By Darrell Blackwelder
The rain earlier this week caught many home gardeners by surprise. The rain and cooler temperatures help our plants, but often when weather changes, so does incidence of insect and disease problems. Many have called complaining about insect or disease problems with their gardens or landscapes. Below are questions that were posed over the past week.
Q: My squash vines bloomed a few weeks ago but did not bear fruit. What is the problem?
A: Tulip poplars were in full bloom a few weeks ago. Honeybees prefer the nectar of poplar. After the bloom period is over, bees will go to squash. Also, the weather a few weeks ago was cool and rainy. Bees normally do not fly on cool, wet or windy days. Bees are necessary for pollination on all cucurbits including cucumber, pumpkin, watermelon, gourds, etc. Use pesticides very early in the morning or late in the afternoon while bees are not flying.
Q: My tomatoes are growing very well and have very healthy, vigorous vines. However, the blooms are dropping off and there is no fruit. What is causing this and can I do something to prevent this from happening again?
A: Tomatoes will drop flowers for a number of reasons: low night temperatures, too much nitrogen fertilizer or drought stress. Some tomato cultivars are more susceptible to bloom drop than others. Temperatures have been very low during bloom set a few days ago, which may also trigger bloom drop.
Q: My tomatoes are rotting on the ends just as they did last year. We limed the soil earlier this year to prevent this, yet they are still beginning to rot. What causes this and how can I prevent this?
A: The basic cause of blossom end rot is lack of calcium while the fruit is forming. Most think it’s a disease, but it’s a nutritional imbalance caused by a number of reasons. The most common culprit is improper watering. Tomatoes need even moisture which can be difficult on hot, dry days. Too much water can also exacerbate the problem. Hoeing around the plant and disturbing the feeder roots can also cause the condition.
Q: (From a person in a local store garden center) We have little tiny bugs all over our house. They are small, shiny bugs like lady beetles but smaller and dark. What are these and how do we get rid of them?
A: Most likely these are kudzu bugs. They often congregate on sides of homes and around doors and windows. This is a serious pest for soybean producers, but is more of a nuisance for homeowners.
Entomologists at N.C. State University recommend against using pesticides if they come indoors. Seal openings around plumbing and air conditioner lines to keep the bugs from coming inside. When they come inside, vacuum them up and throw away the bag immediately.
More information can be found at http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Urban/kudzubug.htm