DEAR JESSICA: I have a dwarf peach tree in a sunny backyard. It always gets fungus on its leaves, which I can usually get rid of after two treatments of copper fungicide, but it usually comes back after a couple of months and always at the beginning of summer. Is there any way to keep the fungus away for good?
— Dennis Kenderes,
DEAR DENNIS: Your description and the absence of symptoms in bark, on branches or on fruit leads me to believe you’re likely dealing with peach leaf curl, a fungal disease that manifests in pink-hued, distorted foliage covered in gray spores. Untreated, leaves will crinkle and drop, and the tree will decline for lack of nutrients, which the leaves would otherwise provide.
You may not be able to eradicate the disease, but applying copper fungicide (or lime sulfur) to the entire tree immediately after leaves drop (usually in November) and again in late winter or very early spring — before buds open — should prevent an occurrence the following season.
There also is a chance your tree is becoming infected with powdery mildew, a white or off-white mold that coats young leaves and sometimes twigs, and overwinters in your tree only to re-emerge the following season. Prevention is the same as for leaf curl.
Be judicious with your use of copper fungicide, because, although it is a natural product, improper or overuse can be detrimental — both to your soil and to aquatic life, even if you do not live near the shore. Follow package directions precisely.
DEAR JESSICA: My neighbor has bamboo stalks that are approximately 15 feet tall. Now the stalks are running wild under our fence and sprouting multiple stalks on our side, which range in height from 3 inches to 7 feet tall. Each day, several more sprouts appear, and they are now invading my child’s swing set. I don’t know how to stop this. I do not believe cutting to ground level will cure it.
— Rocco Gabrelli,
DEAR ROCCO: You are correct — cutting running bamboo down to ground level will not stop it, not by a long shot.
For readers who like the tropical wall bamboo provides, stick with Fargesia nitida, a well-behaved, clumping type of bamboo. Steer clear of Phyllostachys, which is the invasive type you’re dealing with.
Phyllostachys actually has been banned in many municipalities around the country, as well as in some Long Island towns. You might call your town hall to learn about restrictions that might be in effect in your town.
I’m assuming your neighbor is growing an invasive species of Asian bamboo, which can spread 20 feet or more in a season. As it spreads via its underground rhizomes, the roots send up new shoots along their path, which is what brings it to your property. To eradicate it, the entire rhizome network would have to be killed, which isn’t an option for you because you don’t own it.
You can, however, try to deplete the plant by mowing it over, very low and very often. This could be effective but could take years. You can try herbicides made up of at least 40 percent glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, or, imazapyr, the active ingredient in products such as Arsenal. Both chemicals will kill every plant they contact, including grass, so they may not be practical in your situation. And neither would be effective against mature canes, so you’d first have to chop or mow the plant to the ground and then spray the product directly on leaves when new shoots reach 20 to 24 inches in height. To avoid chemicals, you could spray straight white vinegar on those new shoots, but again, persistence and repetition are key in order to achieve complete control.
The problem with any chemical (or vinegar) measure, of course, is that the plant isn’t yours. The shoots all are part of one big plant and not separate little trees, despite their appearance. If successful, treating the growth on your side of the fence might kill the whole plant and upset your neighbors, placing you in trouble with them, potentially legally.
The only truly effective, timely — and neighborly — way to handle your problem would be to install a barrier to prevent those underground roots from spreading onto your property. First, you’ll have to pull up all the rhizomes on your side of the fence, digging a trench and installing a concrete, plastic or metal barrier at least 3 feet deep and extending at least 2 inches above ground. You can purchase rhizome barriers from bamboo nurseries or landscape supply companies. It’s probably best to hire an irrigation-system installation company to dig the trench.
Once the rhizomes on your side of the fence have been removed and your property has been separated from the main part of the plant, you shouldn’t have any more problems. If any stray new growth comes up, just pull it out, mow it down or spray it as recommended above.
DEAR JESSICA: I have these two palm trees that were given to my children many moons ago, when the plants were about 3 inches tall. Well, now they are almost 8 feet tall. They have outgrown their present planters, but I am unsure of how to replant them or what type and size planter I should use. I would appreciate any help you can give me. My children are all grown up and married now, so I have full responsibility for these palms.
— Paulette Oland,
DEAR PAULETTE: Most palms tolerate repotting well. Select a container with drainage holes on its bottom and that is only 2 to 4 inches larger than the pot in which the tree is currently growing. Fill it two-thirds full with new potting mix to which you’ve fully incorporated a slow-release fertilizer (measured according to package directions).
Palms require a steady supply of nitrogen, represented by the first number in the N-P-K ratio listed on fertilizer labels, and your newly repotted trees also will require a boost of phosphorus, the second number, to help roots establish well in their new home. The final number, indicated by the K, represents potassium, which aids the overall health of the plant. So look for a product with a second number that’s higher than the first and the third, such as 8-12-8, 10-14-10 or 6-10-8. If you have difficulty finding such a product, a balanced fertilizer — one with three identical numbers — should suffice.
Gently lift the palm out of its container. Judging by the size of your plants, this likely will be a two-person endeavor. If the plant doesn’t lift easily, don’t force it. Instead, lay the pot on its side so you can shimmy it out horizontally.
Center the tree in its new pot, and add more potting mix — tamping down as you go — until the palm is planted at the same depth as it was growing in its old container.
DEAR JESSICA: For the past decade, I get these flying tunneling bees, dozens upon dozens burrowing into my pachysandra and parts of my lawn. They do not sting, and it gets worse every year. They stay about one month, from April until May, then they’re gone until the following year. Any ideas to help me prevent them from returning next year?
— Frank Yamond,
DEAR FRANK: What you’re describing sounds like ground-nesting bees, which typically take advantage of bare soil patches, most often in lawns.
Although they can be a nuisance, ground-nesting bees don’t have a habit of stinging, as you’ve pointed out, and actually are beneficial pollinators. I would recommend ignoring them for their one-month cameo.
They also could be ground-nesting yellow jackets, which are vicious little pests, but this is unlikely since your experience isn’t consistent with their behavior.
There are pesticide sprays available, but they really aren’t necessary. If you must eradicate them, wait until dark and flood the holes with water from a garden hose.
Dominic Pascucci, of Glen Cove, “has the greenest thumb I have ever known,” writes his daughter, Pam Pascucci Giorgi, also of Glen Cove. “He has had a huge garden in our backyard for as long as I can remember, with hundreds of tomato, pepper and other vegetable plants each year, and just about every plant begins from seeds, first in the basement, then to the greenhouse and finally planted in his garden.”
Here, Pascucci, 88, stands near his “upside-down, topsy-turvy tomato planter.” After seeing similar planters advertised, Pascucci developed his own version using repurposed household items. And he even improved upon the original design: “Seeing that there was ‘wasted space,’ he not only has a plant coming out of the bottom, but one growing from the top,” his daughter said.
Relatives affectionately refer to Pascucci’s garden as “Grandpa’s Frankengarden” because “he has grafted different varieties of trees together and also grows exotic fruits and vegetables,” which he shares with family and friends, his daughter said. “We, his family, are a million times blessed.”