Loquat with fruit

This loquat tree is producing fruit but the trees aren’t especially winter-hardy in Texas.

DEAR NEIL: Is there any way to keep wild persimmons from bearing fruit? We track the mess into our house, and they make the patio almost unusable.

Dear Reader: I’m often asked that question relative to fruiting mulberries, and unfortunately, the answer is about the same for both. There is no mechanical or chemical means of preventing or removing fruit before it becomes messy.

While I don’t want to be the executioner for what might otherwise be very nice trees, your only recourse short of removing them will be to sweep or blow them away daily (or more often). I wish I had a more satisfactory answer for you.

DEAR NEIL: Our loquat tree produces fruit, and I planted three seeds in pots last summer. They started growing last fall, and now one is 10 inches tall, the other two about 6 inches tall.

When should I plant them, and should they be separated? They are all currently in the same pot.

Dear Reader: Loquats are beautiful trees, even if they’re winter-tender in much of Texas. You should separate those trees before any more time passes this spring.

They’re large enough to pot up individually. I’d put each tree into a 5-gallon nursery pot that has been filled with a lightweight potting soil. You want to do that before they start active spring growth that could be damaged by the loss of roots that will occur.

Keep them in pots for a year, so you can protect them from next winter’s cold, then set them out in their permanent homes next spring if you’re in an area where they won’t freeze.

DEAR NEIL: What insect stings tomatoes just before they ripen, causing them to rot from the inside, and how can I eliminate the pests this year? They look like stink bugs, but they are black.

Dear Reader: That sounds like the damage of the leaf-footed bug. They are occasional visitors to tomato fruit as it nears maturity, and the damage you described is a match.

They are a bit difficult to eliminate, but most product manufacturers have at least one or two garden insecticides that list them on their labels. Repeat applications may be needed. Unfortunately, there is no preventive treatment you can apply now.

DEAR NEIL: I’ve attached a photo of a weed that is growing in the cemetery where I work. We cannot seem to eliminate it. I’ve tried pulling it, but I can’t get all of the roots, and the sprays I’ve tried haven’t helped. What could I apply that might offer us some control?

Dear Reader: Your photo was fine, but there are so many weeds that are similar in their finely cut foliage — I don’t know its precise name. That probably doesn’t matter, however, since the same products should control most non-grassy weeds.

Apply a spray containing 2,4-D, probably in a three-way blend known as Trimec. Spray when the weed is growing actively, and don’t mow for several days before or after you spray. Do not spray when winds exceed 5 to 10 mph. Read label directions and follow them explicitly.

Be especially cautious using any herbicide around existing trees and shrubs. Those precautions sound stifling, but they really aren’t, once you get the hang of things. Re-treat in two or three weeks, if necessary.

DEAR NEIL: My new property has several oak trees that are surrounded by stone borders that are almost 10 feet in diameter. Weeds come up within the beds.

I was told not to apply weedkillers within the beds, for fear of damaging the tree roots. I was told not to use weedblocking fabric due to Texas droughts. I don’t want to hand-pull the weeds again this year. What can I do?

Dear Reader: You can certainly apply a glyphosate-only herbicide (no other active ingredients) around trees’ trunks without fear of damaging the trees. They are quite effective in eliminating invading Bermuda grass. They do not penetrate the soil to impact the plants’ roots.

Your only concern would be to keep the spray away from any green (no bark) tree trunk tissues that might be exposed. And I’m not entirely sure why a weed-blocking fabric would be of concern during drought. By killing weeds, it would rebate all the water they would have been using. I think that warning is in error.

A 1-inch layer of mulch would also slow growth of weed seedlings. So there are three good options. Personally, I would start by spot-spraying with the glyphosate once the weeds are up and growing actively.

DEAR NEIL: We have an 8-year-old Meyer lemon tree that has grown to be 10 feet tall. It has had a scale outbreak for many of those years.

For a while, I was able to reach all the pests, but now it’s so tall and full of branches that I can’t reach the trunk, where scale now covers the bark. What might I do?

Dear Reader: Scale insects are traditionally among the most difficult pests to eliminate. Horticultural oil sprays applied during winter will help.

A systemic insecticide applied as a soil drench could also help, but not if your plant has fruit in place.

You’ll have to be vigilant, and several treatments will be needed. The dead scales will not fall off, but they will become dry and flaky as they die.

Have a question you’d like Neil to consider? Email him at mailbag@sperrygardens.com. Neil regrets that he cannot reply to questions individually.

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