Gardening Question of the Day

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Last 7 Days

My tomato leaves are covered with a sticky yellow substance. What is this?

Most likely you're being visited by aphids, tiny insects whose main job is to suck the juice out of your tomato leaves. They give off this sticky substance, called honeydew, which attracts ants and causes mold to develop. Controlling these interlopers usually requires the use of an insecticidal soap spray. Consult your local nursery for the best option in your area.

What's the best method for dealing with poison ivy?

There is no shortage of remedies for poison ivy. Mild cases may be helped by calamine lotion, over-the-counter cortisone cream, and saltwater soaks, but severe cases may require prescription cortisone. Try using a barrier cream if you are about to venture into the woods or other areas that are likely to have poison ivy. If you have it growing in your yard, cover the plants with black plastic to kill them. Be careful, however; even dead plants can be infectious.

Is there a natural repellent for deer ticks and wood ticks?

We recommend crushed garlic. Rub it on your wrists, ankles, and exposed skin before heading out into tick country. Avoid putting the garlic on or near your face.

Some of my tomato plant leaves have turned dark brown and have rings on them. Is this blight?

Yes, you are no doubt suffering from early blight, which comes on in humid weather. It's a fungus that can last the winter on diseased plants. After you harvest the tomatoes (assuming you get fruits on these vines), destroy or discard all the infected plants. Meanwhile, you can spray them with a fungicide that won't cure the disease but will protect any new foliage. Ask at your nursery for the fungicide that will work best in your area.

I am a new gardener and have seen the term "manure tea." Can you tell me what it is, where to get it, and how to use it?

You make it yourself. Here's the recipe. Fill a large trash can two-thirds full of water. Add 2 large buckets of chicken manure and let steep for several hours. Stir with a hoe until it is murky. Ladle the "tea" around vegetables or flowers. Old-timers claim that this drink will prevent tomato blight, and it's a great multi-purpose fertilizer.

How much water should I give my shrubs and trees?

Your trees and shrubs need watering, just like everything else growing in your yard, especially in periods of little rain. Watering cools them off in hot weather and helps the plants absorb nutrients from the soil, as well as make their own food. Don't get overzealous, however. Wait for signs of water stress, including wilting and loss of leaves. Here's a rule of thumb for watering: Give your trees an inch of water every two weeks if you've had less than an inch of rain. Try to saturate the soil all at once, so the water goes deep. To monitor your watering, use a sprinkler and place an empty tuna can nearby. When the can is full of water, empty it and then fill again. Two fills will ensure adequate soil saturation. Water in the early morning or late evening to avoid quick evaporation.

I grow cantaloupes in Florida but they always taste bland. What is the problem?

If you've had an exceptional amount of rainfall during the ripening stage, this could cause the bland fruit. It also depends on which variety you're growing. You should consult with your local extension office to see which varieties they recommend for your area. There are ones that can be very sweet, but also too susceptible to mildew or other disease. Some less sweet varieties have greater disease resistance, so you may have to experiment before getting just the right variety.

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