Fig trees have particular needs
Q: I have several fig trees that I planted in 2010 in my back yard. The first year, I got a great harvest from two of the three trees, but the following years only my brown turkey seems to go to full maturity. They are next to each other in my bed and I have well-draining soil that I maintain each year with compost from my lawn and garden.
The fruit is abundant on the branches but never gets ripe. They remain hard until falling. Do you have any suggestions for me as far as feeding or watering? I have two brown turkey and one Conadria that has grown to 10 feet. I cut it back each winter.
A: The Conadria fig is a very rapid grower and even though its flesh is strawberry-colored, the skin is green to a pale yellow when ripe. Mystery solved?
Beyond that, fig trees don't handle stress very well and each variety has its own threshold, which is the primary cause for figs to not ripen.
• The first and foremost stressor is fluctuation in water. Every time the soil dries out, especially through hot, dry times, the fig diverts energy away from fruiting, so consistent moisture is key.
• Next would be nutrition. Use quality fertilizers with 50 percent slow-release nitrogen and more potassium than nitrogen (the last number is potassium) such as 4-0-8, 8-0-12 or equivalent applied in March, July and October.
• Last, but not least are pests. Nematodes are microscopic roundworms in the soil that destroy a fig's root system as high populations develop. The above-ground symptoms are exhibited by the lack of internodal spacing of leaves. Instead of the internode (space between leaves on stem) being 3 to 5 inches, the space gets shorter and shorter, down to 1/2-inch apart. Figs are very susceptible and there is no cure.
Fig rust is a fungus disease that attacks the leaves, producing yellow, orange and brown spots and consuming the leaf, followed by leaf drop. A neutral copper spray applied as leaves reach full size, followed by a second application two to three weeks later keeps disease at bay. Of these potential stressors, you can control all but nematodes.
A peach of a tree
Q: This is my peach tree after the trim last year. Does this look right? There are only four or five blossoms. But I think we are on the right path. Should I have four or five central branches?
A: Great job! The picture of your peach tree shows a very healthy specimen.
In the center, prune out some lateral branches to further open it up to sunlight, but other than that, looking good! There simply wasn't enough chilling last winter to set flowers and fruit, not to worry.
A curtain of bamboo
Q: I am looking for suggestions of plants that will do well in a "boxed in" area that is visible from our dining table and from the window behind my desk in the small room we use as an office at the front of the house. There is a long pathway from the back door to the back of the house that cries for something along the block wall fencing off the neighbor's yard. It is stained and not particularly attractive, but does not belong to us. Since our house faces south, these areas get sunlight only during the middle of the day. I need plants that can do well with minimum care. Suggestions?
A: To create a simple screen, clumping bamboo, such as the different varieties of Bambusa multiplex would be just the ticket. Water them daily upon installation for six weeks, then every other day for six weeks, then they are on their own. The bamboo will provide a fast, durable screen between you and your neighbors.