Garden Questions of the Week
“Our TopHat Blueberry had hundreds of berries on it. Then, all of a sudden they were gone – the birds ate them! Is that the only crop for this year?” -Yes, sorry. Reminder: next summer, be sure to cover the blueberry bushes 3-4 weeks before harvest with bird netting. Remember to make sure you keep blueberries well watered when the fruit is being produced, especially a few weeks before harvest.
“My crabapple has leaves turning yellow; they have spots on them, and are starting to drop. They did this last year as well. What can I do to help them?” -What you’re seeing is called ‘Apple Scab’, and is a common problem on non-resistant crabapples if the weather conditions are right. So far this year, we’re not seeing it quite as bad as in the past. It’s a leaf disease and infects the leaves early in the season. The leaves start to spot, then yellow, then drop. You’ll even see the spotting occur on the fruit. Nothing you can do now, besides collect the leaves and pitch them out. Next spring, you can start a fungicidal spraying program in early spring thru early summer to help prevent this from happening. Good thing about apple scab; it may make the tree look bad but usually not a serious health threat to the tree.
“My neighbors just mulched their trees and the mulch is piled up against the trunks of the trees. Didn’t you recommend to ‘not’ doing that?” -Yes! Never pile mulch against the trunk of the trees. Mulch 1-3 inches deep around trees, and then make sure the mulch is away from the trunk. It should look like a donut when you’re finished, not a volcano. Mulch piled against the trunks of trees can cause the trees to grow air roots into the mulch (not a good thing), it gives chewing rodents a place to hide and chew on the bark, and piled up mulch will cause decay around the outside of the tree trunk and eventual death of the tree. So keep your mulch away from the trunks of your trees.
”We have lace bugs really bad on our azaleas. They are in part shade. Is it okay if she sprays them with insecticidal soap in the evening and then hose off in the morning before it gets too hot? Or what would you suggest at this point in the season?” -No reason to hose them off. Watch the temps, and spray with soaps, horticultural oils, or Spinosad, making sure to spray the undersides of the leaves. Do it 2-3 times on 10-14 day intervals. Still time to apply a systemic drench as well (imidacloprid). You may even give them a light feeding of HollyTone and water it in well.
“Groundhogs are eating my dad’s garden. Any suggestions?” -Groundhog stew. Physical removal is the only sure cure for the groundhog problem. Fences (including electric) may work, but in some cases still not a sure thing. By the way, if they are burrowing in your yard, throw dog feces down the hole. They hate it and generally will move on to another location.
“I need to make my macrophylla hydrangeas blue instead of pink. I applied Miracle Gro for acid loving plants last week. What else can I do so I’ll have blue flowers?” -The blue depends on aluminum being taken up inside the plant. If the soil is alkaline, the aluminum is less available and the flowers are pink. If the soil is more acidic, the aluminum becomes more available and the flowers take on the blue color. And sometimes if things are just right, you’ll get both colors on the same plant. I suggest using soil sulfur or aluminum sulfate around the plant to help lower the pH. Aluminum sulfate lowers pH and adds aluminum. When using either, be sure to follow the directions. These can be added spring or fall. You can also sprinkle used coffee grounds around the plant year round, which naturally helps lower the pH.
“Quick question about trees. We accidentally scraped the trunk with the mower and took off a large piece about 3 ” of the bark. Is there any home remedies I can use to help the tree heal if not what would you buy to help the tree?” -Do a little bark tracing if needed to clean up any loose bark and create a clean edge along the scar (it will seal over quicker) and then leave it alone. Watch for any bugs in the edges, but otherwise let it seal it self over. And one last thing – make a mulched bed around the tree. That way the mower doesn’t get close enough to cause “mower blight”.
“My grapes have all of a sudden turned black and shriveled up! Help!” – If you’re growing grapes in your backyard, it can be very frustrating to come out and suddenly see your clumps of grapes shriveling up and looking like raisins. It’s a pretty common problem, but it can be controlled. It’s called ‘Black Rot’, it’s probably the number one disease that affects backyard and vineyard grapes, and can destroy the crop within a few days. Black Rot is caused by a fungus which invades all parts of the grape vine causing lesions on the stems and spotting on the leaves which eventually blight the entire leaf. The grapes start out with a white spot that expands into a browned area, and then the fruit starts to shrivel, and becomes a hard, blue black mummy. And this all happens within the first 4-5 weeks after blooming. So how do you control Black Rot on grapes? Well, it’s too late now, but as the season goes on, collect all falling leaves as well as the mummified grapes and throw them away. Next spring make sure all leaves and old fruit have been removed. Prune the grapes as needed, and then begin a fungicidal spraying program as the new buds begin to break open. Spray every 10 days to 2 weeks, until mid summer. Captan and Mancozeb are two highly recommended sprays for Black Rot. And when you’re spraying, make sure you cover everything from stems, tops and bottoms of the leaves, and the entire clusters of grapes, inside and out.
“Just wanted to say how well our Tumbling Tom tomatoes have performed so far! They’re in hanging baskets – yellow and red cherry tomatoes – and they have produced like crazy, the plants look great, and the tomatoes are so sweet with very small seeds. Excellent choice for containers or hanging baskets like ours! Thanks!