Time is right to prune camellias

Q: I have a camellia that needs pruning, but I need to know when. It blooms in the fall, then immediately stops. In the spring, it puts out profuse growth. — Betty Roper, email

A: The best time to prune your sasanqua camellia is right after it finishes blooming in winter. There should be no problem in pruning it as late as May. Similarly, most japonica camellias have finished their spring blooming, so they can be pruned, too. The best way to prune is not to simply shorten limbs but to remove individual limbs where they join the trunk or a bigger limb. Simply cut at the joint and don't leave a stub.

Q: When do magnolia trees normally drop their leaves? Our trees are dropping them fast after turning yellow. — Betty Lentz, Woodstock

A: It is completely normal for magnolia trees to lose lots of yellow leaves at this time of year. They are shedding old leaves and growing new ones on the ends of the branches. My neighbor's lawn is covered with old leaves. Rake them up and be done with them.

Q: Our Bermuda grass was planted last October. How tall should we let it grow before we cut it? How do you determine height when adjusting the mower? — Dennard W., email

A: You can cut it 2 inches high when it reaches 3 inches high. A month from now reduce the height to 1½ inches high when the grass is 2½ inches high. To determine height, mow a little spot and use a ruler to find out how high your mower is cutting.

Q: I have two 5-year-old apple trees, Granny Smith and Fuji, from a big box store. I have only seen one apple on these two trees in all this time. They do produce flowers in the spring. The trees appear to be healthy. Any advice? — Jodi Phillips, email

A: If they are blooming, but you're not getting apples, this might point to a pollination problem. Are you absolutely, positively sure they were correctly labeled at the store? These varieties should bloom at the same time. But the problem might be heavy rains during the time the blooms were on the trees or a lack of bees to carry the pollen back and forth. If you know someone who has a crabapple that blooms around the time of your apples, cut several branches and stick them among the limbs of your trees during flowering next spring, so you can be certain the blooms are pollinated readily.

Q: There are dead tree trunks a distance away from our house. They are almost mulch; if you drop one, they fall apart. Is this broken down enough to mix with clay using a tiller? — Jeff Spoor, email

A: I think the broken down tree material would make an excellent soil amendment. Once wood is so decomposed that it breaks apart easily, it will no longer rob nitrogen from plants that you install afterward. Crumble it up and till it in at your leisure.