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Q. Does my maple tree have a serious problem, like some disease (see photo)? Can I do something to keep this from happening next year? This is its third year, and it has grown well otherwise.

A. I don't think you have much to worry about — this is likely just classic "leaf scorch." If you are in the Jefferson City area, we had a brief period of suddenly dry soil and some heat, which caused this. It was around mid-July. (We have a new tree outside our extension center and about then we had to jump on watering it as it had stress response — some leaves turned yellow and brown and fell off.) This took many by surprise, as the soil was quite wet all through the spring/summer until then. However, with wet soil conditions, roots often don't grow as deeply, and then when the heat and dry conditions hit, whamo!

My guess is about then or shortly after, the symptoms started to develop. To me, it looks like the leaves are nicely green, and the decay of the margins has stopped. To help it withstand hot dry spells, be sure to have a good mulch ring around it. Mulch should be no thicker than 2 inches and for that size tree, a 4-to 6-foot diameter ring would be good. The mulch will help and provide some nutrients. You could consider fertilizing it.

For guidance on that, MU Extension has a publication: 'Fertilizing Shade Trees'

Q. I like to feed birds but have been told I might introduce some odd weed into my yard. Is the risk that great?

A. Quality bird food suppliers will do their best to screen out weed seed. Some seed will have less risk, like larger seed or a type that is unique with its shape or density. Seed like sunflower and safflower should pose a minimal risk. As many common weed seeds are smaller, bird seed mixes with smaller bird seed would pose a higher risk. However, (in general) good quality purchased product should be fine.

I don't remember ever having weeds show up under or nearby my bird feeders, but the actual bird seed, like sunflowers and sorghum, certainly have sprouted up. I once took some 'bottom of the bin' bird food type grain from a friend. That's how I got some Johnson and quack grass in my yard. That was a mistake, but he had warned me.

Q. Did you start the Master Gardener class yet?

A. No we didn't. There is still time to register. We are doing something different this year, starting it later and having it twice per week. It begins Sept. 19, and will run on Monday and Thursday evenings, from 6-9 p.m. It will be a pretty intense six weeks, but we finish before Halloween. Cost is $150.

Q. Are Japanese beetles over now?

A. More or less, yes. You might see a few around feeding but well below damaging levels.

Q. How can I dispose of some old chemicals, etc.? I'm going to clean the garage over Labor Day weekend.

A. You're in luck. There is an event coming up that following Saturday. It is accepting old 'farm chemicals,' so county landowners can take advantage of it as well, not just residents of certain cities. Missouri DNR is sponsoring the collection 8 miles southeast of Columbia at the Bay Research Farm from 8 a.m.-noon Sept. 7. The address is 5601 S. Rangeline Road, Columbia. Using the Deer Park exit when coming from the south on U.S. 63 will save a few miles.

For questions, call 573-751-0616 or visit:

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