Q. I have a very small, sunny back yard and really want to plant an Asian pear tree and a cherry tree. Do I have to have two trees of each to make fruit?
A. You only need one tart cherry tree; they are self-fertile and do not require a pollinator tree. 'Meteor' and 'Northstar' are two small-statured tart cherry cultivars that only reach 8 feet to 12 feet in height and would do well in a small yard. Most sweet cherry cultivars are self-infertile; you would need two different cultivars to get fruit. However, 'Stella,' 'Lapins' and 'Stakcrimson' are self-fertile sweet cherry cultivars. Even semidwarf sweet cherry trees can reach 25 feet and may be too big for your yard.
You'll need two different Asian pear cultivars to be successful. But Asian pears are pollinated by either European or ornamental pear trees, so if there are any in your yard or your neighbor's you may get a good crop of fruit by planting one tree.
Q. I'm very nervous about lead inside and outside my home. My kids want to make a little vegetable garden next to the house this spring. How do I know whether or not I may have a problem. I live in an old house right outside the city.
A. It's a very good idea to have your soil tested for lead regardless of where you live or the age of your home. The University of Massachusetts will perform a complete soil analysis including a lead test for $8. Its Web address is www.umass.edu/plsoils/soiltest. The telephone number is 413-545-2311. After you submit your soil sample, they will send you the results along with recommendations for action to take if the lead levels are in the medium or high range. Contact the telephone number or Web address below for a University of Maryland fact sheet, "Lead in Garden Soils."
THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST
1. Stay off frozen turf as much as possible. Your weight can damage the frozen plant crowns.
2. Sand the rust off garden tools and then apply a light oil coating. Sharpen hoes, shovels, loppers and pruners with a flat file or sharpening stone.
Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Maryland Cooperative Extension. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507, or visit its Web site at www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.