Urban Gardening

From February 2008 E-newsletter

February Q&A

Question: I bought a property in Washington State that has several mature fruit trees. They look like they have not been pruned or kept up for years, and they have serious moss growing on them. Should I do one major pruning or cut back a small amount at a time over a couple of years?

Answer: Fortunately for you, winter is the time to do major pruning. If you haven't had any training, I suggest consulting an arborist first. Proper annual pruning and tree care are important for peak production.

Regardless of the type of tree, never prune more than one third of the limbs in a year. Removing too much wood at one time can severely shock and even injure the tree and leave it susceptible to disease or death. A professional can guide you in taking the pruning in stages. It may take a few years to get the trees back on track.

Question: I have a big aloe plant that is rotting because its roots got too wet. Is there any way to save it or should I dump it?

Answer: Succulents like aloes and agaves don't need much water and are quite susceptible to rotting if they receive too much. They need a loose, gravelly, well-drained soil mix. If your aloe has sentimental value, you can try to take some leaf cuttings. Cut off the healthiest looking leaves and allow the cuts to dry. They should callous over in a couple of days. Then place the leaves in moist sand in bright light and hope for the best. Rooting takes a few weeks. But this is not guaranteed, especially if the plant is already fading.

Unless your plant is a cherished specimen, you will probably get more joy from a new, healthy plant.

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