Q: I have a bumper crop of baby peaches. Is there a rule of thumb for thinning the peaches? I know the branches won’t support all of them. Annice, Dallas
A: You are right. If you don’t remove some of the fruit, you’ll have limb breakage and small peaches. The best time to thin a peach tree is when the fruit approaches 1 inch in diameter. Your goal is to have individual small peaches hanging 3 to 6 inches apart. Remove the smallest ones first. A quick twist is better than a sharp pull. Hold the fruit between two fingers and your thumb and twist as if you’re snapping your fingers. Don’t leave the fruit on the ground; collect and deposit on your compost pile.
Q: Is there a way to change flower color on oakleaf and tree hydrangeas? John Petzelt, email
A: No, the old-fashioned bigleaf hydrangea is the only one that responds to soil pH to change its flower color. Oakleaf hydrangea flowers are white when they open but they fade more or less rapidly to pink or dark red. Different varieties have different size flowers, different mature sizes, and different rates of color change. Panicle hydrangea flowers range in color from white to pink to light green, depending on variety. Look at ‘Summer Snowflake’, ‘Limelight’, and ‘Strawberry Sundae’ for an idea of what you can find.
Q: I have a 12-year-old fan palm outside. The tree has seed pods on it. How and when can I take the seed pods off and plant them? Melissa Roster, Conyers
A: There are several different plants that are called fan palm. In general, harvest palm seeds when several have fallen from the seed bunch, indicating that most are close to maturity. Use a sharp knife to slice a few open to be sure they are green and healthy looking inside. Clean off any extraneous material. Put the seeds in a bucket of water. Healthy seeds usually sink to the bottom; most floaters are not viable. Fill an 8-inch clay pot with a 1:1 mixture of sand and potting soil. Scatter several seeds on top and cover with a half-inch of soil. Moisten the soil and put the pot into a resealable plastic bag. Store the pot in the warmest place in your house. On top of the refrigerator or above kitchen cabinets are places to consider. Mark your calendar to check on the seeds every two weeks. It may take several weeks or even several months for the seeds to germinate. When green shoots do appear, care for them in place until they are a few inches tall and then gently transplant each one to an individual 10-inch pot.
Q: My cedar developed cedar rust. I can pull the brown walnut-like things off but is there any way to cure the disease? Chris Gallagher, email
A: There is no way to cure cedar trees that have cedar-apple rust. You can pick off the knobby galls as you notice them but if there are infected apple trees nearby the spores from the apple leaves will infect your tree higher than you can reach.
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