Doug’s mailbag: Apple tree lichens, kiwi plant, growing pea sprouts and more

Posted on: March 23, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Gardening editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

There are three ways to send in your questions:

  • Email
  • Submit your question on our “Your Garden” section of our site
  • Send us a message on Facebook.

(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)


Question 1: Apple tree issue

Ronald: What should I do about this fungus on my apple tree?

Doug: No worries, that’s lichens. They are actually a good thing. It’s a very common question as the lichens look so scary. They are actually indicative of clean air, too. Take a deep breath every time you walk by that tree! It’s always nice when I can give good news!

Question 2: Kiwi plant

Ellen: I am the recipient of a kiwi plant (root ball in a bag) with green vine growing out of the top. The label indicates “prolific” which is rarely good news with plants — unless planting a jungle. Should I even consider planting it? Can kiwi be planted in large containers and then over-wintered or does the climbing vine need to remain outside for winter dormancy? I know we’ll need a sunny location and some type of trellis or arbor — I’m thinking it grows like a grape vine? Any advice you have will be appreciated — even if it’s “maybe the kiwi plant should meet some friends in the compost pile.”

Doug: It’s a really cool plant and would work in a large container with support for the vine. It’s going to have to be a nice-sized trellis, but don’t freak out. The foliage would be susceptible to spring frost, so it can’t go outside until May. You would need to find a place to grow it until then. I think it would be worth a try. I think you’ll really love the little fruit it produces.

Question 3: Growing pea sprouts

Victoria: Can you tell us a little about growing pea sprouts? I had some last year from Phipps (maybe). I’d love to grow them again, but they were started for us and I can’t remember the details. Just start regular peas and trim them early for sprouts?

Doug: It’s easy. I use this Microgreen Grower (available here). If you are sprouting in water, you need food grade seed, but in soil like this, any pea seeds will do. You can start them in any container with soil. I love this one though because I can have it right on the windowsill and not make a mess.

Question 4: Poison ivy

Suaz: I have a patch on the side of my house where I grow dandelions and plantains for our bunnies. I’ve not used any pesticides since I bought the house in 2002. Sadly, poison ivy has invaded the whole area. What can I do to remove it?

Doug: It’s not going to be easy. There are organic herbicides that use clove oil and high concentrations of acidic acid, but they would be just as deadly to the other plants. It’s going to have to be pulled by hand. Wear protective clothing and gloves. If you have a trash bag, use it like people do to clean up for their pets. With your hand in the bag reach to the plant, pull it and then cover it with the bag.

Previous mailbags

Planting grass, starting tomatoes, zinnias and more

Blackberry bush, garlic sprouts and a gardenia tree

Starting peppers, fungus flies and pear tree pruning

Poison ivy, amaryllis troubles, tomatoes and more

Memorial gardens, orchids and tomato advice

Unknown plants, Christmas cactus and raised bed gardens

Christmas cactus, gnats, shredded leaves and more

Leaf size, no-light plants and grubs

Canna lilies, elephant ears, daffodils/garlic and more

Hibiscus care, tomato seeds, daffodils and succulents

Early garlic, pencil holly, hydrangeas and tree locations

Bellflowers, sweet potato vine, deer/garlic and more

Lemon tree, Knockout roses, soil repair and more

Butterfly weed, tomato seeds, rose bushes and more

Roses, Japanese beetles, planting garlic and more

Artillery fungus, heliotropes, crown gall and more

Skunks, pawpaws and a memorial tree

Mushrooms, harlequin bugs, fall planting and more

Beautyberry, nematodes, tomatoes and more

Pokeweed, bug identification and voles/moles

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Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”