Q: Our 10-year-old birch tree has a smaller trunk coming out of the main clump. When would be the best time to remove it, and should it be sealed after the cut? — Paul Thulen, Breckenridge, Minn. A: Removing the smaller fourth trunk from the clump birch is a good idea, as its position could severely squeeze the growth of the other three trunks and cause future trouble. It can be carefully pruned out now, removing it as flush as possible, without leaving a stump. It might take a bit of close surgery to saw it away without scraping the other trunks, but it looks possible.
FARGO — Remember back in high school when students would whine to the teacher, "Why do we have to memorize this? We're never going to use it in real life." I've got to admit I've rarely used the quadratic formula and I've survived without factoring equations for nearly half a century since. But some memorization in high school and college actually pays off, such as learning botanical names of plants.
Can you guess what gardening question I hear most frequently? At the top of the list is "What can I do about rabbits?" followed by preventing tomato blight and the best times to prune. Not far down the garden question list: "Is it too late to plant?" The last question is easier to solve than the rabbit dilemma. Just ask Elmer Fudd, especially since an elderly gentleman running through the neighborhood waving a shotgun after Bugs Bunny is no longer considered appropriate behavior.
Q: My peonies have powdery mildew and I'm wondering what I can do to get rid of it. What causes this? I'm planning to divide them this fall but I don't want to spread it into a different flower bed. — Pat Johnson, Valley City, N.D. A: Powdery mildew is a disease that causes a grayish-white coating commonly found in midsummer on the foliage of peonies, lilacs, zinnias, roses, vine crops and many other plants.
FARGO — It's been nine months since our last quiz, so close your books and take out a sheet of paper. Do your own work and keep your eyes on your own paper. To modernize, I probably should rephrase, but "Shut down your personal learning devices and keep your eyes on your own Scantron" just doesn't have the same ring. These questions, quiz number nine of the past five years, can be answered with a few words.
Q: Hi Don, thought you might be interested in seeing this ash tree growing in a silo west of St. Hilaire, Minn. — Lee Johnson.
Q: I understand there's been progress in developing Dutch elm disease-resistant American elms that are also relatively fast growing. Do you have any information and varieties you can recommend? — Dan Zink, Oxbow, N.D.
FARGO — Have you noticed I never refer to our region's growing conditions as harsh, severe, challenging or any other negative adjectives, as though we're the last outpost on the way to the Arctic Circle? That's because our gardening region is positively wonderful, with more than enough flowers, vegetables and fruits to occupy anyone's gardening lifetime.
Q: I kept my dipladenia indoors over winter, and as you said it would, it dropped many leaves but overall remained healthy. I repotted it in May and the plant looks great with healthy leaves but no flowers yet. Is this typical or should I be adding anything to boost flower production? I use Miracle-Gro weekly. — Nicole Welsch.
Our gardening discussions give us a chance for lighthearted, upbeat fun each week, but it's difficult to put a humorous spin on a tree that's headed for that big landscape in the sky. Around this time five years ago, our gardening column, "The mystery of the murdered tree," investigated visible injury to the base of tree trunks. Now, five years later, I decided to revisit one of the trees we photographed at the time, to see if the tree recovered from its wounds.