A: Cedar-apple rust is a major problem for commercial apple growers. They send crews through the woods near their orchards to destroy the cedar trees that are alternate hosts for this defoliating disease. Since the rust spores can affect apples within a half-mile of the infected cedar tree, moving your apple tree won't help.
Spraying with myclobutanil (Immunox) at labeled intervals will partially control the disease. You can help break the disease life cycle by raking and removing all apple leaves after they fall in winter and by examining all cedar trees in your neighborhood for the walnut-sized disease galls, which should be destroyed.
Q: I have three Abyssinian banana trees in my yard. One of them is now 10 feet tall alongside two smaller sprouts. I have a greenhouse that will hold the smaller two but not the tall one. How can I protect it without having to cut it back? -- Pam Biagi, email
A: I don't think you can protect the tall one. That part we call the trunk of a banana is really just lots of tightly rolled leaves. They protect the true stem inside. After a banana “tree” has been in place for 10-14 months, the true stem emerges from the center and makes an arching flower stem, from which bananas are produced. If you shorten the big banana to protect it with insulation you’ll damage the interior stem. Best to chop this one at ground level, cover it thickly with leaves and see if it comes back in the spring. The small ones will be happy in your greenhouse.
Q: I have a witch hazel plant in a container. This summer while I was away the soil became completely dry and the leaves all turned brown. The leaves have not fallen off, but I haven’t seen any new growth, although I continue to water it. Is there a way for me to tell whether the plant is truly dead? -- Joanne Cono, email
A: It’s easy -- scratch the bark with a thumbnail. If it's green underneath, there’s hope. Your witch hazel may be severely weakened but the plant still has a chance to leaf out in spring. You'll have to wait until April for a final diagnosis.
Listen to Walter Reeves Saturday mornings on AM 750 and 95.5 FM News-Talk WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Fan Page at xrl.us/wrfacebook for more garden tips.