New virus hits stone fruits

BACKYARD Q&A

March 05, 2000

Q.I have some peach and plum trees in my backyard and heard from a co-worker that there is a new disease affecting stone fruits. What is it and how do I protect against it?

A.The disease is plum pox virus and it was positively identified for the first time in North America this past fall in orchards in Adams County, Pennsylvania. It can infect peach, plum, apricot and nectarine trees but not sweet and sour cherry trees. There have been no positively identified cases of plum pox virus in Maryland. Aphids spread the pathogen from tree to tree and symptoms may not appear for up to four years after initial infection. All plant parts are affected and infected trees decline and die. Controlling aphid populations will help to reduce risk, although it only takes one aphid feeding for a few minutes to transmit the disease. Color images of the disease symptoms on fruits, leaves and seeds are posted on the HGIC web site listed below. If you notice unusual symptoms on your peach and plum trees, please call your county Extension office or HGIC at 1-800-342-2507.

Q.I'm starting flower and vegetable plants indoors and wonder why one is always advised to sow seed thickly and then transplant seedlings into larger and larger containers. Is there anything wrong with sowing a single seed in a large container and letting it grow until it's ready to plant outside?

A.Sowing a large number of seeds in a flat simply saves space and reduces the amount of heat required to germinate the seeds. Your approach is fine as long as you have the room and sufficient bottom heat. But instead of sowing just one seed, plant two or three. Keep the strongest seedling and cut and remove the others with scissors.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Dead leaves and plant parts should be removed from the bottom of backyard ponds with a net. A rake may puncture your liner. If leaves are not removed, methane gas may build up from the decomposition process and harm your fish.

2. Plant hardy fig varieties this spring like Celeste, Brown Turkey and Hardy Chicago. Fig plants are attractive, have few pest problems and you only need one plant to produce figs.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Maryland Cooperative Extension. For additional 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 www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.

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