Fruit

Bulge on dwarf apple tree: Several years ago I planted a dwarf apple tree. Over the years, a large bulge appeared on the trunk. What is the cause of this?

Answer: Most fruit trees are grafted by joining one plant part to another. It is not uncommon for an enlarged area to develop from the graft union. In this case, your tree probably has been grafted twice using pieces of three plants. The first piece provides a root (stock) system that helps control the size of the plant. Possibly, a second part of the stem (interstem) was grafted to also control size. Finally, a third piece, which determines the variety of apple, has probably been grafted.

The graft unions develop at different rates, which may have created the bulge. A poor graft union that is weakened could also account for the bulge. The bottom line is that this is part of the tree’s growth structure. There is not much that can be done. If this bulge is a weakened area of the tree, its life expectancy could be reduced.

Growing blueberries: Can blueberries grow in our area? If so, what varieties do you recommend?

Answer: The blueberry is one of the few fruits native to the United States where they abound on the coasts of northeastern states. Blueberries can be grown in the Kansas City climate, but it will take some work to produce a good crop. It is well worth the effort when you are rewarded with delicious, fresh blueberries. Most of the soils in our area do not have the qualities that blueberries prefer - high in organic matter, evenly moist, and an acidic pH. Blueberries prefer full sun, which has very different meanings on the east coast and in our area.

Start by properly planning the blueberry patch. Select a site that receives morning or early afternoon sun. Shade and wind protection in the afternoon will be beneficial for the plants. Next, take a soil sample and make the needed pH adjustments to lower the soil to about 5.5 by applying sulfur. Most of our soils run between 6.5 and 7.5. Adding organic matter is a must for a healthy root system. Once planted, provide the plants with even moisture through timely irrigation and fertilize regularly during the season.

Try these varieties in your garden:  Bluecrop, Blueray, Colville, Jersey or Herbert.

Caring for strawberry beds: This was my first year for a strawberry bed. I had a pretty good harvest, but I am not sure what to do with the bed now that July has arrived and the harvest is over. Would you please run down the list of things to do for a strawberry bed?

Answer: To ensure a good crop of fresh, great tasting strawberries next year, the bed should be renovated after this year’s harvest. July is probably too late, so you will need to wait until next year. Renovation may sound extreme, but it is extremely beneficial for the bed. When renovating, remove about two-thirds of the plants to allow for the development of the new young, vigorous and productive plants. If all the plants were left in the bed, they would become too thick and choke themselves out. Remove the plants by tilling or spading the bed into narrow bands of plants about one foot wide and two to three feet apart.

After thinning the plants, fertilize and keep them well watered. Strawberries set their flower buds in August and early September when it is hot and dry. Because strawberries have shallow roots, regular watering is essential. A second application of fertilizer in August is beneficial. The strawberries should be mulched for winter after several hard freezes when temperatures drop to the mid 20s. Cover the bed with two to three inches of straw or grass clippings. Remove the mulch in spring.

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