Forbidden fruit: Don’t be tempted by oranges from a newly planted tree. Just pinch them off –


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Garden columnist Dan Gill answers readers' questions each week. To send a question, email Gill at [email protected] purchased a Louisiana sweet orange tree recently and planted it. It is blooming nicely and starting to produce tiny fruit. The grower's website listed information on caring for it, including pinching off the fruit the first year when they get to pea size. We are reluctant to sacrifice what could be a plentiful crop of oranges but want to do what's best for the tree. — Dean AndersonI agree with this advice. A young citrus tree can only make so much food for itself. That food must be distributed to all the various parts to support them and allow them to grow and be healthy.It is important for a newly planted tree to devote this food and energy to producing new roots, stems and leaves to get established in its new location. Ripening fruit will take a tremendous amount of the young trees limited resources.So, remove the fruit to allow the tree to devote all the food it produces to growing strong and thriving in its first year in the ground. This is best for the tree.I am adding a large amount of oak leaves to my compost bins now. Will I end up having too much alkaline, and if so, will I need to add more nitrogen to balance it out? — Joe StantonLive oaks are semi-evergreen and hold their leaves over the winter. Live oaks do shed leaves, however, and often drop lots of leaves this time of the year (the amount of leaf drop varies from tree to tree and year to year). Live oak leaves may be used to mulch beds and make a great addition to compost pile.As to pH (the measurement of how acid or alkaline something is), finished compost generally ends up about neutral in pH. There is really no need to worry about the pH of compost.Adding nitrogen to a compost pile does not affect the pH, but it is often a good idea to add nitrogen to a compost pile to speed decomposition.Oak leaves are relatively low in nitrogen, and the fungi and bacteria that decompose the organic matter will work more rapidly if they are provided with nitrogen. Simply sprinkle some nitrogen-containing fertilizer over the leaves as you build your pile (generally, fertilizer is sprinkled over every 12 inches of the pile as you build it).Organic gardeners will want to use an organic source of nitrogen, such as blood meal or cotton seed meal.I need to move my large adult azaleas from the front of my yard to the back of my yard. They are about to bloom, so how long after they finish blooming can I safely dig them up and transplant them to my backyard? Also, should I do anything to them to help them start growing and thrive in their new location once I transplant them? — Cheryl DelmastroThe best time to transplant azaleas is during the winter when they are dormant — from mid-December to mid-February.By the time they finish blooming, they will be in active growth, and the weather will be getting warm/hot. This is a less optimal time to transplant them as they will not tolerate the damage to their roots as well.Azaleas, like most plants, get the water they need from their roots. When you dig them up and move them, you damage the roots and lower the plants’ ability to absorb the water they need.If you do this when they are dormant and the weather is cold, they are drinking water very slowly. They can tolerate the damage to their roots better and are more likely to survive the move.If you do this in warm weather when they are in active growth, they are drinking water rapidly. That makes them less tolerant of the root damage and not as likely to survive. So, it would be best to move them next winter if you can wait.If you must dig them now, the sooner the better. Dig up most of their root system if you expect them to survive. The most important aspect of care once you have replanted them is to pay attention to watering.Given that the roots are damaged, water always needs to be available to the remaining functioning roots. Make sure plants stay properly watered during the summer, but don’t overdo it. Do not to keep the soil constantly soggy or you will drown the remaining roots.

Pink caladiums add color in their piece of the garden.

Jeff Strout 2021

Garden tipsCALLING ALL CALADIUMS:  Plant caladium tubers or started plants in the garden this month through June. Caladiums are excellent for shady areas and combine beautifully with ferns, begonias, torenia, liriope, impatiens, hosta and coleus.WHAT TO PLANT: Vegetables to plant in April include cantaloupe, collards, corn, cucumber, cucuzza, cushaw, honeydew, lima beans, luffa, Malabar spinach, mirliton (plant sprouted fruit), okra, pumpkin, snap beans, Southern peas, squashes, sweet potato (plant rooted cuttings), Swiss chard and watermelon. Plant transplants of tomato, peppers and eggplant.MUCHO MULCH: Be sure to mulch newly planted beds of shrubs or bedding plants with a two-inch layer of leaves, pine straw, pine bark or other materials to control weeds, conserve moisture and keep the soil from packing down.PRUNE SHRUBS: If needed, prune spring-flowering shrubs when they finish blooming. Have a definite purpose in mind before you begin to prune, and prune carefully to achieve your objective. Avoid shearing shrubs unless a formal, high-maintenance, clipped look is desired.WEED WOES: It is very important to pull up and dispose of cool-season annual weeds such as annual bluegrass, henbit, bedstraw and chickweed now. These weeds are setting thousands of seeds that will plague you next winter if not removed now.

I’m often asked for advice on how to have an attractive landscape that does not demand a lot of time and effort to maintain. While there are s…

We can plant a wide variety of vegetables in the home garden this time of the year, but tomatoes are the most popular. If you want to grow fre…

Garden columnist Dan Gill answers readers' questions each week. To send a question, email Gill at [email protected]

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Dan Gill is a retired consumer horticulture specialist with the LSU AgCenter. He hosts the “Garden Show” on WWL-AM Saturdays at 9 a.m. Email gardening questions to [email protected]
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