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Is it too late to spray, prune, fertilize ...

Extension advice

POSTED: March 12, 2018 6:30 p.m.
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Ashley Hoppers is UGA Extension Service agent for Liberty County.

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As the weather warms up, gardeners spring into action — just as our phones and email at the Extension Office begin to buzz with activity.

Many gardeners have been calling in asking, "Is it too late to (insert any garden chore from fertilizing to planting)."

Perhaps you too are wondering if you have waited too late to perform an overdue garden chore. Below are some common "is it too late" questions that I’ve received this week:

Can I still prune my fruit tree? Even though fruits are budding out, you can still prune them. But try to prune them as soon as possible. Do not prune a tree or shrub within 48 hours of a hard freeze, so be sure to check the weather before you engage in pruning activities. Contact our office for more information on how to prune each fruit.

Can I still prune my trees and shrubs? Spring flowering plants can be pruned anytime after they bloom through mid-July. Most other plants can be pruned from mid-January through mid-September. The main exception to this would be certain trees that ooze a lot of sap when pruned. Prune these trees after the leaves are full size and have become mature and are no longer soft like new leaves. These trees include maple, birch, dogwood, beech, elm, willow, flowering plum and flowering cherry. This loss of sap does not hurt a healthy tree, but it is not attractive.

Can I still use a dormant oil spray to kill scales? Once trees and shrubs begin to grow, you should not use dormant oils. These oils do a great job of controlling scale insects, but they can burn tender young leaves. Use other insecticides now to control these pests. There is a "summer oil" or ultrafine oil that can be used after plants begin to grow. Be very careful when you buy oils to get the one that can be used on your specific plant and at the time of year that you want to use it.

When should I begin spraying my peach tree? Peaches, apples and some plums require regular sprays to produce a good crop. A beetle called the peach curculio "stings" peach and plum fruit causing the fruits to ooze a jelly-like substance and to drop from the tree. Several fungi can rot fruits before they ripen.

To control many insects and diseases that damage fruits, use a premixed "home orchard" or "home fruit tree" spray. This should contain malathion, methoxychlor and captan. There are sprays containing other chemicals like neem oil, but they are not as effective and will need to be applied more frequently.

Begin spraying peaches and plums when most of the petals have fallen off. Start spraying apples when you can see one-fourth-inch of green sticking out of the buds.

To protect bees and other pollinators, do not spray blooming apples or any other fruit trees during prime foraging hours. Sprays during this time should be done very early in the morning or in the evening once pollinators are no longer foraging in the flowers.

Read the label to see how often to spray and how long to wait between the last spray and harvest. Plan ahead as you approach harvest so that the time between the last spray and harvest will be long enough to allow the chemical to break down so that you can harvest and eat the fruits safely.

If this seems like a lot of work, consider buying these fruits at a local fruit stand or grocery store and plant fruits that require less spraying. Low maintenance fruits include blueberries, blackberries, figs and oriental persimmon. You should plant the UGA recommended varieties if you want to have fewer problems.

Can I still mow last year’s ugly leaves off my liriope? Pull the old leaves apart and look into the center of the plant. The new leaves will begin to grow here. If new leaves are already beginning to grow, do not trim the liriope. You may cut off the new leaves. The plant will continue to grow but the new leaves will have blunt, brown ends on them.

For more spring gardening tips, come by the office or give us a call at 912-876-2133. That’s all for now, thanks and happy gardening!

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