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Ask a Master Gardener: Wet weather effects and tips on fruit varieties

Ask a Master Gardener: Wet weather effects and tips on fruit varieties

June 30th, 2019 by James Quinn, Field Specialist in Horticulture, MU Extension in Life & Entertainment

Q. The dogwood trees I planted this spring don't have a good green color (see photo). Should I do something about it?

A: Given all the wet weather, there are a number of different plants showing yellowish or pale green growth. Newly planted ones are more likely to show symptoms, as their roots haven't spread out much yet. Nitrogen is the most important plant nutrient, and it can be leached away. Making matters worse, when the soil is wet and heavy, it is harder for the plant roots to access the nutrients. Adding a dry fertilizer when the soil is so wet is better than a liquid. Get a fertilizer that matches your planting situation (a tree/shrub fertilizer in this instance). Apply it according to the instructions and lightly till in. If we get five to seven days without rain, then also giving a gallon or so of liquid fertilizer would help.

For any woody plants, a mulch ring around it is desired. While mulch helps hold in moisture, it also holds back competing weeds/plants in that rooting area. As the mulch breaks down, it releases nutrients and tends to improve the soil quality. A mulch ring diameter of 2 feet for a small bush, 3 feet for a small tree and 4 feet for a large bush or medium size tree is good. This is especially important for the first three to four years of establishment.

Q. My zucchini fruits aren't forming right. The ends are turning yellow. Sometimes they rot? What is happening, and can I do anything?

A: Most typical from this condition is they aren't getting pollinated. Do you see any bees around? If not, then you can try hand pollinating it yourself. The base of the male flower is like a pencil. When it is open, pick it off, tear off the petals and then stuff it inside an open female flower, whose base is shaped somewhat like the fruit. You should see the results in just a day or two.

Very wet weather can aggravate a zucchini blossom and developing fruit disease. There really isn't any effective spray to control it, but a simple cultural tactic may help. Once the fruit has formed, pick off that withering blossom. The fungus starts growing on it and then moves into the fruit.

Q. I am interested in planting a peach, a cherry and a table grape, preferably seedless. Can you give specific recommendations for the variety? I think my location is good, as I'm on a ridge, way out in the country.

A: For peaches, our variety that all others are judged by is Redhaven. So be sure to include it. We have a fruit publication that gives other cultivars to consider, extension2.missouri.edu/mg6 or Google 'Missouri Master Gardener Fruit Production.' Only tart cherries are recommended in Missouri, as they are more resistant to brown rot. Montmorency is the most well know cultivar. For sweet cherries, I have had good luck with Stark Bro's Nurseries & Orchards cultivar Starkrimson.

For grapes, if you like the "Concord" flavor, consider the seedless form of it. Many people don't realize one is available. University of Arkansas breeders developed and released some cultivars five plus years ago. Stark Bro's picked them up and has them available as Faith, Hope and Joy. They eliminated an annoying trait of a number of Northern seedless cultivars, where a tiny bit of the seed remains, so you get a small crunch (this is worse during hot years). While this doesn't bother me, it's not like 'store bought' grapes to some people (e.g. picky children). I have 'Hope' and can attest to this cultivar not having that annoying trait.

Pest Alert! Japanese beetles are finally back. As of June 24, a few were caught at our extension center's trap. Given the weather prediction of warm temperatures and humidity, their populations will likely rise quickly. Now is a good time to apply an insecticide to plants you want to protect, which they desire (by now you probably know which ones they are). While standard synthetic insecticides are sure to be effective, there is now a natural product which (given its label) should be effective: BeetleJUS! Bt for Ornamental and Vegetables (available by the online retailer "Gardens Alive"). Last year was this product's first year and it quickly sold out. As with any pesticide, always read and follow the label instructions.