Pollinate Meyer lemon with a toothbrush

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 bit.ly/georgiagardener for more garden tips.

Q: I purchased a Meyer lemon plant last spring that had three green fruits on it. They finally ripened in November on my deck. Now the plant is thriving in a sunny location in my home and it has numerous flower buds. Is there anything I can do to ensure pollination of the flowers? William Gohr, email

A: Try tapping the branches near a flower cluster a couple of times each day with a dowel to get pollen to scatter. You could also use an ultrasonic toothbrush to make pollen fly off the anther and go to the stigma of the lemon bloom.

Q: Would you recommend putting a pre-emergent down early this year since we are having such a warm winter? Taylor Best, email

A: Summer weeds won't germinate until soil temperatures get above 55 degrees for several days. In Atlanta, the soil temperature is now hovering between the mid- and high 40s. That means that you won't get any advantage by applying a weed preventer now. You can check local soil conditions at www.georgiaweather.net or simply wait to apply when forsythia shrubs are in bloom.

Q: Eight years ago I planted seeds from a Pink Lady apple. The biggest tree is 10 feet tall and has hundreds of blossoms. The apples are tasty but they are the size of peas. Tim in Dunnellon FL

A: It sounds like the original 'Pink Lady' tree's flowers were pollinated by a crabapple, yielding the apple from which you saved seeds. Crabapple trees are commonly used in apple orchards because they produce very large quantities of pollen over a long period and are compatible with most apple varieties. You'll have an attractive tree but the fruit will likely never be bigger.

Q: Our home had a lovely screen of white pines but they eventually died. Could we replant this same species? Should we look for a substitute? Patty Durand, Roswell

A: White pines are typically short-lived in Atlanta. They seem to succumb to summer heat and pine borers by the time the trunk is twelve inches in diameter. White pines are native to North Georgia and northward to Minnesota. They prefer sandy loam or rocky soil that drains very well. For a substitute screen, consider deodar cedar, Arizona cypress, 'Emerald Green' arborvitae or 'Black Dragon' cryptomeria

Q: I would like to hire a company to take care of my landscape. Something more than "mow, blow and go." Joel Langsfeld, Vinings

A: There are plenty of excellent landscape maintenance companies in Atlanta. One place to look is the " Find a Professional" page of the Urban Ag Council (urbanagcouncil.com). Enter your pertinent information to find landscape companies of all kinds. While you're there, check out the winners of their Environmental Awards program.

Q: This warm winter has my perennial garden confused. I planted tickseed and sage and expected them to go dormant in cold weather. Now they are still as green as ever. Do I cut them back anyway? Jonathan Beacher, Grayson

A: My rule of thumb is that if it's green, the plant needs it. Therefore, I'd leave the plants alone. My daylily foliage is still green and I have begonias blooming on my front porch. I think most plants (except tulip magnolias, whose flowers inevitably freeze most years) have a good sense of how to behave in odd weather.