Hey folks,

Hey folks,

Well, it's Memorial Day weekend. We have reached that point in the year when we can safely plant our tomatoes, peppers and warm-season crops. Its also the time of year when you can put your tropical plants back outside for the summer.

But while we are all enjoying a three-day weekend or a barbecue or two, let's not forget why we have Memorial Day: to pay respect to the men and women who have died in wars or in the service of our country.

QI have a large old maple tree in my front yard near the fence and would like to plant a line of blueberry bushes along the fence.

Would treating the soil to make it more acidic for the blueberries harm the tree? It's a beautiful tree, and I would change my plan rather than harm it.

Thanks for your help.

Barbara C.

Maple trees and blueberries can both take an acidic soil, so planting them near the maple shouldn't be a problem.

However, if the tree provides too much shade or you are trying to plant too close to the old maple's roots, the blueberries may not do as well. Blueberries prefer a full-sun location and soil rich in organic matter. Our heavy clay soils should be made more suitable for blueberries with the addition of organic matter, such as peat moss, aged sawdust and composted manure. Unlike many other garden crops, blueberries require a relatively acidic soil for good growth. The soil pH should be within the range of 4.5 to 5.2.

Blueberry plants are a beautiful addition to your home landscape. They provide spring flowers, summer fruit and beautiful fall color, as well as brightly colored stems in the winter. So go ahead and plant your blueberries and enjoy.

QI have a dwarf Japanese lace leaf maple tree that stands about 3 feet tall.

The branches are growing out and sweeping down, giving it more of an appearance of a bush than a tree.

I would like to cut the branches back some to bring it back to looking more like a tree than a bush and was wondering if there is a certain time of year that is better to do this so that I don't harm the tree, or if doing this at all might harm the tree.

Linda B., Montgomery

You can certainly prune your lace leaf maple without harming it. The amount of pruning you plan on doing will determine the time you do it. Small amounts of pruning can be done early in the growing season (no later than July as a rule of thumb). Minor pruning is generally done seasonally to keep the tree at a desired size or shape, kind of what you plan on doing.

If you plan on removing larger branches and/or a lot of growth, then you should prune the tree when it's dormant. Pruning trees to size and shape is a common practice and, when done carefully with some common sense, it can enhance a tree's overall appearance and beauty in the landscape.

QI planted several dogwood trees about two years ago. Several of them are hybrids of Kousa and regular dogwoods.

Last year, I noticed that something had started chewing on the lower portion of the trunks anywhere from ground level to about a foot from the ground. One small hybrid that had wounds almost all the way up one side has died. I wrapped the ones that showed signs of chewing, which I think helped. Today, one of the larger, unwrapped regular dogwoods has chew marks about 4 inches up the trunk and is weeping sap.

Any ideas as to what critter might be doing this and how to get rid of them/protect the trees and why only the dogwoods? I don't think it's deer because the marks are so low.

Kathryn L., Salisbury Mills

There are two culprits that came to mind.

The first is voles, which will often eat the bark of trees or shrubs that have thin bark. That means usually younger trees are more affected; however, most of the damage voles do is through the winter months and is very low on the trunk of the tree near the root flare. This usually happens while there is snow on the ground.

The other culprit and probably the guilty one is a rabbit. They are known for chewing or girdling trees and can damage plants through the year, not just in winter. They can reach higher than a vole so the damage is often found further up on the tree's trunk and lower branches.

To determine whether the culprit that may be girdling the bark off the dogwood trees is a rabbit or a vole, look at the tooth marks near the edge of the damaged area. If the problem was caused by rabbits, you will see paired tooth marks in the trunk of the tree.

Fencing is one of the best ways to protect trees and shrubs from rabbit damage. One-quarter-inch hardware cloth wrapped around the trunk of a tree at a height of 18-20 inches and buried 2-3 inches in the soil will effectively protect the tree from damage. This will also protect the plant from vole damage. Keep the hardware cloth an inch or more away from the trunk. You could also use a tree wrap or hard plastic trunk protectors that wrap around the trunk to help protect them.

Tip of the week

Once your flowering bulbs are done blooming, you don't need to remove spent blossoms, but be sure to allow the leaves to remain in place until they yellow (6-8 weeks).

Flower production for next year will suffer if the leaves don't stay in place long enough to produce food to replace the strength lost in flowering.

You can also feed them with Bulb-Tone or bone meal this time of year.

Dan Daly is a plant fanatic who has been gardening since childhood. With more than 10 years in the business, he's ready to answer all your gardening questions. E-mail him at askdan@th-record.com or send to Ask Dan, the Times Herald-Record, 40 Mulberry St., Middletown 10940.