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Labels indicate fruit trees’ mature size

Q: I want to add a couple of fruit trees to my landscaping. I’m a bit confused as to the sizes listed on the labels that are on the trees. Can you clear it up for me? – W.F., West Side

A: Fruit trees are divided into three major categories: The first size would be “standard,” then “semi-dwarf” and lastly “genetic dwarf.”

A fruit tree listed as standard can grow to a mature height of 25 feet – 18 to 25 feet is average. The semi-dwarf tree is a bit more manageable for the home gardener. They’ll average 15 to 18 feet tall at maturity. Now, if you have space constraints, think genetic dwarf. These wee marvels usually top out at a mature height of no more than 6 feet. Genetic dwarfs can be grown in half barrels or really large pots for growers who want a fruit tree in a patio type of environment.

So that’s the key to sizes. I’ve remembered it like the Three Bears: Papa Bear equals big, or standard; Mama Bear equals medium, or semi-dwarf; and Baby Bear equals little, or dwarf! Hope that helps.


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Q: I’ve had a lot of trouble with that pesky bug called a “leaf hopper” in the past. What is the best way to help prevent these bugs? – H.E., South Valley

A: The best way to try to keep ahead of these wretched bitty bugs is cleanliness!

All around the perimeter of your property you must eliminate any weeds you can find. Leaf hoppers really like living in weeds, especially the wild mustard that grows so well in these parts, so if you have any weeds growing near or in your landscaping you’re inviting the hoppers. Be extremely vigilant about weeding especially now that we’ve had a bit of rain in the area. You can bet that first crop of annual weeds are popping up everywhere.

Another thing you can do is fluff your mulch. By turning and re-working the mulch you allow the eggs to be brought to the surface, so to speak. That movement will expose the eggs to more varied temperature extremes, hopefully killing them. One more suggestion would be administering an application of dormant oil to your plantings. Established trees, shrubs, roses and still-sleeping perennial plants would certainly benefit from a spraying this time of year. Now, if you have plants that are in full bloom, please consider waiting until that flush of flower has begun to fade if you want to spray with the oil. That will ensure your early flowering plants have the chance to be pollinated, guaranteeing their continued success.

So get out there and get any young weeds you can find, fluff your mulch and consider an application of dormant oil, so you’ll have fewer leaf hoppers to deal with as the season advances.

Q: I have a spot on my walkway that gets slippery when we have wet weather and it freezes regularly. I try not to apply too much ice melt since I think it can harm plant life, right? Do you have any other suggestions on something I could put down that won’t harm my plants? – A.F., North Valley

A: This might sound odd, but try sprinkling a granular lawn food in the area. Make sure that the fertilizer you sprinkle doesn’t contain a weed killer or you could poison plants that you don’t mean to. Just a normal granular lawn food should help keep that area from freezing. The higher nitrogen level in the fertilizer creates heat naturally, so it’ll help. As the area dries, keep the fertilizer swept off the walkway because some fertilizer, especially if it contains added iron, can pit or mar the concrete. You will want to water the soil on either side of the walkway deeply several times after the weather moderates so the excess fertilizer gets diluted. That way any surrounding plant life isn’t hurt by too much food.

Hope this helps keep you and your landscaping a bit safer. Happy Digging In!

Need tips on growing your garden? Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Rio West, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.