Doug’s mailbag: Orange azalea bush, oak tree and more tree questions

Posted on: April 5, 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: Orange azalea bush

Donna: This is my orange azalea bush. I asked you once about the straight branches of wood growing and kept them trimmed as you suggested. Now I looked closer before I was going to cut them and they have buds on them. Do I still cut them or leave them? Also is this a fungus and what do I put on it?

Doug: You’ll want to leave the plant alone. Those buds will open to your flowers. The only time to prune the plant will be right after it blooms, before it puts buds on. If you miss the window, you’ll be removing the buds when you prune and hence the flowers. Those are lichens on the plant, which are not a problem. They are actually a good thing and nothing to worry about.

Question 2: Oak tree

Marti: You were very helpful when I was concerned about my tulip tree about two years ago. Now I am very concerned about my big old oak tree. It seems to be thinning out and parts of the leaves last summer seemed to be dying as well as some of the branches. I have googled tree doctors, but everything that comes up seems to deal with tree and stump removal. If there is anything that I can do to save it? Do you have any recommendations?

Doug: You need to have an International Society of Arboriculture-certified arborist look at the tree. They will come out for free and assess it. It’s important especially with an oak these days. Oaks must be pruned at the right time of the season as a disease called oak wilt can affect a tree that’s pruned while in active growth.

I’ve used Davey Tree for decades, but full disclosure, the company has been a sponsor of my radio show for the last several years. I used the company 30 years ago when I lived in Ohio and have called on them many times since, here in Pittsburgh.

Questions 3-4-5: All about trees

Gretchen: I have a few questions:

  1. When can I bring out my figs trees? (They are in pots.)
  2. Is it too late to trim my fruit trees?
  3. I had a peach tree which got some sort of fungus. It had beautiful flowers and peaches and then they withered before ripe. I had to cut it down and pull it out eventually. Is it safe to plant a dwarf sweet cherry tree in that spot and if so, any precautions?

Doug: Here you go:

  1. Everyone does this differently, but here’s my recommendation. I like to bring mine out about the first week of May. You might still need to cover it if there’s a frost, but the tree will be happier outdoors and start growing a little sooner. That gives you a better chance of getting figs.
  2. This is a good time to prune fruit trees, a little late for apples, but perfect for stone fruit like peaches. Remember, pruning is part art and part science. Read up on the specific tree you’re pruning.
  3. Fruit trees in general are susceptible to fungal issues. Most need to be on an organic spray regiment as soon as they leaf out. There’s no problem planting a dwarf cherry in the same spot the peach tree was located. Just know at some point, regardless of the location, the cherry might need to be treated.

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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.”