GARDENER'S MAILBAG: How long until my lemon tree bears fruit?

By Neil Sperry
Special to the Herald Democrat

Dear Neil: We thought our Meyer lemon tree had died, but it has produced a strong and leafy sprout that is now about 5 feet tall. It has great sentimental value because it was planted in memory of a family member. How many years will it be until we will know if it will bear fruit?

If it’s that vigorous it shouldn’t be too many (2-3 at the most). It sounds like it’s on its way.

Dear Neil: We have a weed that has invaded our St. Augustine lawn and our neighbor’s as well over the past three years. It is very dense, and I’ve been unsuccessful in identifying it. Is there any way to control it?

Your thumbnail photo didn’t have enough resolution to zoom in to look for flowers or seeds. It’s a broadleafed weed, so any of the products labeled for broadleafed weed control in St. Augustine lawns would be appropriate. They will control 2,4-D, and most will also contain two other active ingredients. You’ll see warnings not to apply them when temperatures are high and when the grass is being hit by summer sun. You’re coming into a good time to do the treating. Use a pump sprayer so that you can be very precise with your application. Coat the leaves almost to the point of runoff. Repeat in three weeks if any of the plants survive the first application.

Dear Neil: What is happening to these pittosporums? I’ve had them for years. I have already lost two shrubs.

Pittosporums

This is probably latent freeze damage from last February. Many gardeners who were growing pittosporums lost them within the first few days of thawing. Others have experienced the same thing that you’re seeing. I do not believe this to be insect- or disease-related.

Dear Neil: Our neighbor’s trumpetvine has made its way into our yard. It has invaded shrubs and beds. We have found it impossible to dig up. We try to keep it cut off at ground line, but it continues to spread. What can we do?

Trumpetvine

Perhaps your neighbor is having the same chaos, and maybe the two of you could team up to eliminate the “mother” plant that is giving rise to all the root sprouts. Cut the main plant off at ground line, drill holes 1/4-inch wide and 1 inch deep into the stump, and use an eyedropper to fill each of the holes with a broadleafed weedkiller (containing 2,4-D) at full strength. It will soak into the stump, and it will be carried out to all of the roots. It should stop them from growing. Any that do continue to grow can easily enough be controlled by mowing and occasionally by hand-digging the worst of them. If your neighbors are not interested in doing this, your only recourse would be to dig a trench 15 or 18 inches deep and install a heavy vinyl pond liner barrier to stop the roots at the property line. You would still have to cope with all the sprouts, but they would gradually fade away.

Dear Neil: How can I get rid of ants? I’ve tried vinegar, hot water and corn meal, but they keep coming back. What can I do?

I’m just not the advocate for those remedies. I’ve had way too many reports that sound just like yours. Please go to a Texas Master Certified Nursery Professional and ask for help in choosing the best product. Stick with legally labeled insecticides. There are many fine products that will control ant populations effectively and efficiently. To some degree, it will depend on the type of ants involved.

Dear Neil: I planted a 1-foot Mexican sycamore in early July. I watered it well in July, but I may have let it get too dry at some point in August. It lost lots of leaves, so I resumed my watering three times per week. Do you think it will recover, or do you think that I’ve lost it?

Only time can tell. Newly planted trees are especially vulnerable. If it’s going to survive, you should be seeing at least modest bursts of new growth this fall. Sit tight and watch for now.

Dear Neil: I have a lovely pink hibiscus that has, after five years, become unruly. When can it be trimmed and reshaped?

Pink Hibiscus

Obviously, it hasn’t been exposed to any hard freezes, perhaps because you have it in a large pot that you can bring into protection when it’s really cold. In any event, the best time to prune it would be in February, before it begins its spring growth. Try not to remove more than one-third of its top growth. Extreme pruning produces strong vegetative regrowth at the expense of flowers.

Have a question you’d like Neil to consider? Mail it to him in care of this newspaper or e-mail him at mailbag@sperrygardens.com. Neil regrets that he cannot reply to questions individually.