When is the best time to pick pineapples?

Question. I have several pineapple plants with fruits in my yard. How do I know when they are ready to be collected?

Reply. Don’t worry; pineapples let you know when they are sweet and juicy. The fruits need about five months of warm weather to be ready for harvest. Plants that flower in March should produce fruit that changes color from green to yellow or orange around August. When they are ready to harvest, the scent of pineapple is also in the air. Now here’s the problem – the creatures also know when the fruits are ripe. So, leaving pineapples on the plants for too long could mean you won’t get a harvest. If possible, move the containerized plants to a safe location or cover the plants in the ground with a screen. Otherwise, pick the fruit at the first sign of ripeness rather than leaving it in the garden to become very sweet.

IN. I have found wasps flying in and out of my magnolia with black mold on the leaves. Are wasps attracted to mold, and if so, how do I get rid of wasps and mold?

A. Look carefully among the magnolia leaves; you are likely to find something more than black sooty mold. Dark bloom is a fungus that lives on the excrement of soft-scaled insects, usually green to brown, that suck the sap from parts of the tree. Some of the liquid may also be from damaged wood. Wasps love sweet liquids and come to dine. Remove scale insects and sooty mold and you won’t see wasps again. Gardeners can use a garden oil spray to control scale insects and gradually exfoliate sooty mold. You must hit insects and mold to be effective. Another and perhaps simpler means of control is one of the systemic insecticides applied to the soil surface. Each one climbs a tree and controls scale insects as they feed. Follow the instructions on the selected product for safe and effective control.

IN. It’s time to grow new tomato plants from seed, but I haven’t always been successful. How and where to sow the seeds?

A. Now is a good time to start growing tomatoes from seed so that you can eventually transplant them into the garden in August or early September. Most recently purchased tomato seeds germinate, so a single seed usually produces a plant. An easy way to start growing seeds is in about pint-sized containers with drainage at the bottom. Fill with germination mix or good potting soil. Sow one seed in a container and cover lightly. Maintain humidity and transfer containers to full sun once the seeds have germinated. Continue to maintain moisture, and a week after emergence, fertilize with a half-strength liquid solution. Your plants should be ready to plant in the garden in about four weeks. Now is the time to start growing peppers and eggplants for late summer gardens.

IN. I got a bromeliad that produces new plants. Should I remove them from an old plant that has finished flowering?

A. Branching out new bromeliads can be a way to increase your collection or share a few with friends. Remember that the mother plant wilts, so if there are only a few shoots, you can leave them in the pot to form one large group of bromeliads. If necessary, the old plant can eventually be removed as it wilts. If desired, the shoots can be removed and planted in separate containers with potting soil. Let them grow to six to eight inches in size and have a few roots at the base before removing. Then separate them from the parent plant to grow your collection.

IN. Our young tree has lower limbs that affect movement next to and under the tree. Is it possible to prune branches at this time of the year?

A. Feel free to remove or shorten limbs that affect activities under and near trees. If the tree is young, you can only shorten the branches and leave a few shoots with foliage. Experts suggest that these lower limbs on young trees help strengthen their trunks during early growth. If the limbs could cause injury, they should be removed back to the body.

IN. I took cuttings from Kalanchoe plants, which are doing very well, except they don’t have flowers. What is the problem?

A. Like poinsettias, Christmas cacti, and chrysanthemums, Kalanchoes are short-day plants. This means that they only bloom when the days are getting shorter, which in the local environment is during autumn and winter. From late spring to early autumn, they are in growth mode. Help your Kalanchoes form compact plants with occasional pruning; they should be ready to bloom for the holidays. You can find flowering plants in stores this time of year, but they have been modified to bloom by controlling the length of the day.

IN. Some of my caladium plants have grown huge and I guess they need to be split. When is the best time?

A. Caladiums don’t seem to mind being shared, but if you need a better time, it will be February or March when the weather warms up and growth is about to begin. That being said, you can separate them when you’re ready. Even now, you can rip up the bush and transplant it in batches into new containers or into a prepared garden plot. The only problem is that you will spoil the appearance of the bush, as most of the leaves will fall on the ground. Growth should resume, but don’t expect full-fledged beautiful plants until next spring or summer. My vote is for separation at the end of winter.

Tom McCubbin is an honorary city horticulturist of the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service. Write to him: Florida Today News, PO Box 2833, Orlando, FL. 32802. Email: [email protected].

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