Q: My burning bush is about 35 years old. Last fall it didn’t turn red. This spring it did come out with green leaves with some dead limbs on it. If I cut it down, will it come back?
M.O. of Troy
A: First of all, I want to compliment you that you have kept a burning bush shrub alive for more than 35 years. There were several burning bush shrubs that did not turn deep red last fall. The biggest reason that the burning bush does not turn red in fall is that it did not receive enough bright sunlight. If you check in your yard, you may find a tree beginning to shade the burning bush more as the tree grows, especially if the tree is shading your burning bush for more than 50 percent of the day.
Prune out all the dead branches of your burning bush so that the healthy stems may still produce sugar to store for next year’s spring growth. You can prune the healthy branches back to 50 percent of their total length to help them branch out next spring.
Q: Our thornless blackberry plants have dried up and the fruits are all dried up too. What can we do about this?
M. D. of Troy
A: As soon as you notice that your blackberry plants are under stress from lack of water, you need to add water to your blackberry plants on a daily basis. A commercial blackberry grower has been watering his plants as soon as the leaves started to hint of yellow color. The fruits were still red for a long time. He had a large water wagon that holds about 70 gallons of water that he flooded the soil surface from a one and a half inch hose. His soil sloped ever so slightly to the east and he made sure that the water ran for the entire length of his row and soaked into the soil.
I checked with him this morning and his blackberries are about the size of a quarter. He does this every day that he did not receive any rainfall. I asked him about his water bill and he stated that he had a small waterfall pump that could fill his tank in about 20 minutes from an intermittent creek. The pump runs off an automobile battery. Some of the bushes had leaves that turned yellow and these bushes produced ‘gummies’ (which are small, hard colored berries which are not useful as the birds do not even eat these berries). His biggest problem is that box turtles have discovered the blackberry patch but just eat any of the berries that fall from the plants.
Q: Our cucumbers really taste bad this year. What caused this to happen?
S. K. of Belleville
A: Some gardeners plant ‘burpless’ cucumbers as ordinary cucumbers produce a bitter compound called cucubitacins especially during hot dry weather with poor fertilization. This bitter taste is usually accompanied by gas and digestive disorders. You can prevent some of this by cutting off the stem and peeling off the entire cucumber skin. Some shading may also help as well as frequent watering during dry spells.
Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Department, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things to do this week:
- Check you plant’s soil to see the depth of moisture in the soil. Hopefully it is at least five inches deep in your vegetable garden. If not, you need to be adding water slowly so the water does not run off the soil surface.
- Check on insect damage as there are insects this year that are getting their necessary water from plant fruits and leaves. Dust with a powder insecticide. You may want to wet the foliage to help it stick.