Doug’s mailbag: Starting peppers, fungus flies and pear tree pruning

Posted on: February 22, 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 askdoug@535mediallc.com
  • 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.)

peppers

Question 1: Starting peppers

Rand: Have you ever started peppers or tomatoes this early under lights? I know some of my hot peppers take forever early on.

Doug: Hot peppers and other peppers, yes. Tomatoes not until mid-March at the earliest for me. Figure out some bottom heat for those peppers, and they will sprout sooner.

Question 2: Fungus flies

Katie: I have an infestation of fungus flies on my indoor plants … infected soil. I consulted with Kubrick’s and our exterminator, so I know what I should do. Start over! Is there any chance I can put them outside and see what happens and never bring them inside again? Or should I start over?

Doug: You can defeat fungus gnats pretty easily and safely. The first order of business is to let the soil in the houseplants dry out. When fungus gnats are a problem, it’s due to wet soil. That will solve the problem on its own. The gnats can’t continue their life cycle in dry soil. There’s also an organic control called Mosquito Bits, available here. It uses an organic control called BT, which specifically kills the larvae, but can’t harm us, soil life or any beneficial insects.

Question 3: Pruning

Bill: I planted a few pear trees last April. They are about four feet tall and slender. Should I prune this winter or wait another year or two? Thanks for the help.

Doug: It depends on the size of the trees and if there are any crossing branches or branches growing toward the inside of the canopy.

One thing to remember about fruit trees is that good pruning makes harvesting easy. There’s no reason to have a fruit tree growing in a way that makes it impossible to get the fruit. Soergel Orchards is having a free pruning demo at 1 p.m. on Feb. 24. You can find more details here.

That tree is still small and you could wait a year. The pruning seminar will help you figure things out.

Previous mailbags

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Christmas cactus, gnats, shredded leaves and more

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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

Caterpillars, mystery flower, onions and more

Seeds, leaf gall, bulb sale and more

Praying mantis, tomato issues, crabgrass and shrubs

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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.”