Big part of red maple gone with the wind, but may not need ax

Garden Q&A

July 28, 1996

Help! Hurricane Bertha's wind broke off a third of my red maple tree. Should I cover the cut with pruning paint or just cut the tree down?

Trees with a stiff, upright branching pattern or brittle wood are susceptible to wind damage. These include some cultivars of red maple, silver maple and willows, and the Bradford pear. These types of trees should be pruned regularly to reduce wind hTC resistance. When individual branches break off, you will need to recut just outside the branch bark ridge with a sharp saw.

Pruning paint is no longer in vogue. It interferes with healing.

When a storm rips off a large section of a tree -- peeling the bark off the trunk -- there are several factors to consider. The tree's natural tendency is to try to survive. However, a severely stressed tree is fighting the odds of nature and rarely recovers completely. If a damaged tree is not in a prominent place in your landscape, leave it alone and let nature take its course.

If, however, a lopsided tree would draw negative attention to your landscape or would cause damage or injury if the rest of it falls, remove and replace it.

I'm growing melons in my garden this year. In the past, I have allowed them to become overripe. How can I tell when to harvest them?

Sometimes it's difficult to know when watermelons and such muskmelons as cantaloupes are ready to harvest. A ripe watermelon will give a hollow sound when it is thumped.

While some people can hear the proper sound, most of us need a more accurate method. Watch the curly tendril closest to the fruit. When it turns from green to brown and the bottom of the melon is creamy yellow, rather than white, the melon is ready to pick.

As for muskmelons, wait until the rind turns tan and the netting appears raised. You will smell the strong, sweet fragrance and the fruit will easily detach or slip from the stem with slight thumb pressure. If you have to pull a muskmelon from the vine, it is probably not ready to harvest.

Huge, 2-inch-long wasps, resembling yellow jackets, are living in my lawn. What should I do about them?

These large wasps are cicada killers. They are beneficial because they help control the cicada population. They are solitary and rest in burrows in the ground. The female wasp stings a cicada and takes it to her burrow. She deposits an egg on the paralyzed cicada, which will serve as a food source for the wasp larvae upon hatching.

Although they are fearsome in appearance, these wasps are non-aggressive and rarely bother people. We do not recommend any action.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on the above or other gardening questions, call the center's toll-free hot line at (800) 342-2507 and talk with a horticultural consultant or listen to tapes covering the most common garden problems.

Checklist

* Continue spraying fruit trees and vines to prevent disease and insect problems.

* Consider release of predatory insects to control pest problems.

* Avoid placing excessive mulch (more than 2 to 3 inches) around trees and shrubs.

Pub Date: 7/28/96

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