Kiwi fruit ripen in late October or early November

Q: I have male and female kiwi vines and there’s a lot of fruit! How long does it take for them to ripen? -- J.R. Klimach, email

A. The kiwi fruit you see in a grocery reach almost full size in August but are not mature enough for harvest until late October or early November, after the seeds turn black. Fruit will soften off the vine but full flavor does not develop until sugar content reaches 6 percent on the vine. Keep a sharp eye on night temperatures and check the largest fruit for ripeness; they can be enjoyed now. If a hard freeze is forecast, invite your neighbors over for a pick-your-own party.

Q: I have been given a small Japanese maple. When and where do I plant it? -- Dwayne Martin, email

A: Most Japanese maples do best when they get morning sun and afternoon shade. That said, I know of several that seem perfectly happy growing in full sunshine. The purple-leaved varieties keep their color better if given afternoon shade. Thin-lobed dissectum varieties are more likely to suffer leaf scorch in full sun. Loosen the soil in a six-foot diameter area, amend it with soil conditioner, and plant your maple in the center. If you mulch the entire area and water conscientiously in drought, your maple will be fine in most environments.

Q: I have cedar-apple rust on an apple tree not far from a cedar tree. If I move the apple to the other side of the yard will it help prevent the disease? -- Jenny Valdes, Marietta

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,, or join his Facebook Fan Page at for more garden tips.