I'm thinking about ordering Mason bees to pollinate my fruit trees to replace the honeybees that are dying. Is this a good idea?
Winter is the time to order Mason bees. Orchard Mason Bees are native, solitary bees, slightly smaller than honeybees, shiny and dark blue in color. They are very efficient pollinators of fruit crops such as apples, pears, cherries and plums. They have a reputation for being friendly, nonaggressive bees but will sting if they or their nest are threatened.
Buying the bees does not guarantee that they will stay in your orchard. Order soon because there might be great demand for pollinators.
My two old trees have developed large holes in the larger branches. Both trees appear healthy. What do you suggest as a means of preserving the trees and preventing further damage?
Filling holes with solids is never a good idea. Water and movement will eventually cause the fillings to crack and degrade. Painting wounds is also no longer recommended. Prune off loose bark around the hole and allow the tree to naturally close its wounds. Let air keep it dry. The wounds might not be pretty, but as long as the bark is reasonably intact the branches can survive.
When holes weaken structure, branches might eventually break from wind or ice. Correct pruning methods can prevent many tree holes. See our free publication Pruning Ornamental Plants.
Consider the time of the family vacation when planning planting dates and varieties for the vegetable garden. Avoid being out of town when the garden is at peak production.
Keep sticks, roots and woody stems out of your compost pile. They take too long to break down and make it difficult to turn the ingredients.
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 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.