Gourds, Heavy Soil

The Garden Clock

By Pauline Keegan

When should I pick ornamental gourds?

Ornamental gourds should be picked after the vines die but before a freeze. Wipe the gourds with a cloth dipped in a solution of 1 percent bleach to water. The stems should be left on. After the gourds are completely dry, they can be waxed with ordinary paste wax and polished lightly. They can also be shellacked or painted.

I have a cherry tree that has sunken lesions that ooze sap. An amber colored, sour smelling gum oozes from these lesions. What shall I do?

There is a plant disease called bacterial gummosis or bacterial blast. It attacks fruit and nut trees, especially cherry trees. It is most serious on young trees but especially cherry trees. Bacterial canker gummosis is difficult to control. Prune out diseased branches. After each cut, sterilize pruning shears with alcohol. In the fall, spray with a fungicide containing basic copper sulfate.

Our oak tree has round balls on some of the leaves. Should we have them removed?

The round balls that you see are galls, several hundred different species of wasps, aphids, adelgids, midges and the list goes on of insects like to lay their eggs forming a ball. Oak trees are the favorite place for them to lay their eggs which form around the soft tissue of a leaf. To reduce the number of galls gather and destroy the fallen leaves, which we will see abundant soon.

Can rice hulls be used as a mulch around tomatoes?

Rice hulls make a good mulch around almost any plants. Make sure the plant itself is not buried under the mulch.

The roots of my iris are coming up from the ground, should I mulch them?

Your iris plants are telling you that they are too crowded and it’s time to dig them up and divide and replant, or give some away.

How can I keep squirrels from eating my tomatoes?

Try spraying hot pepper around the bottom of your tomato plants. You can also spray hot pepper right on your tomatoes. Just be sure to wash the spray off before you eat the tomatoes.

What can be done to improve the heavy clay soil that is on my property?

Heavy clay soil can be improved by adding compost. Other amendments that can help are gypsum and fine gravel. Heavy clay soil retains water for a long time. This may seem desirable in an area that has some drought each year. However, most plants are unhappy with wet feet all the time. Amending the soil promotes good drainage.

I have a rhododendron that doesn’t bloom. It is three years old. Have you any suggestions?

Rhododendrons prefer shade and lots of water. If it already has these conditions, try a bloom booster fertilizer that is high in phosphorus.

My flowering crab apple has orange spots on the leaves and the leaves are falling prematurely. What is the cause?

Ornamental crab apple trees are subject to the same diseases as apple trees that are grown for their fruit. Your tree has cedar-apple rust. This disease alternates between cedars and apples, even if they are three miles apart. There is nothing you can do now. In late winter, spray your crab apple tree with lime and sulphur or any fungicide specified for fruit trees.

What is the shelf life of Sevin and Malathion?

The shelf life of Sevin is three to five years. The shelf life of Malathion is indefinite. Be sure these and any other pesticides are shelved in a well marked place away from the reach of children.

Send your gardening and landscaping questions and tips to Washington County Master Gardeners, 2536 N. McConnell Ave., Fayetteville, 72704 or call 444-1755.

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