Monday, September 21, 2015

Questions about fertilizing and pruning muscadines

Q. My parents live in Avon Park, FL. They told me that the muscadines didn't make this year and I was doing some research and came across your Youtube videos. Any idea why they didn't make?

A. There could be several reasons for not bearing this year, including late frost, lack of pollination - perhaps a nearby pollinator died, failure to prune for several years, lack of pollinating vectors.

Q. Do my parents need to fertilize the muscadine plants? (10-10-10 fertilizer 6 inches from plant and around the plant) With what and what time of year to add fertilizer.

A. If the plants are not putting on much new growth, they might need some 10-10-10. A soil test might indicate the need.

If the plants have any age on them at all, putting fertilizer 6 inches away from the plant will do little good. The roots are shallow and run a long way. It would be best to broadcast the fertilizer around the plants as much as 3 feet or more. Casting the fertilizer with a gloved hand or a lawn fertilizer spreader will work. Fertilize early spring.

A soil test might indicate the need for magnesium sulfate - Epsom salt. You can broadcast some even without taking a soil test. Epsom salt is like chicken soup for some ailing plants. It might help; it can't hurt.

Q. Pruning what time of year?

A. Prune during dormancy with leaves off the plants so you can see what you're doing. That would be from early December to early March. Actually, you can prune other times of year, too. The problem would be knocking off young flowers and fruit. Muscadines will not "bleed to death."

Q. Who can we call to have someone check out the soil pH and check for diseases of the plants?

A. You can do collect a soil sample yourself. Drop by your closest Cooperative Extension Service office. Request a soil sample bag. Add soil to the bag per instructions usually printed on the bag. Return the sample to the Extension office. You will be charged a nominal fee. The office in Highlands County, FL is at 4509 George Blvd., Sebring, FL 33875. A horticulturist with the Extension Service might be persuaded to take a look at the plants to look for diseases. In most cases, muscadine diseases - mostly fungal - aren't worth worrying about.