Q: Last summer, the lower leaves on my tomato plant turned yellow and the limbs fell off. I treated them with copper sulfate, which did some good. I looked for help on the internet and read that adding baking soda to the soil kills fungus. The article did not say how much to add. This year, after tilling baking soda into the beds, I planted Better Boy tomato plants. Ten days later, they were dead. I replaced the soil with fresh topsoil and planted new plants. The new tomatoes are growing slowly and look OK. My patio tomatoes, however, do not look so good. My guess is I used too much soda. Any suggestions on how to correct this mess? Charlie Thompson, email
A: The fastest and easiest thing to do is open your wallet and buy new soil for your beds and containers. Baking soda has not been shown by any research to have an effect on plant diseases. It changes soil pH but this is a minor effect. It would be best to have your soil tested. Call your local Extension office (800-ASKUGA-1) to get information on how to submit your soil sample. When you have a report, give me a buzz and we can discuss what can be done.
Q: I have a tall tree in my backyard that is fruiting now. It has little berries that start red and become dark red. The birds are having a field day on the fruit. Donna Reid, Snellville
A: I have no doubt that you have a serviceberry, Amelanchier arborea, a wonderful tree. Serviceberry fruit resembles tiny apples and can be used in the same way you would use blueberries for cooking and baking. They are also tasty right off the tree. I eat everything the birds don’t get. If the tree is small enough, you can net it to keep the birds away from your harvest. Otherwise, set your alarm clock — the early bird gets the serviceberry.
Q: I have a 14-year-old fig tree that I thought had died due to this late freeze we had in December. I was about to dig up the dead limbs when I noticed some sprouts coming out from the base. It looks like it may not be dead after all. How far should I prune them back? David Dudley, email
A: Fig expert Claudia James says this is what usually happens to figs in our region when temperatures drop to between 28 degrees and 20 degrees in winter. The top of the bush will be killed, but the underground roots and a few inches of aboveground stump will have dormant but viable buds. When winter cold passes, it only takes about 10 days of warm temperatures to trigger the buds to sprout. Make your cuts 6 to 8 inches beyond the new growth to make good anchor points for the new limbs.
Email Walter at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” on Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook page at bit.ly/georgiagardener for his latest tips.