Q: My ten-year-old crimson king maple started losing bark four years ago following removal of a huge oak tree in my neighbor's yard, which shaded the side that's affected. I love this tree; is there anything I can do to help it?

A: Sunscald can occur with exposure to sunlight after a period of heavy shade. Tender bark is cracked, permitting entry of disease organism and insects. The best thing you can do for the tree is to try to help it regain its vigor. Fertilize it during April or May, applying 5-10-5 fertilizer with a spreader under the spread of the branches, 100 pounds per 1,000 square feet, and watering it in immediately. Fertilize again in late November or early December. During prolonged dry weather, water the tree every two weeks moistening the soil to a depth of six to eight inches.

Q: Why does a dogwood growing beautifully from a seedling produce only half a dozen blooms? Another seedling from the same parent, though less full and healthy-looking, is blooming well.

A: Two children from the same parents can be very different, and so can dogwoods. almost all dogwoods bloom well after they are old enough and when conditions are favorable. Don't fertilize the tree and water it regularly during prolonged dry weather, and most likely it will have many more flower buds this fall.

Q: How can you tell a male aucuba plant from a female?

A: Look for berries, which are found on female plants. Different varieties have a specific sex: Aucuba Japonica crassifolia is a male plant, Aucuba Japonica varigata has both male and female clones. Plant male and female varieties in partial shade close together for best berry production.

Q: Wil I get earlier tomatoes if I purchase plants that have small tomatoes on them?

A: Developing fruits place a severe nutrient drain on the plant, and early growth is likely to slow if the plant has to overcome transplant shock at the same time. Tomato plants do best if planted before blossoms form.

Q: For 13 years I grew cucumbers on my wire fence, and had plenty of cukes for the whole neighborhood. Then last year most of the plants wilted and died. Is there a cure for this condition?

A: Probably it was due to bacterial wilt, a disease transmitted to the plants by striped cucumber beetles. Once infected, the vine dies. Pumpkins, squash and muskmelons also are susceptible to the disease. For beetle control, spray or dust the vines weekly with sevin, starting when plants are quite young.

Q: It is true that newspapers can be used to mulch tomatoes and beans in the garden?

A: A mulch of newspapers is very good. It's important to use several thickneses, something like a section of eight or ten pages. These usually withstand rainfall over much of the season. Fewer sheets may deteriorate after two or three rainfalls. The newspapers can be held with sawdust, wood chips, pine bark or soil.