Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Garden Talks August 5--Fruit Trees, Rose of Sharon, Water those Containers!

Hello again,

A gentleman by the name of Dick Poffenbaugh recently published a garden Question and Answer in the Mansfield Journal based in Ontario. Ontario? They can garden there. Well yes, they can. Below is a couple of questions and answers that caught my eye.

The entire link is and we found them through our friends BloominKrazy who we follow at

Here goes:

Question: Why are apples on my dwarf tree so small? Does a dwarf tree only produce small apples? Can anything be done to increase fruit size?

Answer: First, a dwarf or semi-dwarf apple tree produces normal size fruit. Tree size has nothing to do with fruit size. Apples and peaches tend to produce heavy crops of fruit if there is no late spring frost to kill flowers.

There is only so much nutrition produced by a tree to nourish the fruit crop. The greater the number of fruit, the smaller the fruit size. The same is true for squash, pumpkins and tomatoes. The more fruit produced that remain on the plant, the smaller the size. To grow a giant size pumpkin of the right variety, leave only one or two fruit on the vine to maturity.

With tree fruits such as apple and peach, this is where "thinning" is required. Excess fruits are removed from the tree, generally within a month after the tree flowers. Some trees help in the process with a natural fruit drop -- very common in plum trees.

Try to space apples on a branch 6 to 8 inches apart. All the energy will go into those few apples rather than into double or triple the number.

If summer growing conditions are dry, water fruit trees to help increase fruit size. While thinning is a time-consuming task, it pays big dividends with much larger fruits.

Question: When is the best time to prune a rose of Sharon shrub? Does it form flowers on new or old wood?

Answer: Do the pruning in March to early April. Like other summer flowering shrubs, flowers form on new wood (this year's growth). If pruning is done later, some of the new wood with flower buds will likely be removed, resulting in fewer flowers.

This morning before I came to work I spent some time giving my containers of plants (I have several containers of great looking flowers and some good vegetables as well!) a good thorough soaking of water. Frankly with all the rain we have received I was surprised that these containers needed water but they actually did. I think the reason why water was needed was twofold: 1) the plants are getting large enough to actually keep a good amount of the rain from penetrating the soil and 2) the rain that is getting through is getting quickly used up by all the roots that have now formed in the pots.

A week ago I gave all my containerized plants and annual flowers and vegetables planted in the ground a good "top dressing" of granular all natural Plant Booster Plus fertlilizer by Organica. Over the remainder of the season the benefits of the Plant Booster Plus will really help my plants grow great strong roots and the plants will respond well to that.

But this is Maine and I wanted to give my plants a little extra boost so in my waterings this morning I added a dose of Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed Blend to the water in my 2 gallon watering can. Watering everything with my 2 gallon can took a little extra time but the all natural boost of nutrients including calcium found in the Fish and Seaweed Blend in liquid form will give my plants an immediate boost. The Time is Now! Good growing lies ahead!

Also this morning to my alarm I inspected my tomato plants and found some oval dark leaf blight on a couple of my plants. This blight is fast moving as it was not there this weekend. I bought my plants from Skillin's and we have not seen the blight here. My plants are pretty big and the blight was noticeable but not yet major so what I did was snap off all the branches and/or leaves that were blighted and disposed of them in the trash. I do plan on spraying with all natural Seranade (sold right here at Skillin's) tonight to help suppress any more blight. I may also move up a planned application of Messenger from a couple of weeks out to this weekend to further fortify the plants. My tomato plants are doing great overall, nice color and good fruit development. They are loving the warmer sunnier days, the Messenger of this season and the Plant Booster Plus!

Tomato lesson: Blight or not, the Time is Now to snap off any medium to lower height branches that are not producing fruit. The action is at the top of the plant, clear out the lower growth for more light exposure and air circulation to the fruit.

As always let us know if you have any gardening questions!

Mike Skillin
Skillin's Greenhouses
August 5, 2009

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