ASK THE GARDENERS. Questions & Answers
Q Four years ago I planted two dwarf Rhode Island Greening apple trees 10 feet apart. They are near oak trees and in moderate sun, but they have not bloomed as yet. They are now five feet tall. Is there any way to make them bloom? R.B.J.
We are not sure what you mean by ``moderate'' sun. If they are shaded by the oak trees, even part of the day, that could delay blooming. Also, if they are too near the trees, the oak trees' roots could be taking food and moisture away. Ideally, fruit trees should be in full sun and away from other tree roots.
Each year, three- to five-year-old trees should get one-half pound of 10-10-10 (or similar analysis) fertilizer spread around the base, or liquid 20-20-20 (or similar analysis) mixed at the rate of one pound per 30 gallons of water. Apply one-third of this in early spring, one-third again when in full leaf, and one-third during summer. Prune regularly.
Q A friend of mine has given me two 6-foot shade trees. They are in nursery tubs, which I think are some kind of fiber. I am happy to get them because we need to plant something on the west side of our house. How big should I make the hole? Should I put peat moss in the bottom? Should I stake the trees? If so, how far from the hole should the stake be?
Overland Park, Kan.
Even though the tubs are probably papier-m^ach'e type, we recommend that you slit the sides. After you have set the tree carefully into the hole, slip the halves of the slit tub out from under the roots and remove them. Make the hole five or six inches deeper than the tub height and wide enough to leave three or four inches of space all around the root ball.
You can put peat moss, mixed with some of the soil, into the bottom first. If you have rotted leaves or compost, that's just as good. Mix it with the rest of the soil and shovel it in around the roots, tamping as you fill. Water thoroughly when through; then water once a week.
You can use two 4-foot stakes, setting them opposite each other so that the prevailing wind blows perpendicular to guy wires. Place them a few inches outside the rim. You should use a strong wire, but do not wrap it directly around the tree. Loop a piece of garden hose around the trunk for each wire and pass the wire through each loop and back to the stake. Leave a little room for flexibility because some movement is good to stimulate thicker trunk growth.
Doc and Katy Abraham are nationally known horticulturists.