Q: I saw online that you can put crushed egg shells in the soil around tomatoes for extra nutrients. Is this a good idea?
Amy Pridgen, email
A: It doesn’t hurt anything to put crushed eggshells around tomato plants, but it probably doesn’t benefit them much either. Garden experts, including me, once believed that extra calcium for tomatoes is needed to prevent blossom end rot. This has been proven incorrect. Blossom end rot is caused by fluctuations in soil moisture that result in calcium not going to the young fruit at the right time. There could be plenty of calcium available in the soil but if it is not transported quickly to developing tomato fruit, the blossom end turns black, thereby ruining it. There is no harm done by adding egg shells, coffee grounds, or banana peels under your garden or landscape plants. But these are in no way magical substances that give the plants any advantage.
Q: What advice do you have for proper varieties and planting of fig trees?
Robin Houghton, Dahlonega
A: Figs growing in the open in Dahlonega can suffer lots of damage in a severe winter. But given a sheltered planting spot by a wall or barn, I’d try ‘Celeste’, ‘Brown Turkey’ or ‘LSU Purple’. If you’d rather not gamble and if you have a big pot and an unused corner of your garage in winter, consider ‘Little Miss Figgy’ dwarf fig. It only grows 6 feet high and 4 feet wide.
Q: Our peach tree has suffered for years from extensive shading on one side, encouraging it to lean precipitously. It has lots of green leaves. I removed the trees around it recently. Can I help the peach to resume vertical growth by staking and slowly tightening the straps?
Charles Gilley, email
A: If my father saw a “Leaning Tower of Peacha” on the farm, he would immediately direct me to grab a piece of lumber and prop the tree up. No matter how much of a problem it would be to mow around the tree, he would be happy knowing he had saved a peach. I recommend you do the same but, unlike my father, use mulch around the tree and the support to avoid mowing problems. Trying to pull the tree upright will cause too many other problems.
Q: I have a rather large peach tree that doesn’t produce very well. I didn’t prune it properly at the beginning so it’s about 15 feet tall with lots of branches and doesn’t have an open center.
Hunter Best, email
A: A short trunk with widely extending branches and an open center is the ideal shape for a peach tree but it is not absolutely required. You might get a few less peaches when a tree is left unpruned but nothing drastic. You could open up the center by pruning the trunk down by four or five feet. This would leave a relatively tall trunk but there should be limbs below that point that will spread wide in the future. Keep an eye on the spot where you did the trunk pruning. You will probably have to remove new sprouts from that point every winter.