Question and Answer
Q. We planted new blackberry and raspberry plants this spring. We would like to know what has to be done to prepare them before cold weather moves in.
A. There should not be much to do for these plants, assuming you planted hardy cultivars. You do want the plants to be well watered before going into winter, but that doesn't seem to be a problem for most areas of Indiana this fall. Both blackberry and raspberry have biennial canes, meaning that they live for two growing seasons. They produce foliage the first year, flowers and fruit the second year, and then those canes die. So, any canes that bore fruit this year should be removed all the way to the ground. The one-year-old canes should be allowed to remain overwinter so they can produce their crop next year. For more information about care of raspberries, see Purdue bulletin HO-44, "Growing Raspberries" online at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-44.pdf. Blackberries are very similar in culture to raspberries.
Q. I enjoyed your article on peaches (September Electric Consumer). We had three trees of them and all rotted. Please tell me the name of a spray and the time to spray them.
A. You were in good company this year as many gardeners experienced a particularly bad season of disease problems on their fruits (and other plants), thanks to weather that favored many fungal pathogens. For brown rot of peaches, you have to begin spraying before bloom when the buds are just beginning to show pink, during bloom, at petal-fall, shuck-split and about every 10-14 days thereafter. For most of these applications, you can use Captan, Immunox or a multipurpose fruit spray (MPFS) labeled for home orchard use. While flowers are open, do not use MPFS as they contain an insecticide, which is harmful to bees that are working the blossoms. For more information on controlling this and other disease and insect pests in the home orchard, see Purdue Extension Publication ID-146, available online at http://www.entm.purdue.edu/Entomology/ext/targets/ID/ID146pdf/ID-146.pdf, which includes a chart that illustrates the various stages, such as petal-fall and shuck split. As always, read and follow all label directions before using a pesticide.
Q. I have a yellow peach tree that had a bumper crop. The tree was loaded the past three years. Just before the peaches are ripe, the deer and raccoons eat every peach on the tree in two or three nights. What can I do to keep the deer from eating all the peaches?
A. You and me both! My peach tree was also loaded this year. It, too, was picked completely clean while I was away for just the weekend, not even one rotten fruit left behind! Well, the good news is that they saved me from having to clean up all those fruits that had been infected with brown rot, because I choose to not spray my tree. And you already know the bad news!
There are scads of testimonials for all sorts of repellents, but none that I know of are effective and safe to use at harvest time. Some gardeners have had good luck with scare tactics, such as motion-sensitive lights and/or sprinkler systems. Fencing is probably the most reliable method of excluding animal pests, though raccoons are known to climb just about anything. A 6-foot fence that angles away from your orchard will deter most deer but not likely the raccoons.
If you really want to get serious about preventing animals from ravaging your harvest, consider electric fencing. Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources publication FNR-136 Electric Fencing for Preventing Browse Damage by White-tailed Deer" is available online at http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/FNR/FNR-136.html.
For more information on identifying and controlling wildlife conflicts, check out the USDA Wildlife Information Hotline at http://www.entm.purdue.edu/wildlife/wild.htm.
Q. Last year my hostas were beautiful. This year, they bloomed, then the light-leaved ones started turning brown. Now, they are almost gone. Whatever it is has not so far bothered the dark-leaved ones. I'm sending you some pictures. I sure hope you can help me.
A. If I had a crystal ball, I would say that all signs point to one of several plant diseases that are favored by the relatively wet weather we experienced throughout much of Indiana this summer. There are leaf spots, petiole rots, root rots and more. The fact that all of and only the light-leaved ones were affected does make me wonder if this might not be an environmental problem. The photos you sent looked to be quite sunny. Some of the pale-leaved cultivars can be easily burned in strong light.
If the problems continue, consider submitting a sample plant to the Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory on the West Lafayette campus. You'll find more information about this service online at http://www.ppdl.purdue.edu. In the meantime, here are links to some excellent articles on diseases of hosta.
Q. We have acquired property with an apple tree. The apples have a little cast of red, but not completely red. What are the steps in caring for this tree from this fall 'till next fall?
A. Sounds like this might be one of the late-maturing cultivars, such as Winesap, Fuji or Northern Spy. Some cultivars do not turn completely red; some have a yellow to greenish-yellow undercolor with a red blush on top. You might want to sample a fruit each week to see if it's close to ready.
Not much more to do this fall other than enjoy the harvest and clean up fallen fruit and leaves to remove overwintering sites for disease and insect pests. Most major pruning, if needed, should be done in late winter to early spring. Light pruning can be done after flowers fade so that you can see the effects of winter injury, if any. You'll find several pruning articles online at the Purdue Consumer Horticulture Web site at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/. Pest prevention strategies are discussed in Purdue Extension Publication ID-146, available online at http://www.entm.purdue.edu/Entomology/ext/targets/ID/ID146pdf/ID-146.pdf.