Q. When should a pear tree be pruned? How much? The tree is 10 years old and a good bearer of fruit.
A. The usual time to prune pear trees is early spring before they break dormancy. Only very light pruning should be done. Even moderate pruning may result in succulent new growth that is very susceptible to fire blight, a serious disease of pear trees. Mainly, prune to remove dead wood and the least desirable of small branches that rub against each other.
Q. I bought a living Christmas tree, it was balled and burlapped; I've planted it without taking the burlap off. Should I have done so?
A. Studies at Ohio State University have shown that untreated burlap will deteriorate in 6 months, treated burlap in 18 months, and plastic burlap lasted 30 months. There was ample root penetration from all types of burlap remaining intact and what effect it may have in time on the large roots of trees has yet to be determined.
Q. My neighbor has many earthworms in his vegetable garden soil; I have few if any. Are they good or bad for the garden?
A.Earthworms are important agents in mixing surface organic residues with the underlying soil. In feeding they ingest soil along with organic wastes and the organic matter is humidified. The beneficial effects of earthworms on plant growth are largely those associated with improved aeration and tilth. They are generally considered an indication of good soil fertility rather than its cause, according to specialists.
Q. I have a nice big compost pile and have added fertilizer. Should I also add lime?
A. Research has shown that lime is not needed. Initially the compost pile is slightly acidic. During the early stage of decomposition it becomes more acidic, but as decay progresses acidity decreases and at the end the compost pile is slightly alkaline.
Q. We had a lot of weeds in our vegetable garden last summer, some I had never seen there before. Where could the seed have come from?
A. An acre of land may contain as much as 1 1/2 tons of weed seeds. Even after 70 years, mullein, curly dock and primrose seeds have germinated. Wild mustard, pigweed, ragweed, peppergrass and plantain have germinated after being buried for 40 years in about 18 inches of soil. You may have done some digging in early spring and brought the weed seeds to the surface where they could germinate.
Q. Our lilies-of-the-valley haven't bloomed very much the last two springs. What could they need?
A. They should be dug and separated every three or four years. When they become crowded they don't provide many flowers. Early to mid-fall is the time to dig and divide them. Some specialists recommend buying new pips and discarding the old ones. The old ones may not be in very good condition if they have been crowded and probably won't bloom the first year after being replanted.
Q. I'm going to plant some apple trees in the spring. Which ones are best for eating fresh and which for making applesauce?
A. Some of the best for eating fresh and for salads are McIntosh, Red Delicious, Rome Beauty, Jonathan and Stayman. For applesauce, Golden Delicious, Melrose, Yellow Transparent, McIntosh, Cortland, Jonathan, Grimes Golden, Stayman Winesap and Rome Beauty are considered very good