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Garden Solutions for October

We recently purchased an older home with a mature fig tree in the yard. It is loaded with large greenish-yellow fruit that are falling to the ground. Why would the tree drop so many figs before they ripen?

Figs will shed their fruit early in development, when they are marble-size or when they are fully ripe. Since you specified that the tree is dropping large fruit, I suspect the latter scenario. Have you checked to see if those fruits are actually ripe and sweet? Ripe figs are not always dark in color. There are several types of “white fig” that are greenish-yellow at maturity. To check ripeness, harvest a fruit still attached to the tree that is soft but not mushy. After washing, slice it open. If the knife glides easily through the fig, give it a taste; I’d wager it is ripe and sweet. If not, try another that is a bit softer.

We have been battling long strings of green algae in our backyard pond. What can we do to kill the algae once and for all without also harming our fish?

Algae thrives in sunny bodies of water filled with ample nutrients from fish waste and excess food. Once it takes control of your pond, a combination of actions are needed to kill existing algae and slow its inevitable return. Because you have fish you wish to spare, chemically treating the algae is not a good idea, as the chemicals, called algicides, may also harm aquatic animals. You will need to take a more manual approach. First, remove as much of the algae as you can by hand, and scrub any algae-covered stones and other surfaces without using soap or detergents because cleansers can poison your fish. Next, re-evaluate the number of fish in your pond. Stock your pond with no more than 1 inch of fish per square foot of water surface. If your pond is roughly 6 feet across and 10 feet long (60 square feet), you can safely stock up to 60 inches of fish. This can mean 60 1-inch-long mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) or six 10-inch-long koi. Avoid overfeeding fish to minimize waste and excess nutrients in the water. Finally, use floating plants, such as water lilies, to cover approximately 70% of the pond’s surface. This will drastically reduce the amount of light penetrating into the water, which stimulates algal growth.

In March, we planted a row of several different rose varieties along our bare block wall. We were disappointed to watch the leaves on every bush gradually turn brown. We couldn’t find any bugs on the plants and have been watering them every other day. Could the summer heat just be too much for them?

Yes, the high temperatures and extreme sun may be too much, and your block wall may be radiating heat back at your rose bushes at night, leading to stress that damages leaves. The bushes also were planted a bit late in the season, just before the intense summer weather set in. However, their condition may improve over the next several months. As long as your roses aren’t dead, give them some time to rebound. Spread a 3- to 4-inch-thick layer of mulch on top of the soil to insulate the plants’ roots against extreme daily temperature fluctuations and minimize water evaporation. In addition, avoid pruning the roses this year, which causes stress, and skip the fertilizer, which won’t be needed until new buds form next winter.

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