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The Magic Garden
Little and big places need room to grow
Morton White

My apple tree is 3 years old and started an apple this year but it somehow went. No apples again this year. Can I cut the tips off each branch in the fall? Will that make the tree wider? I put holly bush, organic food, magnesium, bonemeal and potassium around the tree, and around the holly bushes, rhododendron bushes and my ash tree, which is doing well. The directions said this is good for all trees, and bushes. When can I prune the trees, bushes and how do I prune my butterfly bush, which had a lot of flower this year,
but some have gone brown?
MVO, Warwick, RI

You can go to our library on our website, themagicgarden.com, for instructions on pruning. Briefly, apples need to be pruned in the winter. Wide is better for apples than compact. Clean out any upright shoots and build a scaffolding for flower bearing branches. The butterfly can be cut back to half, if shrub like, in the spring. If your butterfly is older, you can just remove dead flowers. High phosphorus fertilizers are excellent for flower and fruit bearing plants.

Why have the pecan trees survived the drought here in Texas? Do they have a long tap root?
Jack, Austin, TX

Indeed, they do. When they are 4 or 5 years old, they start to send out long lateral roots, as well. Usually trees that are drenched with water are vulnerable to the wind knocking them over. Trees that have a dense screen like evergreens will be good candidates for being toppled. Deciduous trees with smaller leaves allow the wind to pass through the branches and have a good chance to survive. Soft wood trees like willow will break or snap in wind storms. Live oaks with their smaller leaves are sturdy as well. Fallen trees can sometimes be resurrected with heavy equipment by digging out the soil on the lee side and cutting clean the ripped roots. Smaller trees and shrubs can be relieved by hand-dug trenches. These holes should be filled with good soil and no fertilizer.

My asparagus looks sparse this first year. Is there any special care to keep it healthy?
Andy, Austin, TX

You should start over this fall if you did not build a trench that is two feet deep and 18 inches wide. This trench should be filled with 50 percent organic matter, like grass clippings, aged manure and peat. Your regular soil can make up the other 50 percent. Add bonemeal to the equation and till it into the soil before planting the old plants in the new bed. Pick the spears in the spring and let the plants go to seed every year after harvesting.

Mort's book, "A Face Made for Radio," is available now for $14.95, including shipping and handling per copy. Mail check or money order to Whitehouse Productions, 484 Wellington Ave, Cranston, RI 02910.

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