Question: We purchased a number of fruit trees last year. We are curious as to when they will start producing fruit?

Answer: Your fruit tree normally will begin to bear fruit soon after it has become old enough to blossom freely. Nevertheless, the health of your tree and its environment, its fruiting habits, and the cultural practices you use, can influence its ability to produce fruit. Adequate pollination is also essential to fruit yield. If just one of these conditions is unfavorable, yields may be reduced. In some cases it may not bear fruit at all.

When you purchase nursery-grown fruit trees, their tops will probably be from 1 to 2 years old. The length of time from planting to fruit bearing varies with the type of fruit. Trees that grow at a moderate rate generally bear fruit sooner than those that grow either too quickly or too slowly.

The age (from planting) when trees can be expected to bear fruit are as follows:

Variety Time in Years

Apple 2 to 5

Apricot 2 to 5

Cherry, sour 3 to 5

Cherry, sweet 4 to 7

Citrus 3 to 5

Fig 2 to 3

Peach 2 to 4

Pear 4 to 6

Plum 3 to 6

Quince 5 to 6

Dwarf apple and dwarf pear trees usually begin to bear one to two years earlier than standard sized trees.

Most fruit trees need to be pollinated. Without sufficient pollination, they may blossom abundantly, but will not bear fruit. Plant at least two varieties of apple trees near one another. Golden delicious, a self-fruitful type, is one of the few exceptions to this rule. Poor pollen-producing types, such as Baldwin, Gravenstein, staymen and winesap need to be planted with at least two other varieties to insure adequate pollination.

Bing, Lambert, and royal Ann cherry trees do not pollinate one another. Plant a pollinating variety such as black tartarian, Republican, Van or Windsor, or a sour cherry such as Montmorency nearby.

WSU Cooperative Extension has a wonderful publication which provides detailed information on recommended tree fruit varieties for our area, including pollination charts. Appropriately titled: "Tree Fruit Varieties for Western Washington." A copy can be obtained by calling the WSU Publications office at: (800) 723-1763 and asking for EB 0937. The cost is $2.50

Question: We have a lawn that is a real mess. It is full of weeds, the grass is really thin in some places and thick and full of thatch in others. My husband thinks we can just scalp it with the mower, rake off all of the clippings and re-seed. Will that really work?

Answer: Most likely it won't work simply because the seed will have a very difficult time getting into the soil for germination. A far better approach would be to strip off all of the existing sod and put it in the compost heap. Then thoroughly "rototill" the soil, smooth it out and re-seed.

Stripping off the sod usually is not effective in removing deeply rooted perennial weeds like dandelions. If the existing lawn is infested with weeds or undesirable grasses, a better approach would be to first spray the existing turf with a non-selective herbicide like Round-up and then wait until the weeds and grass are completely dead before beginning sod removal. A thorough rototilling of the bare soil prior to planting will pay dividends in both increased grass seed germination, establishment and overall vigor of the lawn.

EDITOR'S NOTE: For answers to local gardening questions, contact Master Gardener Rachel Gana at 642-8723 or e-mail her at: baiter1@pacifier.com.

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