Summer Fruit Tree Care

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Sow lettuce seeds now for a fall crop. Set out broccoli and cabbage plants too.
    • Wisteria trees need to be trimmed throughout the summer. Keep long tendrils trimmed back to maintain the shape of the tree.
    • Feed fuchsias, begonias, summer annuals, hanging baskets and container plants to keep them green and blooming right up until frost.
    • When lily flowers fade, remove the flowers but don’t cut back the stems until leaves have yellowed in the fall.
    • Plant beets now for fall harvest. They will have a deeper red color than beets planted for spring harvest, and tend to have higher sugar levels too.

Summer Fruit Tree Care

Summer is the time when fruit trees grace us with their abundance of sweet, juicy fruit. It is also the time when fruit trees need your care and attention. This year may not be a very good fruit season, but you need to keep your trees healthy and strong so they will produce well for you in years to come.

Young fruit trees need particular attention. The most important cultural practice during the first year is watering. No other single element of plant care causes more problems or failures than over or under-watering. Water supply must be consistent. Drought followed by flooding can cause trees to stop growing due to the shock of these extremes conditions.

Check the soil weekly. A new tree needs approximately 10 gallons a week during the hot summer months. A tree two years old may need 20 gallons a week. A mature fruit tree can use 50 gallons a week or more. Fruit trees need water to size up their fruit properly. It’s best to water deeply and infrequently rather than shallowly and frequently. Water trees on clay soils, water every 2 to 3 weeks. For young trees, make a moat around the base of the tree so the water stays in the root zone. On older trees, water at the drip line of the tree.

Keep the base of your fruit trees weed free. Spread a 2- to 3-inch thick layer of organic mulch, such as pine straw or bark mulch, over the root zone but keep it a few inches away from the trunk. Organic mulch also breaks down gradually, providing organic matter to the soil.

Inspect your fruit tree bark, branches, leaves, and developing fruits often. Look for signs of insects and diseases and apply the appropriate organic controls. It’s usually easier to control pests if you act before or just as they are getting established, than to control them after they have caused lots of damage.

Paint trunks of young trees with white latex paint or Tree Trunk White to prevent sunburn which causes the bark to crack. This leaves openings for boring insects to enter. They can cause serious damage and even death in young trees.

While most pruning of fruit trees is done in the late winter, some can be done in the summer as well. Summer pruning can eliminate any dead, diseased, or broken branches. prune off any new branches that are growing from the base of the tree (suckers) or straight up from horizontal branches (water sprouts).

Keep your fruit trees healthy and they will give you many years of abundant harvests.

Troublesome Spider Mites

Saturday, August 1st, 2009 by Jenny Watts
    • Keep flowers and vegetables in peak condition by giving them a midsummer feeding with a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus than in nitrogen.
    • Check for squash, or “stink”, bugs on squash and pumpkins. Hand-pick grey-brown adults and destroy red egg clusters on the leaves. Use pyrethrins to control heavy infestations.
    • Take care of your roses: feed, water, weed, mulch and remove faded blooms regularly. Spray if necessary at first sign of insect or disease problems.
    • Sow seeds of perennials like columbine, coreopsis, delphiniums and cone-flowers now for planting in the fall and beautiful blooms next year.
    • Impatiens will give you instant color in shady areas and continue blooming right through the fall.

The Trouble with Spider Mites

Spider mites are common pests in the urban landscape and can inflict serious damage to trees, shrubs and flowers. Hot and dry summer weather often encourages the outbreak of spider mites on garden or house plants. Cousins of spiders, spider mites are very small, rarely growing larger than a grain of fine sand. Although small, they can do plenty of damage by sucking nutrients out of plant leaves, and by injecting toxins which curl plant leaves.

The telltale signs of a spider mite infestation are stippled yellow, white or bronze leaves. Sometimes there is a silken webbing on the stems or leaves, and the leaves will appear very dusty and dirty looking. New growth may be distorted, and the plant may be unhealthy in appearance.

To determine if a plant is infested with mites, hold a sheet of white paper underneath an affected leaf and tap it sharply. Minute green, red or yellow specks the size of pepper grains will drop to the paper and begin to move around.

The two-spotted spider mite is one of the ‘warm season’ mites. This pest attacks over 180 host plants including field crops, ornamental plants, house plants and weeds. The females overwinter in the soil or on host plants. They become active in April and May when they seek out the undersides of leaves on suitable hosts. Each female may lay over 100 eggs.

European red mites attacks deciduous trees and shrubs. They are especially common on fruit trees and flowering trees such as crabapples, flowering cherries, pears, plums and hawthorn trees.

Spider mites can be controlled in different ways. They are attracted to dusty leaves, so spraying the undersides of the leaves with a strong blast of water twice a week will help control them. Add some insecticidal soap to the water for even more effective control. Horticultural oil and Neem oil are safe to spray on most plants and they will control spider mites very well.

Oils and insecticidal soap are contact insecticides that kill certain insects and mites by intervening physically, rather than chemically, with their respiratory processes. They affect pests that are present when the spraying takes place, but have little or no residual effect. Under optimum conditions, spider mites can complete their development from egg to adult in less than one week. Populations increase rapidly in warm weather and cause extensive plant damage in a very short time. So several applications 7 to 10 days apart will be necessary. Be sure to saturate the undersides of the leaves.

As with all insect problems, plants which are under
stress of some kind are more susceptible to insect attack. Make sure affected plants are receiving proper sun or shade exposure and the right amount of water. Keep your plants healthy and you will have fewer insect problems.

Insects in the Garden

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Roses bloom all summer with their abundant flowers in so many different colors. Choose some now when you can see their lovely flowers.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with an acid plant food to encourage lush growth. Pinch or prune to promote full, dense growth.
    • Paint trunks of young fruit trees with Tree Trunk White. This will keep the soft bark from sun-burning which leaves cracks for borer insects, the most common cause of death of young apple trees.
    • Earwigs are out and about and hungry. Control them with the new “Sluggo Plus”, which has the natural, bacteria-based spinosad added to the original iron phosphate formula.
    • Finish planting the summer vegetable garden. Seeds of early corn, and beans can go directly in the soil and plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash, cucumbers and basil can be set out now.

Helping the Good Bugs

Not all bugs are bad bugs. In fact there are many bugs that don’t eat plants at all, they feed on other insects. By encouraging these beneficial insects, you can maintain a natural balance in your garden and reduce damage done by insect pests with a minimum of pesticide sprays.

Insects that feed on other insects are divided into two types, the predators and the parasites. Predators move around looking for plant feeders such as aphids, mites and caterpillars. Lacewing larvae and ladybug larvae and adults aggressively devour aphid populations. Ground beetles prey on a variety of ground-dwelling pests like cutworms, root maggots and slug eggs.

Parasites are insects that develop in the bodies of other “host” insects. Most parasites are tiny wasps or flies whose larvae eat other insects from within. Tiny parasitoid wasps are aggressive beyond their size when it comes to pursuing aphids and caterpillars. They provide a very effective means of insect control.

These various beneficial insects consume large numbers of pest insects, but their diets are not limited to other insects. In fact, many of the beneficial species have periods in their life cycles when they survive only on nectar and pollen. So by planting a variety of insect-attracting plants you can keep beneficial insects going strong.

There are two plant groups that are particularly attractive to beneficial insects. They are the parsley or carrot family and the daisy or sunflower family. Most beneficial insects have short mouthparts and cannot reach far into a flower for nectar and pollen. The small flowers on these plants put pollen and nectar within reach of these tiny insects.

The carrot family includes many herbs such as anise, dill, fennel, and cilantro and vegetables such as carrots, parsley and celery. The flowers of these plants are arranged in clusters called umbels which are shaped like an umbrella. They produce large amounts of nectar as well as shelter for insect-feeding insects, another critical requirement. To take advantage of their nectar, you just let a few of your carrot, parsley and celery plants go to seed.

The sunflower family is the largest family of flowers on the planet. These “flowers” are actually made up of dozens or hundreds of tiny flowers clustered together. This family includes yarrows, marigolds, zinnias, asters, calendulas, chrysanthemums, cosmos and many more. While these plants have less nectar than those of the parsley family, the flowers last a long time, and with planning, you can have some in bloom throughout the growing season.

Alyssum, borage, statice, various clovers and yarrows also attract parasitoid and predatory insects. Low-growing plants, such as thyme, rosemary, or mint, provide shelter for ground beetles and other beneficial insects.

Get to know what the good bugs look like and lure them to your garden by growing these attractive flowers. In a few years, you may find that you just don’t need insecticides any more.