Question: I had some apricots that turned brown and rotted on the tree last year and this year there were even more. Do you know what causes that? Can I do something about it?

Answer: There is more than one possible cause for fruit that decays on the tree. Brown rot is more common on peaches and plums, but can affect apricots and cherries, too. It is a fungal disease and warm, wet weather can contribute to the infections.

Brown rot could be the problem on your apricot tree, but there’s no way to know for sure without careful examination of the tree or fruits.

The most important things you can do now for problems like this are the same things that every fruit tree owner should be doing every year.

  • Don’t leave any fruit on your trees after harvest is finished. Also, clean up any dropped fruit under the trees. Old fruit can harbor pests and diseases over the winter. The cleaner you keep your home orchard, the lower the chance of serious pest and disease problems.
  • Prune out any dead wood in your trees, as dead twigs and branches can attract pests.
  • Thin the fruit on your trees while the fruit is small. Proper thinning makes it easier to do good pest and disease control.
  • Next summer, keep suckers and water sprouts pruned out to reduce humidity in the canopy of the tree. Good air circulation is important for healthy fruit trees.
  • Water deeply, but infrequently to promote good tree health. If you’re watering with sprinklers, adjust the sprinklers so that the foliage stays dry.

Question: I’ve been gardening for several years now, and this is the worst year of them all. Am I the only one who’s been having a bad year in the garden?

Answer: You’re part of a pretty big garden club this year. Many gardeners in our county have had more problems than they’re used to.

Our gardens got off to a cold, wet start in the late spring. This was good news for gardeners with cool weather crops like lettuce, peas and kale. The plants did well, the yields were pretty good, and Mother Nature did most of the watering for us.

The cold, wet weather worked against us at the time that we traditionally plant our squash, tomatoes, peppers and beans, and those plants don’t do well if temperatures are too cool or too wet. We actually had several light frosts in some parts of the county after gardeners had put in their warm season transplants, and that damaged the plants. In some gardens, those plants couldn’t recover, and the gardens had to be replanted. Transplants that weren’t severely damaged were slow to recover and start growing.

Cold, wet soils can reduce seed germination for some garden plants and many gardeners found that their beans, as well as any squash, pumpkins and melons that were started from seed, actually rotted in the wet soils. Those seeds had to be replanted, too.

All of this cold, wet weather has left some gardeners with gardens that only recently started to produce.

The cool, wet weather in the spring also left us with a bumper crop of earwigs, snail and slugs and may have contributed to the large numbers of stink bugs that we’re seeing do damage in our gardens this year.

Continue to give your garden good care — water deeply but infrequently, watch for pests and deal with them right away, hope for better conditions next year and plant according to the weather forecast, not the calendar.