This is the Q&A for the Yard and Garden show for July 10, 2020. Yard and Garden Live is a call-in radio show I do on KUTT 99.5 FM from 10-11:30 am and it will run through July 31, 2020. It can also be found on kutt995.com for online listening. If you missed a show or just want to read through the questions, I have written them all in my blog and will continue to do so throughout the season.
Guest Host: Justin Evertson, Green Infrastructure Coordinator for the Nebraska Forest Service
1. The first question of the show was from a caller who has a 20 foot tall blue spruce that the top 5-6 feet is turning brown. What caused this and what can be done about it?
A. This is likely from a canker. Canker fungi are common in blue spruce trees and will often cause the top portion of the tree to die. The dead area should be cut out but then you will lose the apical dominance and the tree won’t grow upward much after removing the terminal bud. It will die back to a certain spot then stop, the rest of the tree will remain healthy.
2. This caller has tomatoes with leaves that are curling. What is causing this?
A. Unfortunately, we aren’t completely sure what is causing this damage, but it is widespread throughout the whole state this year. It could be from herbicide damage due to chemicals still being used later in the year with the cooler spring and sudden change of temperatures to very hot. There is also thought that it could be from the beet curly top virus. This could also be from watering issues such as over watering or underwatering. It would be best to just pull the plants out because if it is the virus it can spread to the other plants and if it is herbicide injury the produce would not be safe to consume. If the other plants look ok, this would be the best option.
3. A walk-in listener has an row of arborvitae that have developed brown spots in them this summer. What is causing this?
A. Arborvitae struggle with the extreme temperatures that Nebraska have. The damage looks mostly like environmental stress. Keep them sufficiently watered, but don’t overwater. Keep them mulched in. Depending on the amount of dieback, they may survive.
4. This caller planted broccoli in mid to late May, now the leaves are developing holes and there is no head developing yet. What is wrong with it?
A. It is likely that the broccoli was planted too late and may not develop the head. Broccoli is more of a cool season plant, they don’t grow well in this heat. The holes are likely due to one of the looper caterpillars that are common on broccoli. Sevin will help with that.
5. A caller has a large pine tree that is looking dead, quite suddenly. It is losing a lot of needles and has turned brown. What is wrong with it?
A. This is likely due to pine wilt disease. There is no cure for the disease and no way to prevent it prior to infection. The tree should be removed.
She also wondered if she could still spray for bagworms?
A. We are quickly nearing the end of the time frame for spraying for bagworms. They are best sprayed when the bags are 1/2 inch in length or less. As the bags get too big, the sprays become less effective. Spraying soon should be ok, but if you wait too long you may not see 100% coverage from the sprays. Use Tempo and spray in the next week for best control.
6. This caller has an apple tree that didn’t bloom this year and the leaves look bad. Will it survive and is there anything to do for the tree?
A. The frost likely injured the blooms. They will not produce apples this year if that is what happened. The plants will still survive. After discussion, it seems that the apple trees have rust on them, which is common. The spray time has passed. You can spray the trees next spring with a copper fungicide for the rust or use an orchard fruit tree spray through the season next year to work on insects and diseases in the trees.
7. A caller has a forsythia and a red twig dogwood that have grown too large for the area. When can they be pruned so they aren’t blocking windows?
A. If flowers are not critical, these plants can be pruned most anytime. Pruning right now would reduce the flowers for next year, since they are mostly set on for next year already. However, the best time for pruning the forsythia is just after it has finished blooming and the dogwood would be in the late winter. They can both be rejuvenated by pruning all the way back to the ground, about 6-8 inches above ground. The rejuvenation pruning should be done in the fall.
8. This caller has tomatoes and cucumbers with spots on the leaves. Is this a fungus and should a fungicide be used?
A. This could be from a fungus, it is hard to tell without seeing the plants. However, it is not the same fungus, these would have different types of fungi. Fungi are typically host specific. If there are just a few leaves that are damaged, those could be removed and destroyed. If the plant seems to have a lot of damaged leaves, a fungicide could be used if desired. Watering from below on the plants or earlier in the day if using overhead irrigation can help reduce the spread and incidence of the disease. If using a fungicide, be sure to read and follow the label and follow the PHI or pre-harvest interval. The PHI is how many days to wait for harvest after an application of a pesticide is made.
9. A caller has 3 river birches and a corkscrew weeping willow. After the late frost this spring, there are branches that are now dead, with no leaves. Will these plants survive?
A. It is unlikely that they will survive if they are not green now. It is likely that the late frost injured them and they cannot recover. If it is a few select branches, you might be able to remove them and the tree may be ok, but if the majority of the canopy has no green leaves on it, they will not survive. These plants can struggle with the extreme temperatures of Nebraska.
10. What can be done about Japanese Beetles?
A. The plants that the Japanese beetles are found on can be sprayed with carbaryl, bifenthrin, or chlorantraniliprole. For organic options neem or pyola can be used. Don’t use the traps, they will bring in more beetles than what you already have. Grub controls can help a little with the population size. Be sure to avoid spraying the flowers of any plants.
11. This caller has a wild plum thicket along their driveway. It is spreading too much into the driveway. When can it be pruned back to avoid scratching cars that drive by?
A. The areas of the plum thicket that are creeping out of normal growth can be cut back most anytime. They are a tough plant and should be fine.
She also has a vegetable garden that is not growing well this year. It is the same location that she has gardened for years, but the plants just are not doing well. Can she add manure to it and if so, when?
A. You can add manure to the garden. For food safety guidelines, fresh manure should be applied 120 days prior to harvest of any crops, so we advise adding manure in the fall. However, since this has been a good garden space, I would suggest doing a soil test prior to soil amendments to know exactly what the problem is and know how to fix it.
12. A caller has a silver maple that lost limbs and has started to split from the recent storms. Can the tree be pulled back together with a cable?
A. It is best to work with an arborist on this, to ensure it is done correctly. However, the tree may be too large for a cable to effectively help with the split. It may be time to remove this tree. Silver maples are prone to decay from wounds such as this, it is likely the beginning of the end for the tree anyway.
13. The final question of the day is about a black hills spruce that is browning sporadically on the ends of branches throughout the tree. What is wrong with it?
A. This tree could have freeze damage on the tips of the branches from the late frost and snow this spring. It could also be from a disease called sirococcus or needle cast. It would be too late for treatment with either of these diseases, but they shouldn’t kill the tree. The brown areas can be pruned out and next spring, it might be good to spray the tree with a fungicide.
*Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by Nebraska Extension or bias against those not mentioned.