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story.lead_photo.caption Fruit trees must be pruned every year. The earliest years' cuts are the most important, because they set the structure of the mature tree. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)

Q I planted five fruit trees last year. How big or old should a fruit tree be before I start pruning it?

A Fruit trees need to be pruned every year, most importantly while they are young. Now is when you establish the basic framework of the trees. There are several ways you can prune a fruit tree, based on spacing of the trees and the type of the trees you are growing. Traditionally, apples and pears are pruned almost like a Christmas tree, with a taller central leader and shorter lateral branches, while peaches and plums are more like an upside-down umbrella, with the center staying more open. There are other options. Here is a link to a pruning fact sheet from the University of Arkansas: arkansasonline.com/307fsa.

Dichondra has invaded a reader's centipede-grass lawn. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)
Dichondra has invaded a reader's centipede-grass lawn. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

Q Can you please help us with identifying this horrific weed? It has spread greatly, and we need to know how to kill it if possible. Our yard is healthy centipede, and we don't want to harm it.

A The weed in question is dichondra. You can use a three-way herbicide with 2,4-D, dicamba and MCPP, but read the label to make sure it can be used on centipede grass. Centipede and St. Augustine are more sensitive to chemicals than other lawn grasses are. Weed-B-Gone for Southern Lawns is one product, but there are others. Again, read the labels. I would also recommend spot-treating where your weeds are and not broad-spread spraying the entire yard. It will usually take two applications to control the problem.

Red-veined sorrel can be grown from transplants, like these, or sown as seed. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)
Red-veined sorrel can be grown from transplants, like these, or sown as seed. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/Janet B. Carson)

Q I have never planted early spring vegetables before. This year, I ordered some French sorrel seeds, after sampling the leafy green at TriCycle Farms last year. The guy in charge there told me I should order the seeds and plant early (I think he said end of winter). I believe he said it might not produce the first year. When I ordered the seeds, I saw that other folks had planted the French sorrel in fall, so now I'm wondering if I'm too late. The question is, should I go ahead and plant the seeds now? Temps have been so up and way down, it feels crazy to plant anything. Any ideas what to expect this particular plant the first time around?

A Sorrel is actually a perennial leafy vegetable or herb. It is in the buckwheat family and has a lemony taste. I grow the red-veined one, and it comes and goes in my garden depending on the weather. The hard November freeze killed it back, but it is now growing strong again. I like the variegated foliage, but the green foliage one will be more vigorous. I think sorrel will do best given full morning sun and some protection from the hot afternoon sun. I have it planted in dappled sunlight all day and also in a spot with full morning sun. In all-day sun, it usually won't be too happy in the hottest months. The tender new foliage is what you eat. I am an impatient gardener so I buy plants, but you can start from seed this month. I actually mix the plants in with my flowers to have an edible ornamental bed. I have not had it last more than three years, but I add a few new plants every year so their life cycles overlap. You can plant it in the fall or the spring.

DEAR READERS: Here's an email from a reader responding to the squirrel problems we discussed in a recent article.

"I moved to Mountain Home, Ark., eight years ago. I own a classic truck, and the squirrels were destroying the electric wiring and rubber hoses. Having grown up on a farm in Saline County I remembered the onslaught of ground squirrel warfare. I bought three Havahart squirrel traps, and I captured at least 20 squirrels at those apartments. I transported them to the White River for release and didn't lose one of them.

"Now, I own my own home and have two flower gardens, one with daffodils and the other tulips. Two years ago, I planted 59 tulip bulbs and only 14 of them bloomed, the squirrels got the rest. So, the battle lines were drawn, and war broke out between myself and these flying mice. I take no prisoners — well, I do but not for long. Out went the Havahart Traps. To date almost three years and counting I have captured and relocated to the White River 49 squirrels.

"Handle the traps with gloves that have no human scent. I bait my traps with sunflower seeds and occasionally peanuts. The trigger mechanism is another delicate procedure. It must be set at the most sensitive level, and I sprinkle a few sunflower seeds on the outside and along the pathway inside the trap to the trip plate. Peanut butter is a waste of time."

Retired after 38 years with the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Janet Carson ranks among Arkansas' best known horticulture experts. Her blog is at arkansasonline.com/planitjanet. Write to her at P.O. Box 2221, Little Rock, AR 72203 or email

jcarson@arkansasonline.com

HomeStyle on 03/07/2020

Print Headline: IN THE GARDEN

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