Our cherry tree was oozing sap all over and had dark dead patches on the trunk and branches. The tree service said it had a fungal root rot and we had to cut it down. Can we plant another fruit tree or a vegetable garden when that fungus is in the soil? Will it sicken us?
Your tree's disease symptoms match leucostoma canker, also known as cytospora, which is not a soil fungus and doesn't affect humans. Replant with confidence.
In the future, take precautions to prevent a stone fruit (cherry, peach, apricot) or apple tree from contracting this disease. The fungus invades dead or weak wood first, then moves into healthy wood. Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization, which makes trees prone to winter injury. Prune in March or later, so cuts heal quickly. Interior water sprouts (thin willowy shoots) are weak and often die over winter; remove before spring.
Our Home Fruit Production Guide, available for $8 from the Home and Garden Information Center, covers fungal and insect problem as well as best growing methods.
What do deer eat in winter? I mean, instead of my azaleas, what are they supposed to eat?
Deer are browsers. They feed on leaves, twigs, and stems year round. Naturally, in winter there are fewer leaves, and they must eat woody parts that they ignore in other seasons. This includes saplings. That's why our forest floors have been denuded of young trees. Our future forest gets eaten before it can get tall enough to escape deer teeth.
University of Maryland Extension's Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information. Call 800-342-2507 or send a question to the website at hgic.umd.edu.
Plant of the week
Pennisetum offers graceful, fountainlike stems in spring and summer, even more attractive fuzzy seed heads in late summer and fall, and straw-colored foliage for structural interest all winter. Other than requiring full sunlight, all varieties of this versatile ornamental grass tolerate almost any growing site. Perhaps the most popular variety, 'Hameln', tops out at about 21/2 feet in height and spread, but 3 to 5 feets is often more typical. Pennisetum makes an excellent specimen plant yet is equally attractive in mass plantings. Foliage is customarily cut to the ground in late winter before new foliage emerges. Practically pest- and disease-free, fountain grass may self-seed, so volunteers need occasional control.
— Lew Shell
Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Gardens