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All Past Questions and Answers Library   |   July - August 2010

This month's questions concern:

Hosta Leaves Are Turning Yellow
Sweet Corn Has Suckers
Hybrid Tea Roses Have Darkened Stems
Carrots Have No Flavor

Please scroll down to read the answers.

Question #1:  Hosta Leaves Are Turning Yellow

Question:  I have hostas planted under a maple tree near by concrete patio. The plants look healthy except the leaves sometimes turn a bright yellow, rusty colour and die. What's wrong?

 Barbara Greencastle, Bedfordshire, England


ANSWER:  Hi Barbara! What a bummer, hostas are so beautiful. Well let's see what we can do to stop this.

It sounds like a drainage problem to me. Often the soil around a patio area gets compacted, not only during construction, but just from everyday use.

This makes it hard for the hosta's roots and water to penetrate. Hostas tend to react to poor drainage by yellowing and dropping their leaves.

The best way to solve the problem would be to dig up the plants and work 3 to 4 inches (7.5 to 10 cm) of compost and a good amount of gypsite (which really helps drainage) into the soil to improve the overall drainage of the soil. Then replant your hostas.

If you accidentally cut some of the maple tree's roots, don't worry, it'll be okay.

Another option is to plant shallow-rooted stoloniferous-type hostas which grow well in compacted soil and under trees.

Hope this helps!

Question #2:  Sweet Corn Has Suckers

Question:  My sweet corn is growing really well, but the stalks have developed quite a few suckers growing up from the base. Should I leave them on, or prune them off to get better corn production?

 Alfred Walker, Ontario, Canada


ANSWER:  Hi Alfred! This is a question many gardeners wonder about, so I am glad you sent this in!

Leave the suckers on the plants. It used to be thought that suckers robbed the corn plant of energy and reduced fruiting, but studies have shown that that is not true, and actually if you remove the suckers, you could invite disease problems into the corn plant.

Most corn varieties sucker freely, so don't worry about it, your sweet corn will be just fine.

Question #3:  Hybrid Tea Roses Have Darkened Stems

Question:  This year two of my hybrid tea roses have dark, wrinkled markings on some of the stems, and those stems are dying. There is also a purple ring around the stems at the bud union. Can you help? I just love my roses and it is so sad to see them doing poorly. Thank you.

 Joy Overstreet, Ayrshire, Scotland


ANSWER:  Hi Joy! I'm sorry to hear your roses are not doing very well.

From your description it sounds like rose canker. Many types of fungi cause canker on roses. What happens is the fungus enters older rose stems through pruning cuts or wounds in the bark.

Once the plant is infected, the bark turns yellow, wrinkles, splits, and then dies. The purple ring around the stem is often a sign of infection.

If only a few stems are affected and the damage hasn't reached the bud union, you can prune out the diseased stems a few inches (cm) below the last sign of infection and destroy them.

Make sure to disinfect your pruners with a 1 percent bleach solution between each cut to avoid spreading the disease.

If all the branches are infected, or if the infection goes below the bud union, then unhappily, you'll have to remove the rosebush and replant.

The good news is that canker tends not to be too contagious so it shouldn't infect any healthy roses nearby unless you spread it with an infected pair of pruners or something - so make sure to disinfect them as mentioned above!

Let me know how it turns out and good luck saving your roses!

Question #4:  Carrots Have No Flavor

Question:  My carrots this year grew fine and had plenty of water, but they taste bland, they are not sweet at all. Can you tell me what may have happened? Thanks.

 Erik Kurth, Melbourne, Australia


ANSWER:  Hi Erik! How disappointing to expect a nice juicy carrot and get nothing.

What probably happened is you got a hot snap and that will rob the carrots of their sugars.

When carrot roots develop during hot weather, anything above 80° F (27° C), the sugars don't develop properly. Carrots have the best flavor when grown during cool weather but still get at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day.

To help keep the soil cool, make sure it stays moist and mulch. Also when the seeds are germinating keep them shaded and cool. This will help get them off to a proper start.

The best time of year to start and grow carrots is early fall or early spring before any heat happens.

Try again in a few months here and I know you will have better luck! Thanks for the question.

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