By Darrell Blackwelder
Many home gardeners are phoning and sending e-mails with questions about home gardens and landscapes. Plant growth has accelerated for most plants with the warm weather and recent rains. Unfortunately, the favorable environment often creates other plant-related problems. Below are a few situations that you may have encountered.
Q: My tomato plants do well one day, wilt and die the next. It does not kill all of them, only a few. What could be causing this problem?
A: What you have described sounds much like southern bacterial wilt. It is a soil borne disease that kills the plant after the plant reaches a certain size. There is no adequate control for the bacteria. Try to rotate your tomato plants to another area in the garden.
Q: I have patches of brown showing up on my lawn. It has been perfect until now. Is there anything I can do to eliminate the problem?
A: Your problem sounds like brown patch. There are fungicides that will prevent the spread of the disease, but you must spray the entire lawn on a regular basis for adequate control.
Q: I have bats roosting on the eaves of the gables on my house. How do I get rid of them?
A: Use a strong stream from the water hose and douse them frequently. They’ll get the message and eventually leave. You must be persistent.
Q: My potatoes have little tomatoes on them. Are these really tomatoes and can I eat them?
A: Sometimes home gardeners will find tomato-like fruit on their potato plants. These fruit are not the result of cross-pollination with tomatoes. These are true fruits of the potato plant and are referred to as berries. These berries are produced when potato blooms are fertilized. All potato plants bloom, but most of the time the flowers just dry up and fall off without setting fruit. More information can be found at the Caldwell County Extension site http://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu/index.php?page=news&ci=LAWN+7
Q: Our family really likes to pick wild blackberries in the fields near our house, but we get eaten alive by chiggers. Can you tell me how to avoid them while picking berries?
A: Contrary to popular belief, chiggers do not burrow into the skin. The larval stage of the mite attaches itself to the skin, feeds and then drops to the ground. Allergic reactions occur from the saliva injected by larval chiggers. These immature mites often cause reddish welts accompanied by an intense itch. Constant scratching breaks the skin and permits infection to occur. Apply repellents when entering chigger-infested areas. When applied to the skin and clothing, repellents are usually effective in repelling chiggers. Several pesticides are labeled to treat areas infested with chiggers. If you have been in the woods, try to get a hot bath or shower within an hour or two. Use a soapy washcloth to scrub well. Scrubbing the larva off may prevent them from getting a meal or at least interrupt them. Go to http://ipm.ncsu.edu/AG369/notes/chiggers.html for more complete information.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Call 704-216-8970 or email firstname.lastname@example.org