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Past Questions and Answers | December 2006



This month's questions concern:

Transplanting Chrysanthemums
No Flowers on Avocado
Raspberry Growing Tips
Scale on Plants
Propagate Petunias
Get Rid of Creeping Charley
Will Pinestraw Harbor Termites
Garlic Coming Up Early
Fall Leaves
Berries on Pernettya mucronata

Please scroll down to read the answers.

Question #1:  Move a Mum!

Question:  When is the best time to transplant mums and do they require sun or shade?

 Lucretia T Hurst, Talladega, AL

 

ANSWER:  Hi Lucretia! You can transplant mums starting in October to early fall, or in the early spring.

They naturally flower in the fall and spring, but after they flower, remove the dead flowers.

They are a perennial, so they will go dormant in the winter, but will come back in the spring. Mums like full sun, except in very hot summer climates where they need shade from the afternoon sun.



Question #2:  No Flowers on Avocado

Question:  Hi- I have an avocado tree that was planted from a seed and now is about 4-5 years old and about 18-20 feet tall. I have never seen any flowering on it. What gives-is it too young?

 Bobbi Stropus, North Hills, CA

 

ANSWER:  Hi Bobbi! It is so tempting after eating a particularly good avocado, orange, or many other types of fruit, to plant the seed and grow your own tree. The problem is however, that trees grown from seed are not true to type, and may produce fruit that is not edible at all, or the trees may not bear fruit for many years.

When growing from seed, you are starting out with a whole new variety, so it is like rolling dice, or as Forest Gump would say, "You never know what you're going get."

The only way growers can guarantee that an avocado will be a known variety like a 'Bacon', 'Fuerte' or 'Hass' is to bud or graft on known varieties.

So the best way to produce good quality fruit is to grow seedlings from them and then attach, by budding or grafting, material from trees that are known varieties, and good producers. Budding and grafting can also be used to change or add varieties to mature citrus or avocado trees, a process known as top working.

Since budding and grafting is a hard topic to cover by email, I suggest you go either on-line and read about it or get a book. Most Ag Extension offices have free booklets about this and can also tell you where to get varietal material.

Till you graft something on, you have you own unique tree that will grow, flower and have a habit totally unique to it, and that is how new varieties are found, and can be exciting.

Whatever you end up doing, I hope you enjoy your avocado, since they are are beautiful landscape tree.

Good to hear from you.



Question #3:  Raspberry Growing Tips

Question:  Do you have any tips for raising raspberries?

 Robin Nobles, Hattiesburg, MI

 

ANSWER:  Hi Robin! I love raspberries. They are So good.

Raspberries are a cool-season crop, growing best where there is plenty of moisture. They do well in USDA Climate Zones 4-9. Since you are a USDA Zone 8 in Hattiesburg, you have the perfect weather for them.

There are two main types of raspberries: summer-fruiting which has a short season of heavy bearing in midsummer, and fall-fruiting which has an extended bearing period from late summer until the start of heavy frost.

They like a sheltered, but sunny place in your garden. Raspberries do not bear well on poor soils, especially if there is a lot of competition with weeds, so make sure the area around them is clear of weeds.

Make sure they have rich, well drained soil that is slightly acidic like around a 6.5 - 6.9, 7.0 being neutral. If you don't know the pH of your soil, you can get a little test kit at the garden center. It takes about 5 minutes to run the test. It's fast and easy.

If you have sandy, alkaline or poor, stoney soil, you will need to put down a heavy layer of organic material like composted soil or well rotted manure. Work that in and then plant your vines.

If you have established vines, then mulch annually in the spring with 2-3 inches of organic material like composted soil. Just make sure not to bury the canes, because you don't want to rot them.

You will also need to apply a good balanced fertilizer like a 15-15-15 or a 20-20-20 annually, and water plants regularly and thoroughly.

If you have summer-fruiting raspberries, they should have any canes that bore fruit cut back to ground level after bearing. Cut out damaged or weak vines.

If you have fall-fruiting raspberries you should cut all the canes to ground level in late winter. Then new canes grow and fruit in the following fall. In the spring, tip the vines back a few inches to a healthy bud.

If your vines are super crowded, you can always thin them, and remove any dead, or diseased canes.

If you follow the above, you should have really nice raspberries which are always such a treat!




Question #4:  Scale on Plants

Question:  My plant is growing these brown dots on its leaves. Everything is getting sticky from it. I have little flies flying around that I naver had before. Could it be that those brown dots are their eggs? If so will they do that to my other plants?

 Tatiana Tomkova, West Long Branch, NJ

 

ANSWER:  Hi Tatiana! Sounds like you have a couple of problems going on. The brown spots are called Scale insects.

Scale insects feed on the sap of the plant and large numbers of insects will lead to yellowing of the leaves and in extreme cases total defoliation. The main problem is caused by the fact that scale insects produce large quantities of honey dew which drips onto the lower leaves. Initially clear and sticky, but it can turn black if sooty mold sets in.

Scale are extremely hard to get rid of because they are protected by a very tough, waxy shell. The only luck I have ever had is to spray Volk Oil. The oil smothers the insects, but it is hard to get the crawlers which are the larvae that move around for a while before they settle down.

It will take diligence, but you can get rid of them.

Your second problem sounds like fungus gnats. These are usually a sign of over watering.

Populations of fungus gnats (often called "fruit flies") usually peak during winter and spring. The tiny adult insects lay their eggs in peat moss, humus-rich organic soil and potting media. The larvae then feed on plant roots, including those of young seedlings. Infested plants wilt, roots rot and the plants may eventually die.

I suggest you try an organic product called: Knock-Out Gnats. What happens is the larvae ingest the larvicide and die. You can use it as a soil drench, but you will have to make a few applications for you to totally control the problem.

Good luck!



Question #5:  Propagate Petunias

Question:  How can you root cuttings from petunias?

 Brian Malloy, Halifax, Nova Scotia

 

ANSWER:  Hi Brian! Stem cuttings are one of the most frequently used ways to propagage herbaceous plants (non-woody plants). Take a cutting from the parent and remove all but a few leaves near the top.

Stick the base of the cutting in rooting hormone. Then plant the base of the cutting, in firm contact with a moist, warm rooting medium. Keep it consistantly moist and warm until roots start to form.

After the roots have formed, and you will know this by lightly tugging on the plant, if there is some resistance, roots have formed, you can then transplant the cutting to a permanent pot. The whole process should take about 6 to 8 weeks.

Some cuttings will root if you place them directly in water so you can try that too and see what happens.

Let me know how it goes!



Question #6:  Get Rid of Creeping Charley

Question:  What product should I use to eliminate the weed called Creeping Charley? Presently I am using Scotts Plus 2, weed and feed in the spring and fall. Thanks

 Richard Lanyon, Corry, PA

 

ANSWER:  Hi Richard! Creeping Charlie (sometimes spelled "Creeping Charley"), or ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) is hard to control because you canít pull it easily in lawns, and many commercial broadleaf lawn weed killers have little or no effect on it.

The best times to control Creeping Charlie are in mid to late spring, early June, and in early fall, from late August through the end of September. Early fall is actually the best time to control most broadleaf weeds because they are usually growing vigorously, and the weeds you donít kill with the weed killer are often weakened enough to die over winter. Also, there are fewer problems with weed killer drift onto desirable landscape and garden plants in fall. For best ground ivy control, apply weed killers in the fall.

You will have to spot treat with something strong like Roundup or Brush B Gone.

A few other things you can do to help combat the weeds is to:
  • Mow your grass high, about two and one-half inches. This helps your grass compete better with Creeping Charlie and other weeds. Your lawn is more likely to be weedy if you consistently cut grass too short

  • Keep your lawn vigorous through proper fertilizing, watering and mowing. Vigorous lawns compete better with weeds
Lastly, there is a "Home Remedy" that I have heard about but have never tried.

You use Borax to control Creeping Charlie. You have to use Borax very carefully. Boron, the active ingredient in Borax, is an essential nutrient, needed in minute quantities for healthy plant growth. Amounts even slightly over what is needed are toxic to plants. Borax can be used against Creeping Charlie because the weed is more sensitive to boron than grass is. Small amounts can kill Creeping Charlie without permanently harming the lawn. (Grass may brown a bit, but it will grow out of it.)

The problem is, boron does not dissipate or break down like standard weed-killers. If it's applied repeatedly or at too strong a rate, you will end up with an area where you can't grow anything until the boron leaches out. That may take years.

The most you should treat your lawn with borax is once each spring for two years. Here's the formula:

Dissolve eight ounces of Twenty Mule Team Borax into four ounces of warm water, then dilute it in 2 1/2 gallons of water. This should be sprayed evenly over 1,000 square feet of lawn, no more, no less.

I hope this helps!



Question #7:  Will Pinestraw Harbor Termites

Question:  I would like to know if pinestraw will cause termites if you use it around your flowers close to your house.

 Nellie Walters, Florence, SC

 

ANSWER:  Hi Nellie! No you are totally safe using pine straw. In fact it is a favorite mulching material for landscapers and gardeners in the southern United States. Millions of pine straw bales are used each year.

To produce pine straw, pine stands must be at least 6 to 8 years old and it is insect and rodent free.

The only problem I have heard about it is there have been concerns raised about the effects on soil erosion and runoff in watersheds where pine straw is harvested. Research was conducted to determine whether such concerns are justified, and evaluate harvesting practices to minimize any problems found.

This study showed that pine straw harvesting did increase runoff, soil erosion, and some nutrient losses; but these effects were decreased by less-frequent harvesting schedules.

So I guess if they are practicing intelligent harvesting schedules, it is a really good product and termite free.



Question #8:  Garlic Coming Up Early

Question:  I planted garlic in October and it has been unusually warm this Fall. It is already coming up and it is only the end of November. Will I lose this crop, or is there something I can do to save it?

 Lonnie Conklin, Poughkeepsie, NY

 

ANSWER:  Hi Lonnie! Well, you are in a pickle aren't you? If you mulch your garlic to protect it, you'll just warm up the soil even more and make the problem worse.

If you leave it to be hit by the frost, you have a problem. The only thing I can think to try would be a cloche or a floating row cover.

Put them on at night, and remove them during the day. Either one would provide enough cover to allow the garlic time to return to dormancy.

Of course, I have no idea how much garlic you have, but if it is a small amount, I would try a cloche.

Otherwise all you can do is hope the garlic isn't damaged too much.



Question #9:  Fall Leaves

Question:  Do I need to collect fallen leaves from the boaders, or can you leave them to rot down? Thank you.

 Jacqueline Reasons, Cwmbran Torfaen Wales, UK

 

ANSWER:  Hi Jacqueline! As long as the leaves are not covering a lawn, or plants that you care about you are fine.

Generally you want to rake up leaves because when they get wet they form a barrier to everything and can smother what is below them.

A good layer of wet leaves can kill lawns and plants. So if you have an open area, leave it alone, otherwise you'll have to go get your rake out!



Question #10:  Berries on Pernettya mucronata

Question:  I have a pernettya plant in berry. The label says "for berries you need a male plant nearby" how do I tell a male from a female plant?

 Thomas Dixon, Bodmin, V

 

ANSWER:  Hi Thomas! These are such beautiful plants. Gaultheria mucronata also known as Pernettya mucronata are mostly dioecious, but some are hermaphrodite (having both male and female organs on the same flower).

It is not always easy to pick female or male plants. For dioecious plants, named cultivars are either female or male, but with some species it isn't possible to tell which plants are female until they flower.

A good choice for a known male plant is, G. mucronata 'Thymifolia'.

If you want to try other cultivars here is a short list:

'Bell's Seedling'
A hermaphrodite form (so it does not need a pollinator), this cultivar fruits very freely. The fruits are up to 10mm in diameter and have a pleasant sweet flavour with a juicy texture.

'Davis's Hybrids'
This form is said to be hermaphrodite.

'Mulberry Wine'
A female form, when pollinated it can produce massive crops of larger than average fruits 12mm or more in diameter. These fruits have a pleasant sweet flavour and are very juicy.

I hope this helps. Let me know!




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Gardening-tip:



Stressed Plants

When a plant gets stressed either from lack of water, not enough nutrients, or being choked by weeds, they actually emit a different kind of chemical.

That chemical alerts bugs that here is an easy target.

One of the best ways to prevent an attack from insects to begin with, is to keep your plants as healthy, and as weed free as possible.


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