We all deal with frosts, wind, rain, drought, pests, short gardening seasons, and a wide variety of soil types. Here from The 2014 All-Seasons Garden Guide are some of the most frequently asked questions about growing vegetables and fruit, with recommendations by Mark Cullen.
Your Top Questions about Edibles . . . with the Best Answers
Q: How, and when, do I prune an old apple tree?
A: A well-pruned apple tree will maximize fruit production and minimize the development of common diseases such as apple scab and mildew. Prune apple trees in late winter before new growth begins. Remove all dead, diseased, and crossing branches and any vertical suckers. The goal of pruning is to open up the structure of the tree to improve air circulation and light penetration. Ultimately, create a shape that resembles that of a circle of perched vultures, with the top branches hunching down in a sweeping fashion and the top open to sunshine. Prune lower branches to about 4 to 5 feet off the ground.
Q: Do you recommend growing onions from seeds or sets?
A: Onion sets mature into large cooking onions more quickly. They are a better choice for locations with a short growing season. However, onion seeds cost less than sets, and offer a greater choice of varieties, including heirlooms. Onion seeds can be started indoors and then transplanted into the garden.
Q: How do I grow straight cucumbers? Mine always curve and often rot on the bottom.
A: Provide a vertical support structure for cucumber plants. Allow the plant to climb and let the fruit hang from the support. This will produce straight cucumbers and reduce the risk of rot. Keeping the fruit off the soil surface allows air circulation around the entire cucumber, which minimizes the occurrences of rot and mildew.
Q: I would like to grow a pear tree. Is it possible to use the seeds from a pear that I purchased at the grocery store?
A: Pears do not generally grow true from seed. Commercially produced pear trees are grafted, which ensures that they will grow and bear fruit true to their variety. A pear tree grown from seed is a gamble: You will not know how large it might get or its general growth characteristics, and it will take many, many years to bear fruit.
Q: Is it possible to grow radishes in a pot on my balcony?
A: Radishes are a great choice for growing in containers and a great starting project for kids, as they are almost foolproof. Start with a large pot, at least 14 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Make sure that there are drainage holes in the bottom. Use a quality container potting mix that retains moisture and drains freely. Thin seedlings to 1 inch apart; radishes do not like to be crowded.
The 2014 All-Seasons Garden Guide is now available here!