My huge crepe myrtle tree used to bear beautiful, deep fuchsia flowers, but twelve years ago, the tree broke in half. Since then, it has never flowered again; instead, the leaves of the whole tree turn a bright red. What must I do to get it to flower again? What do you think happened to this tree? Crape Myrtles do not stop blooming just because the structure of the tree has been damaged. They bloom only on the terminal ends of the new growth formed in the spring. This is why the trees are so colorful because all the color is at the end of the vegetation and in many cases covering the foliage. You’ll never find any flowers in the interior area of the canopy. Once it finishes flowering, the seed develop in the form of a green, round, structure that then turns brown when mature. The structure shatters, distributing the sterile seeds which are then pruned off in the winter. Thus, when a tree produces little to no growth you get little to no flowers. To stimulate the growth, fertilize in March and late May with 16-16-16. I'd apply a half a pound of fertilizer per inch of trunk diameter measured two feet off the ground. It should be applied around the drip line of the tree. The first application could be made earlier after the tree has been pruned. The red foliage indicates there other problems influencing growth, but I’m not sure what they might be. The red color should only be seen in the fall prior to leaf drop. I'd have an arborist evaluate the situation to determine what other problems are occurring. I’m about to empty my compost bin as it’s nearly full. If I dig the compost into my garden now, will the winter rains leach out the valuable nutrients? In addition, should I mulch my roses now or wait until after they have been pruned? The winter rains shouldn’t leach the nutrients from your compost. Compost is organic matter that is broken down by the soil microbes or organisms into nutrients that plants can use. The activity of the soil microbes is slowing down with the shorter days and the soil cooling off. Right now, you have several options. You could dig it in now or spread the compost over the top as mulch and dig it under in the spring. If you don’t have the time to do either, save the compost by storing it in plastic bags or large garbage can. With roses, I wouldn’t be inclined to spread it around until after they have been pruned at the earliest. You end up losing a portion of the material when you clean up the left over debris under the bushes. Mulching roses is usually done in May. I have been successful in growing papaya from seeds. One of these trees is now quite large and has fruit on it. When will the Papayas turn a yellow/orange color? Also, will the winter frost kill Papayas? Yes, Papayas are damaged with our winter temperatures. They’re an evergreen, herbaceous plant, growing to twenty-five feet. Papayas are herbaceous because their trunks contain no woody tissue. The trunks are straight, hollow and rarely branched. This makes them more susceptible to freezing temperatures than other sub-tropical species like Citrus and Guavas. Often the foliage is just burnt by the winter cold. Eventually, we’ll have a very cold period that kills them. Our last killing frost was in 1990 so we’re due for one. For cold weather protection, I’d spray your Papayas with Bonide Wilt Stop or Cloud Cover. This also applies to Citrus, Hibiscus, Bougainvilleas, Mandevilleas and other cold sensitive plants. Wilt Stop and Cloud Cover puts a protective barrier on the leaf surface. I think of it as Chap Stick for plants. The next time freezing temperatures are forecast, cover them with a plant blanket at dinner time and remove it at breakfast. What happens next is up to Mother Nature. Papayas bear fruit at and early age. Flowering and fruiting occurs near the top of the plant in the leaf axils. The fruit turns a yellow/orange color in about eight months after pollination. Papayas are picked early because they bruise easily when ripe, much like pears. This is called the green mature stage. The fruit then has three additional ripening stages, evidenced by an increasing amount of yellow, beginning at the bottom of the fruit and working its way to the top. A ripe Papaya is predominantly yellow, has a light fragrance and yields slightly to pressure, much like an Avocado. A green papaya takes seven to ten days to ripen. You can increase the ripening time by putting them in a paper bag along with an ethylene-producing fruits such as apples or bananas. However, keep those fruits away when the papaya is fully ripe. Ripe papayas will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week but freezing them is not recommended as they lose their flavor when defrosted. n o v e m b e r 2 0 1 6 A L I V E E A S T B A Y 39 Q. A. THE DIRT GARDENER THANKS FOR ASKING BUZZ BERTOLERO Q. Q. A. A.
Alive November 2016
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