Homegrown: Dwarf fruit trees, Zoysia grass

What kinds of dwarf apricot and cherry trees do you recommend?

— Lee

The first thing to remember about the “dwarf” stone fruits is that they’re not really that much smaller than a standard sized tree. A dwarfing rootstock will generally only reduce the size of the tree 10–15 percent.

If you want to keep a tree a bit smaller, you can accomplish that by proper pruning. Keep in mind that you really can’t limit the growth of the tree, you can only direct it.

Shearing the tree back each year to a little ball will result in little, if any fruit and eventually lead to the decline and death of the tree over the years.

What you can do is to prune the tree to reduce its height but you have to allow the tree to compensate for that by letting it grow wider than it otherwise would.

As to varieties, there are a lot of choices out there.

In sweet cherries, most of them require a second variety to pollinate the flowers. The exception is a variety called Stella. This variety is mostly self-fertile (though it produces a larger, more consistent crop with another variety nearby).

Stella also is good at pollinating most of the other common varieties of sweet cherry out there such as Bing, Royal Ann and Lambert. Keep in mind that these last three varieties will not pollinate each other, you need another variety such as Stella, Black Tartarian or Van.

If you’re looking for a sour or pie cherry, they are mostly self-fertile with the most common variety being Montmorency. A sour cherry is sort of OK at pollinating a sweet cherry. They bloom at different times but there’s usually some overlap.

You’re really better off using two sweet cherries to pollinate each other.

Apricots are usually self-fertile. Common commercial varieties such as Moorpark, Blenheim and Tilton work well, but you might consider “cold country” varieties such as Chinese or Montrose as they bloom a week or two later than the others and can avoid crop loss due to frosts.

What can you tell me about Zoysia grass? Will it grow here? Is it really as low maintenance and wonderful as it sounds?

— Donna

The answer to your question is, in general, “no.”

To tell you the truth, I’m not a big fan of Zoysia grass here. We can see winter dieback problems in this area.

Zoysia can become quite invasive and tends to form a thick thatch layer. It also needs to be mowed quite short (half to one third the height of Bluegrass), which can increase maintenance.

Zoysia also is a warm season grass, it doesn’t green up in the spring until May and browns out in late September to early October. I still think our best “traditional” lawn grass around here is Bluegrass.

I started an avocado from seed about 6 months ago. After the seed took root in water I planted the seed about half in soil and half out of the soil. Now the seed is brown and deteriorating. Is that normal, or what do I do?

— Kim

I don’t think you have much to worry about. It’s normal for the seed to shrivel up and eventually rot away.

The seedling uses the stored energy in that fat seed to give it a good start, and once the food stores are used up, the remnants of the seed kind of disappear.

Now, all of this is assuming that the new plant you have is looking good and healthy. If it’s growing with good green leaves, don’t worry.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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