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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Viragrow Delivers! : Q. This is the 8th year for our honeysuckle plants...

Q. This is the 8th year for our honeysuckle plants...: Q.  This is the 8th year for our honeysuckle plants and, although they appear healthy, we cannot get them to produce blossoms. They do get...

Viragrow Delivers!

Viragrow Delivers! : Q. This is the 8th year for our honeysuckle plants...

Q. This is the 8th year for our honeysuckle plants...: Q.  This is the 8th year for our honeysuckle plants and, although they appear healthy, we cannot get them to produce blossoms. They do get...

Viragrow Delivers!

Starting From Seed in the Garden During Summer

Q. Just came across your site looking for gardening tips.Great stuff! Just wanted to reach out and say hello. I'm just starting to get into gardening myself. I didn't know there was so much involved with
starting seeds and pots!

I just started planting some seeds for different flowers but I've been having problems with birds hanging out and ruining my garden. I'd love to get your thoughts on it. Have you had this issue? I would appreciate your feedback!

A. I know pigeons can be a problem with grass seed but I have not seen it in garden seeds. I have experienced ants hauling off the seed in another country and resulted in the loss of about 1 lb of onion seed in about two days.

Fresh horse bedding used as mulch
Sometimes it is better to start the seed in pots or in one location and then move them as transplants when they are about 6 inches tall. This doesn’t work well with root crops but I have seen it done when I thought it would be a problem. 

Horse bedding
Covering the seed with mulch now is also a good idea because the soil/seed dries out too quickly this time of year for good germination. Presoaking large seed…soaking them in water for about six hours…. Works very well and can cut down a day or more on germination time. 

Paper cups work well as containers. Just make sure they have holes in the bottom for drainage. You have to cut and remove them when planting. You should cut are remove even peat pots when planting as they will interfere with getting established.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Holes in Tomatoes Probably Tomato Fruit Worm

Q. I have only found about 4-5 like this. I have been getting ripe tomatoes for about 30 days, only found these in the last two days. I searched for bugs, eggs and leave damage did not find anything. Any ideas?

A. The holes in your tomatoes look like tomato fruit worm damage. These are worms or caterpillars that are about an inch and a half long and 3/8 of an inch wide. They eat holes mostly in tomato fruit, usually when they are green or when they turn red but are still hard. Frequently the fruit becomes rotten. Organic sprays of Bt or Spinosad when the fruits are starting to form usually prevent this.

Grape Vine Killed by Winter Cold

Q. I planted two vines in my backyard  3 year ago and it sprouted and grew very quickly but as you can see this year it has not done anything with the exception of the few countable leaves and the three new shoots.  I do notice some holes in the few leaves.  I live in Montreal Canada.

A. You are a little bit out of my climate zone but I'm going to take a stab at it. I am guessing, from the looks of it, it had some winter cold damage. There is a difference in cold tolerance among grapes. Those with some vinifera genetics in them (most of the European wine grapes are vinifera types) are less cold hardy than some of the American hybrids.

For instance Thompson seedless grape has vinifera in it and is less cold hardy than Concord, an American grape. I don't know where you got your particular grape and whether it was grafted onto a rootstock or not but if it was grown on its own roots than any suckers which could grow from it could be used to replace the dead vine.

Suckers growing from it should be extremely vigorous because of the already larger root system. It could be back up on top easily this growing season if you remove all but the strongest sucker. As it grows longer, tie it to the post. Strip all of the leaves and shoots off of this sucker until it finally gets on top. This way it will grow faster and you will direct the growth.

Give it a little extra water and nitrogen fertilizer and it will grow faster when the temperatures are warm. That's my best guess at it given the information I have and pictures. I saw one strong shoot coming from close to the ground in one of your pictures. You would cut it just above the strongest growth to reestablish it.

Apricot Fruit Rot Probably Due To Wet Spring

Q.  My apricots were doing very well as they have for the last several years.  After thinning a large crop this year, they were growing very well and appeared to be getting ready to pick when all of a sudden this appeared.  When I opened the cots, I found the insides to be rotting.  I've tried to do a little research without success.  Your expert opinion would be greatly appreciated. 

A. This may be ripe fruit rot, sometimes called Brown fruit rot. It can happen if there is rain near the time of harvest. There is not much you can do except hope that rain does not occur at that time. Here is some information from the University of California. See if this description matches your problem.

They recommend fungicide applications Earlier in the season but we get such a little chance of rain here to me it doesn't make any sense to make these applications.

Getting Rid of Leafhoppers

Q. What is the best way to rid the garden of leafhoppers? I have read that worm castings are effective (over time) in eliminating aphid and white fly infestations - is it effective on all insects that suck plant juices?

A. Once leaf hoppers have matured and they are hopping around a lot when you pass by them they are difficult to control without conventional "hard" pesticides.  About the only organic method I know of that does a pretty good job controlling leaf hoppers is Spinosad. Soap sprays may also work but I have not tried them when they are young. We are talking when they first come out, in April or May, well after bloom and fruit set.
Leaf hopper damage on grape leaves

However Spinosad has to be applied when leaf hoppers are immature in the nymph stages. It never totally eliminates them but reduces their numbers considerably if they are applied early enough and the sprays are directed where they are living. As an example I have used Spinosad sprays in about May on grapes to reduce leaf hopper numbers. 
Variegated leafhoppers and leafhopper poo-poo (the black specks)

I apply the spray about one week apart for 2 to 3 applications as soon as I see the nymphs on the undersides of leaves. I direct the spray upward so that the bottoms of the leaves are covered and then I repeat the spray on the tops of the leaves as well. To my knowledge worm castings have no effect on any kind of insect pests or beneficials. Treat it just as you would compost.
Spinosad by Monterey chemical

Worm Castings and Insect Control

Q. What effect do worm castings have on beneficial insects? Are there any special instructions or precautions to be considered when using worm castings around fruit and vegetable plants? 

A.  I had not heard of worm castings used as an insect repellent or an insecticide until you mentioned it and followed up with a web link to a worm farm. They mention chitinase being the "active ingredient" that has an effect on insects.The word chitinase implies that it is an enzyme which dissolves chitin, a primary component of the exoskeleton in insects.
Red wigglers from our worm bin

I had to do some digging on this subject because I knew very little about it. The claim by the worm farm is that worms produce chitinase and deposit it in the worm castings. This chitinase produced by worms has an effect on bugs. Let's keep in mind that insect exoskeletons surround good bugs as well as bad bugs. So anything that targets bugs in general kills all bugs whether they are good or bad. 

Personally, I think this is a pretty big stretch about the chitinase produced by worms. There has been quite a bit of research on the use of chitinase and developing synthetic chitinase for targeting insects for pest control. But to make the jump from the chitinase produced by earthworms reducing insect pests in the garden is a pretty big leap and one that I am not ready to take. The research is just not there to support this kind of claim.

Let's stick with something we do know. Worm castings are a great natural fertilizer and help to improve poor soils. I personally have red wigglers in a worm bin for digesting kitchen vegetable and fruit scraps.Like them a lot.

Xtremehorticulture Reaches Over 30,000 Visitors a Month

Xtremehorticulture of the Desert reached a milestone over the past month with over 33,000 visitors in one month. Visitors are from all over the world but dominated by the United States, followed by Russia and the Ukraine, France, Canada, Australia, India and China.

Harvesting Butternut Squash

Q. I enjoy reading your gardening articles in the RJ.  I liked the one about the Butternut Squash as I had planted one in early April and did not record the planting date.  I have one squash almost 10 inches long that looks as if it might be ready to harvest, while there are two other smaller ones.  I call the vine as a "Monster" as it has taken over my raised bed planter. How long should I wait before harvesting the larger squash?
Butternut squash ready to harvest

A. When to harvest really depends on what you are going to do with it. If you plan to eat it soon after you pick than just wait until the squash is a dark tan color, cut it or separated from the vine, prepare it and eat it. If you plan on keeping it in storage for a while before you eat it then I would wait until it is a dark tan and check the hardness of the skin before you harvest it. 
Butternut squash at an expo in Zimbabwe. It looks like the seed was saved because of all the different shapes and sizes

You can do this with your thumbnail. If the skin is really hard and difficult to puncture with your thumbnail than it is ready to harvest. Immature squash will have a softer skin that is easier to penetrate with your thumbnail. Also, it won't be a dark tan color. If you plan on keeping it for a while, cut it from the vine with a pruning shears leaving about two or 3 inches of vine still attached to the squash. 

Harvesting it so that the vine slips from the squash leaves openings in the squash and it will not keep as long. It will store at room temperature for a couple of months if the skin hasn't been damaged and the vine is still attached.

Poor Growth on Meyer Lemon

Q. I wrote you about my Meyer lemon tree back in early spring.  I water 3 times a week plus give extra water during extreme heat.  It doesn't seem to be growing at all.  In the spring there were some flowers.  I put fertilizer and composted new dirt.  Any thoughts.  Your help is appreciated.

A. I looked at your pictures and I think I get it. You have a bubbler, probably 1 gallon per minute. So you flood the area where the lemon tree is. I could not figure out what mulch is on the soil surface. It looks like colorized wood chips. It was hard to tell the condition of your soil. It certainly is not performing very well. So here goes.

From the sound of it, it sounds like you're giving it plenty of water. When you have bubblers it's best to construct the basin around the tree. Those types of bubblers release water so fast it can go everywhere and not penetrate the soil very well.

Secondly, from the look of other plants in the picture I don't think the organic matter content of the soil is high enough. So this is what I would do. I would buy some decent compost and start adding it to these areas. I do some consulting for Viragrow in North Las Vegas. They have the best compost in Las Vegas in my opinion. I would buy four or five bags of their compost. They are one cubic foot bag's and they will cost you about $2.50 a bag. I would apply the compost to the soil around fruit trees and gently start mixing it into the soil surface. Then construct some basins around the trees to collect the water from the bubblers.
Put compost around the tree but not touching the trunk
Next, I would cover the soil around the fruit trees with 3 to 4 inches of wood chips. You can get the wood chips free from the University Orchard in North Las Vegas. It is located 100 yards east of the intersection of North Decatur and Horse Drive. You can get it any Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday morning for free. The compost should improve the soil if you lightly scratch it into the soil surface. If this were the winter time you could scratch it in deeper but during this heat I would be a bit careful.

Wood chip mulch at the base of fruit trees
I think the problem is a lack of soil aeration because the organic matter content is too low. You will add organic matter to the soil by incorporating compost and covering the soil with organic wood mulch. You will not see an improvement over night. But you should see a flush of new growth after you do all of this in two or three weeks. Let me know how it goes.

Worms in Palo Verde

Q. This is  a picture of the worms we find on our PaloVerde tree in the back yard.  We would like to get rid of them but do not know how.  Is there something besides spraying the whole tree which is huge, a systemic maybe,  that would do the trick and not kill the tree. They make a mess of the sidewalk and other stuff under the tree.  Any help would be appreciated.

A. These critters have been reported elsewhere in the desert Southwest. Must be because of our wet spring weather. They should disappear in a matter of a week or two or less. It is a larva or caterpillar of a moth. I am not sure which one.

Some caterpillars fold or roll leaves together with silk to form shelters. Others feed on leaves beneath a canopy of silk, sometimes creating "nests" in foliage, and others devour entire leaves along with stems. Your tree can get a lot of damage from these critters and still be fine. If there is enough of them you should see a lot of their poop on the ground because they eat a lot, voraciously, before they pupate and begin the change into a moth.

You can spray with an organic pesticide such as BT or Spinosad but as far along as they are I think it's a waste of money. Even if they defoliate the tree it will relief again and come back out. Relax and have a glass of lemonade but don't put your lemonade under the tree.

Cancer like Growth on Tree Is Crown Gall

 Q.I found this at the base of my plant. What is it?

A. This looks like crown gall. Not a big problem. It is a cancer like growth that is woody caused by a bacterium which lives in the soil, Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Note the second name resembles the word "tumor" because it produces a tumor like growth. 

Just clip it out (with a sanitized pruning shears) and don't worry about it. Somehow the bacterium was transferred from the soil to the stem when it was cut. Most likely the pruning shears was laid on the soil and got dirty and was not sanitized before it was used to cut the branch.