GARDENER'S MAILBAG

Wrap oaks, Chinese pistachios for protection in summer

By Neil Sperry | Published Wednesday, August 1, 2018

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Dear Neil: We have a fairly new red oak tree that has developed a vertical crack down its trunk. It is turning black along the sides of the crack. Should I wrap it, paint it with diluted latex paint, do nothing, or what?

That sounds like sunscald. Wrapping would have been the ideal prevention at the time of planting, but it may be too late. Do not paint it. I guess I would probably wrap it now, but I’d do so with the intent of taking the wrap back off every month or two to check progress of healing. You have to hope that the tree can heal itself somehow. New oaks and Chinese pistachios must always be protected with paper tree wrap for their first two summers in our landscapes. Good luck with it.

Dear Neil: I inherited several amaryllis from my aunt. I tried growing them in the ground without success, so I have planted them in pots. They have bloomed each spring until the past two years. I know they need to be repotted. How and when should I do so? I normally care for them with my other plants during the summer, then bring them into my husband’s workshop over the winter. It’s dark there and they go dormant. We bring them out in the spring and encourage them to bloom. Suggestions?

That’s a lot of amaryllis plants! Yes, they are extremely rootbound. I might even try repotting one of these bigger pots now to see how they fare. Soak it thoroughly to get the soil as wet as you can. Tip the pot onto its side and carefully pull the root mass out. You should be able to see the individual bulbs fairly easily. Break them into clumps of a couple of bulbs each between the heels of your palms and repot them into 8- or 10-inch pots filled with a highly organic potting soil. If the original soil falls away from the bulbs, you probably ought to trim the leaves back by half. Put them into a shady location for a week or two to see how they get along. If all goes well you can repot the rest. Better to do so now so they can establish during the balance of this growing season.

Dear Neil: My St. Augustine has runners on top of the grass. They aren’t rooting into the soil. Will they eventually do so? Why do they do this?

I’ve been around St. Augustine almost all of my life, and I’ve observed this on almost every St. Augustine lawn I’ve been on. It happens for a few weeks in the summer, and it’s of absolutely no concern. I normally walk the lawn before I mow, lifting these runners with my foot so I can trim them off with the mower. After a few weeks the issue abates.

Dear Neil: What would cause a pear tree to go from healthy to completely brown in less than one week? It is four years old and has not borne any fruit yet.

In an area with alkaline soil that would almost assuredly be cotton root rot. Pears and apples are notoriously susceptible, and it kills infected plants almost overnight. Fire blight has been a real problem the past several years. I saw a tree just a few days ago that went from fairly healthy to dead within four or five weeks – not as fast as you described, but still quick by fire-blight standards. In both cases you’re probably left with finding some other unrelated species to use in your replanting.

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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