Q. My neighbor has a silver maple near the property line, and its roots are surfacing in my lawn. Do I have the right to cut them off?
A. According to HortScience, if the entire trunk of the tree is on one side of the property line, the entire tree belongs to the owner of that property and the adjoining property owner may not cut any branches, roots or harvest fruit or nuts without the owner's permission. However, the neighbor may cut off the branches or roots on his side of the property line if the owner refuses to do so after a request. If the tree is right on the property line it belongs to both, and neither can destroy the tree without the consent of the other.
Q. Birds are ruining my peaches.Is there any way to protect them?
A. When all else failed, a farmer frightened the birds away from his fruit trees by hanging a transistor radio in the branches and tuning it to a station that plays rock'n'roll music 24 hours a day, according to Organic Gardening and Farming magazine. "I kept the radio on for three days and the birds went away and they never returned," the farmer said.
Q. Something is wrong with one of my apple trees: The leaves on two branches turned dark brown, and the bark is dark brown also for nearly two feet. Do you know what's wrong?
A. It's probably fire blight, a disease to which apple and pear trees are susceptible; Jonathan, Transparent, Wealthy and Rome are some of the very susceptible apple varieties. Flowering crab and pyracantha (some varieties are resistant) also are susceptible, as are quince, mountain ash, rose and cotoneaster. During late summer all infected twigs and branches should be cut off and burned. The cut should be made through healthy wood six to eight inches below the point of visible infection. Pruning tools should be sterilized frequently in alcohol to prevent carrying the bacteria to new areas.
Q. We have a steep slope in front of our house, and it's almost impossible to keep grass growing on it. Is there an alternative?
A. Low-growing junipers are very good for such a problem. Shore juniper grows to a height of one foot and spreads to four or five feet. The plant has a fine texture, with gray-green needles about half an inch long. It grows rapidly in full sun and will tolerate partial shade. Bar Harbor is another juniper well adapted as a ground cover. It reaches a mature height of one to two feet, has blue-green foliage and grows well in full sun and low moisture conditions. The plants should be spaced three to four feet apart.
Q. When is the best time to harvest pumpkins?
A. Most pumpkins are ready to harvest when they lose their shiny, waxy appearance. However, it is best to leave them in the garden until the vines die completely and the fruit skins become very firm to the fingernail. Be careful not to scratch pumpkins during harvest. Store them in a cool, dry place and they will last a long time.
Q. Two plants in my iris bed have seed pods on them. I would like to plant these seeds, but don't know how or when. Can you help me with this?
A. Unless it is a planned project with selected parents, bearded iris from seed usually have little value. Plant the seed soon after maturity in a covered frame or bed, just deep enough so the surrounding soil will not dry out during the period of germination.It may take only a few weeks until the first small fan-like seedlings appear, but germination often is delayed two or three months or longer, depending on temperature, moisture conditions and the age of the seed when planted.
Q. My young red maple tree has too many branches and I want to remove some of them. When is the best time?
A. The best time to do the pruning is when the tree is dormant, between late fall and early spring.
Q. Can several varieties of grapes be grafted onto one vine?
A. It may be possible and it could be an interesting project. Try it and good luck.
Q. I would like to put a layer of wood chips in my vegetable garden. Would this type of mulch introduce too much acid into the soil?
A. The only objection is the individual chips may be too large. They do not make the soil more acid and they do not help conserve moisture. They may not provide good weed control unless a layer six inches or more is used to prevent light penetration. Wood chips are first-rate for mulching trees and shrubs.
Q. How far from the house should shrubs be planted?
A. A general rule for most shrubs is to space them at least four feet from the wall. Small-growing ones may be placed as close as two or three feet. If large ones are planted closer, they can be sheared regularly.
Q. Are there lawn grasses that grow all right on acid soils?
A. Fescues such as Jamestown, Highlight, Pennlawn and Ruby grow better on acid soils than on alkaline ones.
Send questions to Tom Stevenson care of Weekend The Washington Post 1150 15th Street NW Washington, D.C. 20071.