Planted four dogwoods last year and I had no blooms...

Q. I

May 13, 2001

Q. I planted four dogwoods last year and I had no blooms this year. The trees get plenty of sun and look healthy. Is there a problem with my soil?

A. No, the problem is that your trees are too immature to flower. Trees must establish a strong root system and pass through a juvenile stage before they will flower and fruit. Keep your trees well watered during periods of drought and keep the lawnmower and string trimmer from damaging the bark. In time you will see blooms.

Q. I have a healthy cover of English ivy over a third of my front yard. This spring, I noticed some small dead areas and lots of brown spots on the leaves. A friend suggested I spray a soap and water mixture to kill whatever it is that's causing the problem. Is this wise?

A. Soap and water will not help with this problem. The spots and dieback are caused by one or more fungal leaf spot diseases. This is a common problem on English ivy. Prune out the damaged portion and give your entire planting a vigorous and thorough raking. Remove and discard all the debris you rake out. Then thin it out by mowing the entire area with the mower blades on the highest setting. Rake out the clipped leaves and stems. This will improve air circulation and reduce disease problems. You can also minimize the spread of this disease with a copper fungicide.

Q. I live in a rowhouse and was recently given two 28-gallon containers that I want to turn into composters for grass, leaves, and kitchen scraps. Will they work?

A. It will be very difficult to succeed with such small containers. The very smallest barrel composters that make good compost on a consistent basis are 55-gallon size. But if you want to give it a try, drill lots of holes in the bottom and sides for air, and drainage. Monitor your barrel to be sure it

doesn't become soggy, throw in a shovelful of finished compost or rich garden soil and roll the barrel every few days to aerate and mix ingredients. If that seems like too much trouble, consider setting up an indoor redworm bin for composting kitchen scraps. Access our telephone service or Web site for more information.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Dig up isolated problem weeds in the lawn or spot-treat with a labeled broad-leaf herbicide (liquid formulation). Avoid spraying the entire lawn or using "weed and feed" combinations.

2. Hand-thin apple, pear, and peach trees so that fruits are spaced 5-6 inches apart.

3. Protect squash, melon and cucumber plants from cucumber beetles with a floating row cover or labeled insecticide like neem. Feeding by cucumber beetles often leads to the transmission of bacterial wilt disease, which kills plants.

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