Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What should I use to treat mites on my citrus?

I've discovered spider mites on my satsuma orange tree. What do you recommend I treat it with? The tree is growing in a pot on my porch so I can take it indoors in winter. I don't want to use a pesticide that will ruin the fruit.

Spider mites like dry conditions. Since the satsuma is growing in a pot on your porch, it's probably not exposed to rainfall. When you water, you add water to the pot. Right? So, the leaves are seldom exposed to water. As a preventative measure in the future, spray the leaves above and beneath when you water your orange to discourage the mites.

Spraying the leaves with water, especially the undersides, may be enough to get rid of them. If not, there are two pesticides on the market that might do the trick. One is Monterey Bug Buster. The active ingredient is esfenvalerate - a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide. The other pesticide is Trounce by Safer, the makers of insecticidal soap. Trounce contains insecticidal soap and pyrethroids.

As with all pesticides, follow label instructions.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Another Pest On The Loose: The Redheaded Flea Beetle.


Yet another pest is on the loose, apparently moving southward from New England. Now it's the redheaded flea beetle (Systena frontalis). It has recently become a serious nursery pest, and if it's a problem for plant nurseries, it can become a problem for you.

The redheaded flea beetle munches on roots and leaves of woody plants, vegetables and perennials including crape myrtle, hydrangea, roses, buddleia, forsythia, blueberries, cranberries, cabbage, beans, beets, sedum, salvia, hibiscus, rudbeckia and coreopsis. After overwintering in the soil, the larvae hatch and start on the roots. Heavy infestations can completely girdle plants.

The larvae are slender and white. Adult redheaded flea beetles are about 1/16 inch long, black with reddish heads and have long antennae. As the name suggests, they jump when spooked.

Gardeners probably won't see them when they're feeding in the root zone, but will notice skeletonized leaves from feeding adults. Redheaded flea beetles seem to be more abundant in rural gardens adjacent to row crops such as soybeans and corn.

So far, there aren't any sure-fire remedies for redheaded flea beetle infestations. They might be caught with sticky traps. They feed on certain weeds, so their numbers might be reduced if gardens are kept weed-free. Researchers are working on chemical combinations they hope will do the trick. Systemic insecticides containing dinotefuran and bifenthrin seem to work well. Dinotefuran is pretty expensive.

Systemic pesticides should not be used on fruits and edible plants. Pesticides should be applied in mid- to late spring when larvae are most active. Always follow label instructions when applying chemical pesticides.

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Another question about renovating an old muscadine trellis

I have a question about OLD muscadine/scuppernong vines. We have a piece of property with very old very neglected vines. Some of the poles are rotted at the ground and need to be replaced to even have a chance of getting things back on track. The grape vine base is by these poles. When we dig new holes is there any way to keep from damaging the old vines? Is it better to try to start over from scratch?

You should be able to avoid damaging visible trunks without much trouble, but to be on the safe side maybe wrap some kind of barrier around the bases of the vines to avoid skinning them with your post hole digger or shovel. A section or two of old bicycle tires or some aluminum flashing held on with wire might work.

You will probably damage some roots in the process, but don't worry about it too much. Muscadine grape roots grow out in various directions from the base of the plant. Each plant will have several. They usually grow less than an inch or two under the soil surface. To avoid damaging roots where you dig, excavate the soil with your finger where you intend to dig to discover whether roots are there. If roots are unavoidable, go ahead and dig. The other roots will support the plants.

Here's an alternative. If the majority of posts are rotted, consider not replacing them where they were before. Install them instead between the vines. For example, if your vines are growing 20' apart, install the new posts half way between them. You have less chance of damaging the plants.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Another muscadine arbor renovation project

I have a very old muscadine vine that I'm trying to bring back under management (it's on an overhead,  walk-under arbor).  The problem is that there's multiple, really big trunks coming out of the ground, none of which are really "straight" - they're mostly crooked and inter-twining but all do make it to the top where they branch every where!  I've been trimming the top pretty severely over the last couple winters but with so many trunks in place (easily 5-6), the canopy becomes way too thick and the fruit crop suffers, as a result.  Also, to complicate matters, one of the main, central trunks actually immediately branches a couple times right at the soil level.  Do I just need to "pick one" and clip everything else down to soil level and if so, how to choose?  Also, how do you stop the frenzy of new growth at the base when this is done (particularly drives me nuts!)?  Thank you so much for your time and knowledge!

I think you are correct. As you said, "'pick one' and cut everything else down to soil level." Though all the trunks are crooked, pick the straightest. Yes, there will be a "frenzy of new growth at the base." There's nothing to be done about that but to keep removing the sprouts. The easiest and most effective way is to rub them off with your fingers while they are still very small, young and soft. Wear gloves so you don't rub your skin off in the process. Eventually the sprouts will stop emerging.

You might find it very difficult to untangle and remove the mess on the top of the arbor. Try to retain what you need that is growing from the remaining trunk. But if it becomes impossible to do so, consider cutting the main trunk at the top. Then remove all the old growth from the top of the arbor. It should re-sprout. Choose a few of those vines to form arms radiating outward from the top of the trunk. (I'm assuming the trunk is growing under the center of the arbor.) You will probably have little if any fruit the first year or so, but your arbor will be easier to maintain.

You might not want to prune so radically. If not, I understand completely.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Renovating an old muscadine grape trellis

Q. Mr. Marshall, about 20 years back my mother planted some muscadines on a t-post arbor system. She passed away shortly after, and depressed, we all let the land kinda fall into disrepair. I've been working on bringing the yard back, and I finally got to the back where the muscadines were/are. Evidently a tree fell on the trellis at some point and though her original plantings still live, it is horribly over grown, there are shoots every where and trees that need felling. I found remnants of old fruit and rabbit droppings so I believe they are were still fruiting, but I had to cut down the older ones to get at the t-post and mesh it had snarled around. I left about a foot off the ground. It seems to be okay, but there is one gnarled up sucker that has 3 trunks.  Are these things hardy enough that I can expect them to come back? Are they responsive to hard cutting back? Or do you think I probably lost them?

I'd like to set them on a 1 wire trellis like you have here.
A.I think you would do well to cut the old trunks flush with the ground. It will be easier for you to work around them clearing brush, setting up your new trellis, etc. If the plants are in reasonably good health, they should sprout. After a few weeks of growth, choose the strongest vine to become your new trunk. Remove the others. It will take some doing to keep the others from returning, but stick with it.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What I love and don't love about my "pick your own" or "U-pick" fruit farm

I want to tell you what I love and don't love about my "pick your own" or "U-pick" fruit farm business. Here's why. I got into this business when, as a young man, I was working for a small retail corporation, then a larger one, and a larger one. Ownership changed so often I couldn't follow the tracks. Old employees were feeling forced "out to pasture" before they were fully vested in their retirements. I was rebellious, wearing thin white socks under my YSL suits. I had to get out of there. With lots of help from my family, I did.

I intend to post occasional thoughts about this. Here's the link to follow:

Monday, September 23, 2013

From the National Garden Bureau: How to Store Your Summer's Harvest of Potatoes and Onions

Photo courtesy of The National Garden Bureau
The National Garden Bureau always publishes great tips on our favorite subject - gardening!

"During the winter months, when the ground is covered by a thick blanket of snow, there’s something particularly satisfying about still being able to eat food from your garden. Many summer-grown crops including potatoes, onions, garlic, beets, carrots and winter squash, can be stored with relative ease to nourish you right through until the next growing season. Even a modest-size garden can yield a substantial crop of winter keepers.

"To be successful storing these keeper crops at home, here are a couple factors to keep in mind:..."

To learn more, read the rest of The National Garden Bureau's article on How to Store Your Summer's Harvest of Potatoes and Onions.

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