Q: Spring came so fast this year that I didn't have time to prune my apple and pear trees. The blooms have already dropped off and the little apples are forming. Is it too late to prune?
A: It's OK to prune, but do it as soon as possible. As the leaves enlarge, it becomes a little harder to see the shoots and branches that require pruning. You might want to thin your fruits while you're pruning.
Q: I'm a gardening novice and am confused about how to apply the soluble plant food that I bought. I'm trying to grow annual flowers and vegetables. Is it better to spray it on the leaves or should I just mix the food with water and apply it to the soil around each plant?
A: Foliar feeding is useful in the spring when roots are not sufficiently developed to pick up nutrients from the soil. Plants take in nutrients more efficiently through leaf surfaces (especially the undersides) than through roots.
However, it is impractical to try to meet all of your plants' needs for nutrients through foliar feeding. Work organic matter into your garden beds in the fall and early spring to ensure a steady supply of nutrients to your plants throughout the growing season.
Q: Why have I been seeing gobs of worms on my lawn and driveway? They seemed to appear with those heavy March rains. Does this mean I have a problem in my soil?
A: Contrary to popular belief, heavy rains don't drive earthworms out of the ground. Earthworms are most active and numerous in the spring. They come to the surface during wet periods to mate more freely. Soil insecticides will also drive worms out of the earth. They die because they dry out or are parasitized by insects and diseases.
There is nothing wrong with your soil. What you are witnessing is earthworm biology.
Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the Univer-sity of Maryland. For more information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at http://www.agnr.umd.edu/hgic.
This Week's Checklist
* Monitor azaleas, rhododendron, laurel and andromeda for signs of lace-bug damage. Treat damaged plants with an ultra-fine horticultural oil or an insecticidal soap.
* "Presprout" bean and corn seeds before planting them in the garden. Place the seeds between moist paper towels, roll up the towels and keep them in a ventilated plastic bag on top of your refrigerator. Plant seeds when they've sprouted.
* Spray grapevines susceptible to black rot with fungicide before and after the bloom period.
Pub Date: 4/19/98