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Ask a master gardener

  • Roundheaded apple tree borer. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
    Roundheaded apple tree borer. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Published May 19. 2017 02:48PM

After weeks of cold weather, we can finally get our plants into the ground. Yea!

Now to your questions.

Q.What is chewing inside my apple tree?

A. Two kinds of borers are pests of apple trees: the roundheaded apple tree borer (Saperda candida) and the flatheaded apple tree borer (Chrysobothris femorata). The adults are beetles that lay eggs on the bark.The larvae look for a weaknessin the tree to exploit so they can drill in and feed. There aren't any homeowner friendly chemical controls for borers, so the best way to avoid them is to keep your trees healthy by irrigating, fertilizing, and pruning at the right time of year. If you see any evidence of borers such as a hole with a sawdust trail going into your tree, prune off the infected part if you can and burn it.

Q.When is the best time to prune holly?

A. Late fall/early winter is the best time. The good news is that pruning time coincides with the Christmas holidays, so plan your pruning cuts in the fall. Mark the cuts with a bit of yarn and when the time comes, harvest your holiday greens.

Q.In April I seeded my lawn with a sun and shade mix. Now, in addition to the beautiful grass I planted, this ugly rough grass is coming up. How can I kill it?

A. Often when you start a new lawn, seeds already in the soil get a chance to germinate. Most annual grass plants seed heavily each year, so if conditions are rights these seeds will sprout along with your new lawn seeds. Once your turf is strong and healthy, the weedy grass seeds will be shaded out. The secret is to cut your new grass at least 3-3.5 inches long and keep it irrigated with an inch of water a week so the roots go deep. In the meantime, you can use a weed torch to burn out the unwanted grass. For detailed information, visit the Penn State website "Home Lawns" at the Center for Turfgrass Science.

Q.My red maple tree is dying on the top. What can I do to save it?

A. Red maples have been hit hard the last couple of years by the excessive heat and drought we've had in the summer. I lost the tops off two maples during one of the big wind storms we had this past winter. Once the trees were taken down, one was full of insect damage. Remember the apple tree borer question above? Once a tree is weakened by environmental stressors, it is vulnerable to a variety of insects and funguses. I recommend calling a licensed arborist to give you an opinion. You can find one nearby by using the ZIP code finder on the website of the International Society of Arboriculture.

Please send us your questions by letter, email, or phone. Our contact information is: Carbon County Master Gardeners, Penn State Extension, 529 Lentz Trail, Jim Thorpe PA 18229. (570) 325-2788.

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