Ask the gardeners

I have a few assorted apple trees, 3 peach, 2 pears, and 6 blueberry bushes, plus a grape vine (Concord). When is the best time to prune them?

Any time before growth starts. Make sure the trees are trimmed so the centers are open, allowing the sun to enter, if they are older trees.

Most fruit trees don't need much pruning the first three or four years, except to remove any broken branches.

Don't leave any stubs when removing limbs.

On blueberries, cut out canes that are thin or dead. For grapes, select three or four canes of last year's growth, the size of a lead pencil, and cut out all the rest. Leave canes five to eight feet long and allow eight to 12 buds per cane.

It's difficult to describe the pruning of fruit trees in a few words. If you want more information, send for our bulletin, ''Pruning Fruit Trees.'' Please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope and tell us if you like the service.

My houseplants have little critters crawling around in the soil which are whitish and look like tiny worms. You cannot see them till you water the plants. Then they quickly wiggle to the surface. Help!

If they jump quickly, they are springtails, which have a tiny lever underneath that acts like a spring. Springtails usually feed on the humus in the soil, but - in large numbers - will eat the roots as well.

If they are more grayish and don't jump, they are symphilids, which devour the roots of plants.

Both pests can be dispatched by drenching the soil once a month with a solution of one teaspoon of nicotine sulphate and one-half teaspoon of liquid detergent in one quart of water.

I have a young pyracantha espaliered on the side of my house. The plant looks healthy but has never blossomed. How can I get it to blossom and form berries? Please advise if there is a charge for the information.

Pyracantha (called firethorn) will not flower and form berries until it is 8 to 10 years of age. It needs hardly any fertilizer but be sure to give it full sun.

No, there is no charge, but if you like the service, please write and tell the editor of the Monitor.

I never seem to be able to get an avocado pit to sprout. Which end should be planted in the soil?

The peaked end is the top, the dimpled end the bottom.

You can suspend the pit, dimple end down, in a glass of water by inserting four toothpicks around the sides so that one-third of the pit is covered with water. Or you can pot the pit in a loose soil mix (1 part each of perlite, vermiculite, or sphagnum peatmoss) with one-third of it in the soil. Keep the medium moist.

If the pit is from a ripe avocado, it will sprout within a month or so.

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