NEWS for North Dakotans
Agriculture Communication, North Dakota State University
7 Morrill Hall, Fargo, ND 58105-5665
September 14, 2000
Ron Smith, Extension Horticulturist
North Dakota State University
Q: I was so excited to discover your website while searching for information on lilac bushes. I hope you can help me. I recently moved from New York City to Maine. My new husband has six lilac bushes in his yard. I don't know the first thing about how to take care of them. Last year we had someone prune them, but this year we did not. I noticed that they are developing pods or seeds of some sort. Is this okay? Do I need to cut them off? It appears that I have more than one variety. Someone told me that one was a Japanese lilac -- bushier and the flowers are smaller than the standard type I am used to seeing. The balance of bushes I have are more of the standard type. What other care must these plants receive? Do they require fertilization? (E-mail reference, Maine)
A: You have one of the hardiest species of woody plants that can be grown in a landscape. The seed pods you are seeing are not going to hurt anything - just look a little unsightly for now. Next year, if they need pruning, do so RIGHT AFTER they finish flowering. If you prune too late in the season, you will be removing the flower buds for next season. Generally they do not need fertilization. The biggest problem with them is that they may develop powdery mildew on the foliage as the summer wears on. But this is nothing to worry about. It doesn't cause any harm to the plants, since they will usually be dropping their leaves in 45 to 60 days after appearance of the fungus, prior to going into winter.
Q: I need help figuring out what is wrong with my vegetable garden. Most of my tomato leaves are tightly curled and misshapen. Some plants have died and some continue to grow and a few have set fruit but they look bad. The potatoes show some sign of the same problem but not to the same extent. The green beans never put out any new leaves after sprouting. I did a second planting and it looks like they are doing the same thing. The other things in the garden look good. I did work peat moss into the soil. Other than that I can't think of anything different. We have used this spot for several years and have never experienced any problems like this before. The extension agent thought the tomatoes might have a virus. Is there any way to confirm this? If it is, do you have any suggestions for preventing it for next year? (E-mail reference, Williston, N.D.)
A: It is difficult to tell what the problem is with your tomato and potato crops from your description. It doesn't sound like a virus disease however. Next year, try rotating your plantings to something in another family -- peas, beans, corn, cabbage, or something similar, but not into peppers, eggplant, tomatoes or potatoes. Secondly, I suggest that you obtain stock that is listed as being resistant to the common diseases. You could just have a soil problem. I suggest a soil test to see where it stands nutrient-wise. Test for N,P,K, soluble salts, pH, and organic matter content. Send a pint dry, to Soil Testing Lab, Waldron Hall, NDSU, Fargo, ND 58105. They will bill you about $25 for the services.
Q: I planted two spruce last year. Both trees went into shock, and only new growth appeared on the top part of the tree. Next year will new growth appear only on th e previous years growth, or will it be everywhere? (E-mail reference, Ontario)
A: Actually the way to predict that is to examine the buds on the branches. If they are plump and green, you will likely get new growth emerging all over; if they are dry, brittle and brown, then it isn't very likely they will send out new growth from those areas. If they don't grow in the form you want, I'd suggest starting over with some new plantings, or else you'll end up with some interesting looking distortions that may not compliment your landscape!
Q: Help, I have a problem. My pumpkin and zucchini aren't maturing. After closely examining my plants I found cucumber beetles inside of the blossom, which, I believe, is causing the fruit to slowly die off after they start to set and grow. Early in the season I had cucumber beetles on these plants and I used Garden Guard and had no problems after that. The plants are big and look very healthy. I hope you can help me. (E-mail reference, Hosmer, S.D.)
A: I don't know that I can be a big help at this stage, but if there is still evidence of the insect being present, I would suggest spraying with Sevin insecticide to control the population at 10-day intervals until harvest.
Q: I am starting an Apricot tree from seed. (From the super market.) If I keep it a pot indoors all winter, will it grow? (E-mail reference)
A: The apricot tree needs to go through the cycles of winter/summer. Keeping it as a houseplant will not allow it to survive. You are better off planting it outside, depending on where you live.
Q: My Shasta daisies (6-8 years old) are turning brown, starting with the lower leaves and continuing until the whole stem is crisp and dead. Almost looks like they have been sprayed with Roundup, but I haven't used any herbicides since late last fall. Now several stems on one plant in a different location are doing the same thing, but the plant just next to it is still dark green, healthy, and setting new buds. Haven't been able to see any insects. I have been cutting them off, even with the ground. Will they come back OK next year, or should the whole plant be dug up and destroyed? What can I do to prevent this from happening on my remaining plants? (E-mail reference, Wagner, S.D.)
A: Shasta daisies are usually indestructible, but occasionally come down with fungal diseases when the conditions are right, such as fungal stem rot, which it sounds like is happening to yours.
This is either a Rhizocotonia or Fusarium fungus, both difficult to control once the infective organism has begun work. Try spraying with captan or chlorothalonil to see if that helps.
Q: We have an apple tree that has developed extensive suckers. I've read that one should dig down and cut the suckers off where they are attached to the root -- that if the suckers are cut off any higher, they merely come back thicker than ever. Does this work? Is there any other way to get rid of suckers--a chemical or something? Thanks. (E-mail reference, Fargo, N.D.)
A: I wish it worked! Unfortunately, it seems that once a plant begins to sucker, they become difficult to control. Cutting each sucker back to the source may keep it from suckering again at THAT point, but they just develop again somewhere else.
Q: I have two questions for you. What do you recommend for western North Dakota for everbearing and Junebearing strawberries? Can you use any chemical weed control in strawberries? Also, will liquid bleach mixed with water hurt garden plants and the soil? A lady is putting it in her Miracle Gro applicator attached to a garden hose and spraying her plants so her puppy doesn't use them for a bathroom. She was wondering if this would hurt the plants and soil. (E-mail reference, Stanley, N.D.)
A: Good grief! Bleach in her Miracle-Gro? I don't believe it! If she hasn't killed everything yet, she is simply lucky!! I advise against it! This sounds like something that comes out of the mouth of the Jerry Baker organization, America's so-called "Master Gardener." The strawberries that you would grow in western North Dakota wouldn't be any different than what can be grown in the rest of the state. Redcoat, Honeoye, and Glooscap seem to work best with the growers I have communicated with.
Q: I have planted over 40 bearberry cotoneasters in my front yard, some which border along the road and driveway. The shrubs were planted in late May and have been doing well until the last few weeks. One of the shrubs quickly turned yellow and now the leaves are brown. The leaves can be easily removed by rubbing your fingers over the stem. During the past week, quite a few of the others are turning yellow. The yellow seems to start from the center and eventually spreads to the end of the stems. We have had an unusually wet and mild summer. I live in Southern Maryland. Last weekend for instance we had 3 inches of rain in one day. Could this problem be from too much water, or another problem? (E-mail reference, Maryland)
A: Cotoneaster are quite vulnerable to bacterial disease (fireblight) and fungal diseases (powdery mildew, leaf spot, canker, and scab) when the weather is unusually wet. Not knowing for sure what you have from here, I can suggest a general fungicide to help cut down on the spread of the disease (it sounds like a fungus). A fungicide known as All-Purpose Fungicide, known also as Daconil 2787 (chlorothalonil), is a good one to start with. Also, if you have your shrubs mulched with plastic, either remove or punch holes in it; if you have just organic mulch (bark chips) pull some of that away from the crowns of the plants to help them dry out.
Q: Because of some new construction we had to move a tree that is about 5 years old. We think its an ash tree. We had called in a tree mover, but he called the day he was supposed to move it and couldn't make it. We were in a bind because the person was there to start digging for our basement, so he moved the tree with a backhoe. The tree lost all of it's leaves, but believe it or not is starting to get leaves and green growth at the end of it's stems. We've been watering it a lot and also adding root stimulator periodically. What else can we be doing to help this tree heal and take root in it's new place? (E-mail reference, Grand Forks, N.D.)
A: The best thing you can do is to encourage the new growth with adequate water and nutrients, being careful to not overdo it. Later in the summer I would suggest backing off on the fertilization and watering somewhat in order to "harden" the plant going into winter. Beyond mid August, I would recommend letting nature take its course -- to a point. If we go more than 10-14 days without a good rain, water it. Don't fertilize any more for the rest of the year. If there are any branches that are not leafing out, go ahead and cut them back next spring. Try to keep the tree from becoming drought stressed for the next two to three years. Beyond that, it should be able to take care of itself with what nature provides.
Q: What would you recommend to get rid of crab grass in a big farm yard? It would be quite expensive to use preemergent type products with the fertilizer and crab grass prevention products together. Is there any product you would recommend that would work for us. We have heard of "Drive" and wonder how it would work and also what affect it would have on the trees and flowers which are part of this large yard. (E-mail reference, Cavour, S.D.)
A: I'm sorry, but I don't know what Drive is, what the active ingredient is, or what crop(s) it is labelled for. Consequently, I cannot make any recommendations on that product. I do know that there are plenty of other stand alone products that can be used in turfgrass to control crabgrass as well as other annual grasses. They include the old standbys like pendimethalin, Tupersan, Dacthal, and Betasan and new intros like Acclaim and Dimension. I do agree with you 100 percent that combo products are not as effective, mostly because the active ingredient is too low for heavy infestations. Apply the herbicide separately from the fertilizer.
NDSU Agriculture Communication
Source: Ron Smith, (701) 231-8161
Editor: Gary Moran, (701) 231-7865