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Thorny trifoliate orange is a nuisance on woodland property

Q: I have a bunch of thorny three-leaf orange plants with lots of fuzzy yellow fruit on my property. Are they worth anything? What’s the best way of getting rid of them? Nathaniel Reed, email

A: I have heard of farmers planting trifoliate orange seeds along a fence row to grow an impenetrably thorny green fence. I suppose the fruit might be edible to some creature but I can’t imagine which animals could stand the sour taste. If you don’t want a green fence and you’re tired of snagging your jacket on thorns, the usual technique for killing nuisance shrubs is to cut them at ground level and immediately spray the stump with triclopyr (Brush Killer) herbicide.

Q: Is black plastic ground cover a good thing or a bad thing for a flower bed? My hubby had it put down and it seems to be a barrier to planting annuals. Hilda Garrison, Jefferson

A: I can usually find a way to reconcile marital differences in the garden but not this time. Plastic ground cover is bad. It prevents the free flow of moisture, nutrients, and oxygen upward and downward in the soil. It hurts trees when spread over the roots and covered with mulch. If the scheme is to plant annuals through the mulch to prevent weeds, the same caution applies. In my experience, perennial weeds like bermudagrass and nutsedge can grow right through plastic. Be gracious and offer him tea and cookies when he finishes pulling it up.

Q: I have an Autumn Moon maple that is planted in a 30-inch glazed pot. It gets morning to midday sun. It’s been in the same spot for two and one-half years. It produces foliage each spring but by midsummer half of the leaves turn brown The tree starts to leaf out again in early fall. What do I need to do to have a better looking tree throughout the summer? Ernie Wright, email

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A: My suspicion is that the soil in the pot gets too dry more than once in the summer. When roots partially dry out, it takes them at least a month to recover. If they get dry again during that time, the tree is set back even further. They recover somewhat when temperatures begin to cool. Keep an eye on the leaves daily when temperatures rise in mid-June. If leaf tips begin to droop, immediately flood the pot.

Q: I planted a 1-inch high Japanese maple seedling in May. It has now grown to 30 inches tall, heading straight up with no branching. Should I clip the top off to get it to branch out? Alvin Thurman, Beaufort, S.C.

A: Not unless you’re creating a bonsai. The leaves on top are feeding the buds and roots below. The stem buds will sprout branches eventually or new limbs will emerge where the top leaves are growing now. The tree will not continue to grow tall without making side branches on its own. Nature will provide.

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