GARDENER'S MAILBAG

Plants in poor condition may need bigger pot

By Neil Sperry | Published Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dear Neil: Do you have any idea what might be wrong with my Meyer lemon tree? We bought it four years ago, and it had produced nice, large fruit every year until this year. It started yellowing, and I applied an iron supplement. That seemed to help it green up.

This spring the ends of the branches ended up bare, as if something had eaten all the leaves off. I was considering replacing it, but the cost is too great. Any suggestions?

Judging from the photo and the large amount of foliage and stem growth, it surely looks like this plant needs a larger pot. What I see in the discoloration, because it’s most evident on older leaves farther back on the stems, is simply a lack of nitrogen and perhaps a lack of sufficient moisture at critical times. Those would both suggest a plant that was root-bound. I would suggest repotting it now.

Take it out of the old pot carefully (easier with moist soil). Cut any roots that are wrapping around inside the pot walls to force them to branch out. Replant it into a pot that is 2 or 4 inches larger in diameter, using a loose and highly organic potting soil in the process. Apply a water-soluble, high-nitrogen plant food once every couple of weeks. Trim out the stubbly internal growth and see if it doesn’t respond favorably. This plant definitely does not need to be replaced.

Dear Neil: I live on a corner lot, and I am having trouble getting rid of weeds that grow in between rocks along the street. I have used Round Up, but they come back.

It would really help to know what types of weeds are involved. There are several Round Up products. The original glyphosate-only was, and still is, a very fine grass killer.

There are now other mixes under the Round Up name that kill other types of weeds and for several months. Read and follow directions to find the best one for your task, then apply it with a fine spray to as much new growth as possible. Do not trim the weeds for four or five days before or after you treat.

I hope that helps. You might want to take samples to an independent retail garden center for more advice.

Dear Neil: I have a very old oak tree at the end of my driveway. It does not receive irrigation because of how far it is away from the sprinkler system, but it has always appeared very healthy. Now it is losing many of its leaves and is looking very sparse. A portion of it extends over onto adjoining property, and because they mow that lot with a tractor, they trimmed back some of the lower branches.

It didn’t seem to matter the first year, but now I’m wondering if that might have been a part of this problem. I’m sure this tree is more than 100 years old and is very special to me. If I live another year and three months, I, too, will join the 100-year club. What can I do to help my treasured tree?

What a wonderful email you sent! I will do anything I can to help you.

First, look at the trunk closely for any signs of missing bark. Following the very dry summer three years ago, many oaks started to fall victim to Hypoxylon canker. It typically shows up when oaks are under severe stress, and I’m still seeing its results several years later. If you have a way of sending me a photo of the tree, that might help. And, I will bet you that if you ask for the help of your county Extension office, they will have advice on someone near you, either a certified arborist or a forester, who would be willing to help a sweet lady with her tree.

I love your email! Please keep me updated!

Dear Neil: What can you tell me about Phoenix palm decline? Several years ago I had three other windmill palms die from the heart out to the outer fronds. What can be done about it?

I guess no garden disease is fun to have, but this one far less than others. This is an unusual bacterium somewhat akin to lethal yellowing of palms. I’m not a plant pathologist, so I did an Internet search for you, and this information from Florida seems to explain it best by using plain terms that we all can understand: wcmess.com/palmdecline.

If you feel this is a good description of what you’re facing, you should probably contact your county Extension office and ask their advice. You certainly may want to send a sample to the Plant Disease Diagnostic lab at Texas A&M.

Have a question you’d like Neil to consider? Mail it to him in care of the Wise County Messenger, P.O. Box 149, Decatur, TX 76234 or email him at mailbag@sperrygardens.com. Neil regrets that he cannot reply to questions individually.

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