Currants don't mind the shade

Garden Q&A

February 02, 1997

I just moved into a house in the city with a large back yard that is in partial shade. Are there any types of fruit trees I can grow? I'm an organic gardener and don't want to spray any chemical pesticides.

Fruit trees require sunny, well-drained locations as well as lots of attention. It's difficult to harvest good, edible fruit without using pesticides but it can be done.

Blueberries, currants and gooseberries all can be grown successfully in partial shade, and usually produce good crops in an urban setting without any sprays.

Avoid the temptation to run out, buy some bargain fruit plants and jam them into an open spot in your yard. Since you have just moved into your house, take the time to observe your back yard through the coming spring and summer. Find the sunniest spot in your partially shaded back yard, making sure it is also one where water drains well after a rain. In late summer, take a soil sample and prepare the site by adding organic matter. (If planting blueberries, you'll need to lower the soil pH to 4.5, using iron sulfate.) Wait until this time next year to order your plants and set them out in early spring.

There are little black beetles crawling around my windowsill. Where did they come from and how can I get rid of them?

If you have firewood in the house, it's a good possibility that you are seeing bark beetles that have emerged from the logs. Check the logs for tiny holes in the bark. Other, larger boring beetles may also emerge from the firewood. Because it's warm in the house, the beetles think it's springtime. Attracted by the light coming through the windows, they are trying to get outside. A quick way to get rid of them is to vacuum them up. In the meantime, leave firewood outside until you are ready to use it. Bring in only small quantities at a time.

The trunk of my prized Japanese maple was split by snow and ice. Can it be salvaged?

The type of damage you describe is very serious. However, if the tissues in the wood have not dried out, there is a chance that the split pieces will grow back together and heal over if they are carefully bound with strong tape (duct tape works fine). This is especially true for injuries that occur in the early spring -- before new growth starts. If the split pieces don't grow together, you will have to remove the dead wood and decide whether the tree is worth saving.

The bark has been completely stripped from some of the thin branches on my two Chinese chestnut trees. Is this animal damage?

Yes, it is -- squirrels, to be specific. They strip bark during the winter from a wide variety of trees to build and repair nests. Besides being unsightly, these damaged branches are prone to attack by disease and insects. Prune back stripped branches to the next healthy branch.

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 these questions or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at (800) 342-2507.

Pub Date: 2/02/97

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