Wet weather can cause problems with some plants, shrubs

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 4, 2010

After a long dry spell, many that have been complaining about the heat and drought have had their prayers temporarily answered.

However, as we accept the good we must learn to tolerate or prevent the bad. I explained some problems with St. Augustine lawns and chinch bugs last week. Homeowners with these lawns may also be on the lookout for brown patch which is susceptible following these weather patterns.

Despite lawn trouble, rain and damp conditions can also have adverse affects on many trees and shrubs. Most of the time when we see problems with wetness it is related to disease and fungal activity.

One particular tree has received extra attention this spring and summer. I have received six calls and have seen several other cases of wet summer weather causing problems with Bradford pears this week alone. Therefore, let’s further look into the situation.

Q: What is wrong with my Bradford pears?

A: We receive lots of calls on Bradford pears throughout the year because it is an interesting tree.

Many homeowners choose to use Bradford pears in their home landscape for many reasons. They have an amazing look at full bloom, the sculpture of their branches is unique, and they have a desired shape that many home owners find attractive.

However, they do have some negatives. They are one of the few trees that literally self destructs over time.

Unlike most trees the branches of Bradford pears grow vertically, as the branch diameter expands they literally push themselves to the point of breaking, this often resulting in limb loss and, in some cases, death.

We get a few calls every year about the lack of fruit production of these trees when planted in the backyard. Bradford pears are ornamental trees not designed or intended for consumption. The fruit itself is quite small and usually is not even shaped like a pear.

Right now the calls coming in are referring to the outer leaves dying off and death slowly spreading down the limb.

This is a common and unwanted disease called “fire blight.” Fire blight is usually worst in wet conditions like we have seen the last two weeks and are predicted for next week.

There is an antibiotic spray to prevent fire blight if applied during the blooming period, but if you have it now, you are past that point.

Now you must look at stopping it from spreading.

Fire blight is a disease that can be carried over from year-to-year so limb removal, though not the most attractive option, is the best option.

When removing branches infected with fire blight it is important to cut them back at least six inches past the last visible signs of infection.

It is important to remember that fire blight is a disease, so Mississippi State University recommends you clean and disinfect tools during and after the pruning process. Bleach diluted to 10 percent strength or rubbing alcohol are good common disinfectants.

David Carter is the director of the Adams County Extension Service. He can be reached at 601-445-8201.