| Beverly Shaw
Question and Answer
Q. The home we moved into a few years
ago backs up to a creek running through our subdivision. On both sides
of the creek is a thicket of ferns, bushes, briars, poison ivy, spindly
trees and wild woody vines. The vines grow into the tops of a number of
the trees, including cedars. We've cleared out a portion of the thicket
closest to our home, put up a picket fence and now have a nice backyard
with grass. We've also slowly worked on thinning out the poison ivy and
briars beyond the fence, but don't want the area to become too open. With
the cedars, we enjoy privacy from the homes on the other side of the creek
year round, especially, of course, in summer when all the trees are full
and the ground is covered by brush. I was told, though, the vines that
grow up the tree trunks and into the tree tops can strangle the trees.
So, is it a good idea to remove them, cutting them off where they grow
from the ground? Should they then be pulled out of the trees, if possible,
or left to eventually fall on their own? Should the dead trees standing
along the creek be removed? What about the fallen dead wood? How much
should we leave or take away before things like the ferns start disappearing?
-- George Castor, Avon, Ind.
A. A purist could argue that you
should leave the woods entirely untouched and let nature run its course.
If you aren't living on a nature preserve, however, most gardeners would
work to make the area more livable. You are correct in your belief that
ferns and many other plants require the soil and nutrients provided by
decaying organic matter, so your goal is to improve the area slightly,
without making it sterile.
The vines in the trees could girdle the tree if they
went around the trunk and didn't expand as the tree trunk expands. This
is not usually the case, as the vines grow in a more vertical rather than
circular pattern. They do compete for sunlight with the foliage in the
tree tops and can add considerable weight to some of the branches. Poison
ivy has incredible fall color and provides food to wildlife, but I still
choose to remove it from my trees for the safety of my family. I cut the
vine at ground level and carefully try to remove it from the branches
above. If it doesn't come down readily, I leave it in place for a year.
No matter how much time passes, the vines still contain the oil that causes
the skin reaction so be careful, even if no leaves remain!
In my woods, I remove standing dead wood
if it poses a danger to my house, fence or family, and I remove fallen
dead wood only if it's in my major paths. Finally, I selectively remove
the honeysuckle, multiflora roses and garlic mustard. They are invasive
species that will choke out native plants.
Your questions should be carefully considered.
Some resources relative to management of woodlands include: FNR-137-W
"Forest Ecosystem Management in Indiana, http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/FNR/FNR-137-W.pdf;
Indiana Coverts Project, http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/fnr/wildlife//Coverts/index.html;
and the Indiana Woodland Steward, http://www.inwoodlands.org/.
Q. I have a question concerning our
Stanley Plum and peach tree. Last year, for the first time, they bore
a lot of fruit. We could hardly wait for the first to ripen when all of
a sudden we noticed that the peaches and plums were covered with something
that looked like they had been dipped in mud. They became very soft and
just rotted and fell off. Please tell us what that was and how we can
treat it if it is going to happen again. -- Theresia D. Gilstrap, Orleans,
A. Brown rot disease will cause some loss every year,
and, in years when humid, rainy weather occurs, the disease may destroy
the entire fruit crop. Brown rot can be just as damaging to cherries,
nectarines and other stone fruits.
You will see a small circular brown spot that develops very rapidly,
if the fruit is mature. The rotted area eventually becomes covered with
gray-colored tufts, which break through the skin of the fruit. The fruit
usually retains its form and remains attached to the tree for some time
after it is completely rotted; then, it either falls or, if retained on
the tree, gradually dries into a firm "mummy."
The causal fungus overwinters in infected twigs, in mummified fruit on
the tree or on the ground. These overwintering sources supply spores for
infection in the spring. The blossom clusters and twigs, which become
infected in spring, will then provide a secondary source of spores for
fruit infection later in the growing season. Therefore, it is important
to control these early infections. The disease is most damaging in years
when wet weather prevails during bloom and from three weeks prior to harvest
Brown rot cannot be effectively prevented by one or two sprays or dusts
applied in the spring. A combination of both cultural and chemical control
measures is required for control.
Orchard sanitation is of major importance in controlling brown rot. Trees
should be pruned to eliminate weak and dead wood, including small twigs,
that may have been killed by brown rot the year before and to open them
so good spray penetration can be obtained.
Mummied fruit left on the tree after harvest and those on the ground
should be removed in early spring and either burned or deeply buried.
Rotten fruit that appear in the trees early in the summer should be removed
immediately, since they are a source of infection for fruit at harvest
A fungicide spray program, beginning at bloom and continuing throughout
the season, is required for those stone fruits highly susceptible to brown
rot. Fungicides commonly available to backyard growers for control of
brown rot include myclobutanil (sold as Immunox) and captan. Read the
label carefully for pre-harvest use restrictions.
For more information, contact the Purdue
Extension office in your county or go online for copies of ID-146, "Managing
Pests in Home Fruit Plantings," http://www.entm.purdue.edu/Entomology/ext/targets/ID/ID146pdf/ID-146.pdf
and BP-445-W "Brown Rot of Stone Fruits," http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/BP/BP-45.html.
Q. When is the best time of year
to trim apple trees? Thanks. -- Richard
A. Late March is an ideal time for
fruit tree pruning, allowing time to assess the toll of winter, yet early
enough to allow for fast healing of wounds, without pressure from insect
pests or disease.
For the first few seasons, your pruning goals will include removing dead,
damaged, weak or diseased branches. You want new growth to head toward
the outside of the tree, not inward toward the trunk or other branches.
Thin out overcrowded areas where branches cross or grow the wrong direction
by removing the offending branches back to the trunk or to an outward-facing
bud or side branch.
Older, neglected fruit trees may take more drastic measures to make them
more productive. Pruning will help open up the tree to better light penetration
and usually results in better fruit set, as well as better quality and
flavor. It may also help bring the tree back to a more manageable height.
As with the young tree, late winter is the ideal time to take action.
First, strive to remove dead, broken or diseased branches. Then, if needed,
lower the height of the tree by cutting back larger "scaffold"
branches, making the cut just beyond an outward-facing branch. Try not
to remove any more than 25 percent of the tree's live wood in any one
season. If more size reduction is desired, spread the pruning out over
several seasons. Thin out the remaining wood by removing the weakest branches
that are growing too close, crossing another branch or growing toward
the center trunk. Make your cut just above or beyond a branch or bud that
is pointing in the direction you want the new growth to go, away from
the center of the tree.
For more information, look online for a recent article,
"Pruning the Home Orchard," http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/prunehomeorchard.html.