be only 2 inches below the
surface. Space the crowns so that each plant will have 12-15 square feet.
Do not set the crowns in direct contact with commercial fertilizer.
A fertile, well-drained, sandy loam is best for rhubarb. A well-drained
soil will diminish the chances of crown rot. Liberal applications of fertilizer
should be included. Broadcast fertilizer over the entire bed surface.
A 1:1:1 ratio, such as 12-12-12, should be used at the rate of about 3-4
pounds per 100 square feet.
Plants should be divided and reset every 8-10 years. Use a sharp spade
to divide the crown, leaving three or four buds undisturbed in the old
location. Old plants that become thick only produce inferior, slender
Q. I have 15-20 Washington Hawthorn trees that are diseased and need
help. They are about 20-22 years old. They look healthy with heavy foliage
and bloom. The fruit develops well with many berries. While the fruit
is still green, each berry develops many spines, turns brown and falls
off the tree. No berries for the birds. Any help will be appreciated.
-- Preston R. Acres, Elizabethtown, Ind.
A. Your trees are infected with cedar-quince rust, a common fungal disease.
Cedar-quince rust affects quince (Chaenomeles), serviceberry (Amelanchier),
hawthorn (Crataegus), mountain ash (Sorbus) and many other plants in the
rose family and can cause a great amount of damage to the fruits, twigs
and thorns of susceptible plants.
The fungus requires two different tree species to complete its lifecycle.
On the first host, juniper or red cedar, the fungus infects leaves and
soft shoots, becomes perennial in the living bark and causes swellings
that girdle twigs and small branches. In damp weather, galls are covered
with masses of gelatinous, orange-to-brown spore horns. As they age, they
look like orange slime deposits.
The next phase of the lifecycle takes place on the alternate hosts (hawthorn,
quince, apple and crabapple). The most common symptom is on hawthorn.
Fruits become uniformly covered with small pinkish-white structures, then
dry out. Twigs become enlarged and woody.
The rust fungi are dependent upon both hosts for survival. Removal of
one or the other breaks the lifecycle of the fungus, thus preventing disease.
Unfortunately, the spores can travel a distance of at least one-quarter
mile between eastern red cedar and junipers and alternate hosts. Some
sources say they can travel a handful of miles! This makes removal impractical.
Whenever possible, at least avoid planting the two different host types
right next to each other. Remove any orange gelatinous areas from your
cedar or juniper twigs during the growing season, and prune out any galls
or cankers they may have in late winter. However, even if you are successful
in removing all galls, infectious spores can be blown in from other trees.
The best method of avoiding cedar rust diseases is to use resistant plants
when installing new trees. However, your Washington hawthorns are susceptible
to cedar rusts.
Fungicides are preventive and must be applied several times during early
spring to maintain a protective coating on developing leaves, twigs and
fruit. When spring weather is dry, fungicide applications may not be required.
Read and follow label instructions regarding amounts of fungicide, method
of application and safety precautions.
Registered fungicides for rust control are subject to change. Your case
sounds like it will require some measure of chemical control. For current
control recommendations, consult the Purdue Extension office in your county
or Purdue University's Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory, 1155 LSPS,
Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN 47907, or call (765) 494-7071.
Pictures of this highly photogenic condition can be found at http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/3000/3055.html.