Pick most pears before they ripen

Garden Q&A

October 13, 2007|By Ellen Nibali and David Clement

When should I pick my pears? Mine get mushy. Also, how do I know when to harvest apples?

European pears, the type most commonly grown, should not be allowed to ripen on the tree. They will ripen indoors after picking. Harvest when the pears' background color changes and the fruit snaps easily off the branch. Seckel pears are the exception because they can ripen on the tree, though don't wait until they get too soft. Asian pears ripen like Seckel pears. Pick apples when they reach full size and color, and twist easily off the branch.

Over the past month, our 20-year-old white pine has started to turn brown and die. As we drive around, we've noticed this happening to a great number of white pines. What is killing these trees?

In fall, the interior needles of white pine normally turn yellow and drop. This natural process can occur very quickly and look unhealthy but is not. Other pines, though, are dying. White pines are shallow rooted yet are often planted in marginal sites or in rows. In rows, there is shoulder-to-shoulder competition for water and nutrients. Like all plants, white pines are more prone to insect or disease problems when they are stressed. Drought is a great stressor. For a diagnostic chart of pine symptoms, see our online publication IPM Series: Pine.

Checklist

Don't treat crabgrass now. It has already gone to seed. Use a crabgrass pre-emergent herbicide next spring.

Apply mulches no more than 2 to 3 inches deep. Instead of conserving moisture for roots, deep mulch prevents light rain from reaching the soil.

Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and David Clement is the regional specialist. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 (8 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday) or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.

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