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Apple trees will pollinate with a friend nearby

Q: I want to get a red delicious and winesap apple trees. I know the winesap has sterile pollen, so it will not help the delicious with producing fruit. However, I heard having a crabapple tree nearby would do the trick. Is this true? I heard a pink, purple or lavender crabapple tree will not help and that it is best to have a white crab.

A: A crabapple within one-fourth mile will serve as a good pollinator for edible apples as long as they are in flower at the same time, which most are. It has nothing to do with the flower color. If one of your neighbors has a crabapple tree, then you are all set to go. Enjoy!

Q: We just moved into our first country home last spring and immediately planted some Norway pines and blue spruce trees. I thought that if we could get them through the summer we were home free.

Unfortunately, we had a cold and windy winter, so most of our trees have suffered. The blue spruce trees have brown needles on the tips and the entire bottom of the tree. The Norway pines lost most of their needles on the west side, which is where we had all our winds come from. Do you think they will grow back? Is there anything I can do to help them?

A: Generally, if the buds are still firm and alive on both the spruce and pine, the trees will recover. New growth should emerge in a few weeks. Freshly planted evergreens often suffer the first winter because they were pampered and protected by the nursery so that they would look their best at the time of sale.

Usually, they come back, but it will take a little time, so be patient. If they were properly planted (not too deeply), they will be thriving for you by the middle of summer.

Q: I have a flowering crabapple tree. Two branches in the middle are much higher than the rest. Should I cut the branches down to the length of the rest to make it spread out more?

A: It sounds like a good plan.

Q: I bought three flowering crabs when we bought our home three years ago. I planted them in front of the house in a row. They still look immature. They've grown a couple of feet taller, but the trunks of each tree still can be spanned with my hand.

Is there any way I can help them grow faster and stronger? They are a heartier variety (forgot the variety name) with dark pink blossoms. The foliage turns bronze in the fall. Any suggestions would be very much appreciated!

A: Many times trees need a bit of encouragement to become organized and build caliper. If you have staked them, remove the stakes. If you never have pruned them, prune back the central leader to an adjacent branch. This often will help overcome the spindly characteristic and get the trees to "gain weight" around the middle (the same as humans when we get older), which will make them more wind resistant.

To contact Ron Smith for answers to your questions, write to Ron Smith, NDSU Department of Plant Sciences, Dept. 7670, Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108-6050 or e-mail