Tomatoes – Caterpillars on Tomatoes

Do you know what to do if you find several large caterpillars munching on your tomatoes? What should you do to get rid of them?

It sounds like you are probably seeing tomato hornworms, which can grow to an alarming size! Like most caterpillars, hornworms can be controlled by using Bt, Bacillis thuringiensis. Bt is an organic way of taking care of those hornworms.

However, since tomato hornworms can do a lot of damage in a short time, you may want to remove the ones you see by hand. I use a beer bottle or the like to place over the branch where the hornworm is located. Then, you can commence to give the hornworm an all over body ache by bouncing if off the bottle walls until the hornworm lets go of the branch. The hornworm falls in the bottle and you can quickly pull the branch out of the bottle. Take the bottle and shove it neck first into the dirt. This is where it suffocates and puts nutrients back into the soil as it decomposes. In the late summer or early fall remove your bottles.

If you see a caterpillar with what looks like grains of rice all over it, feel free to relocate it elsewhere in the garden rather than killing it. It has been parasitized by a certain wasp laying its eggs on it. These small wasps are harmless to humans, but will help keep the hornworm population in check. At some point, the parasitized hornworm will die anyway.

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Happy Gardening from the Master Gardener Girl!!

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Tip: Tomato Blossom Drop

Do you know what causes blossoms to drop from your tomato plants? Tomato blossom drop is usually caused by above 90F or below 50F temperatures. To protect plants against heat, provide shade from the hot afternoon sun. To protect against cold temperatures, cover plants with a floating row cover.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog by clicking on “Subscribe to Master Gardener Girls’ Gardening Blog by Email”. I will keep you up to date with my blogs that will include great tips and information. I will also occasionally offer you free items like my Free Gardening Journal that you will receive when you subscribe.

Happy Gardening from the Master Gardener Girl!!

Insecticidal Soaps – What is it & How to use it

Do you know what an insecticidal soap is? Does it differ from regular soap? Insecticidal soaps are specifically formulated to have insect-killing properties, while being safe for most plants. All regular soaps are made with a long chain of fatty acids.

Insecticidal soaps kill susceptible insects by washing away the protective coating on the surface of the insect and by disrupting normal membrane functions inside the insect. The insects must come into direct contact with the spray droplets for the material to be effective. Good coverage is essential and doesn’t affect your health.

The soaps have no residual activity toward insects. Note that repeated applications can sometimes have damaging effects on some types of plants. I normally dilute the insecticidal soap by matching the contents with water.

As with all pesticides, you should always follow label instructions carefully. Remember, with insecticidal soap, make sure you spray the insects. Spraying the leaves will not provide as a protective agent.

This is an organic way of controlling pests. More and more growers are turning to chemical free every growing season. Just remember, as with any chemical, too much is never good. Be sure to always follow the directions. Diluting is a good way to maintain, but on the side of caution.

Between my husband and I, unknowingly, we sprayed our potato plants in the spring with insecticidal soap for approximately four days out of a total of seven because the Colorado potato beetle was so prevalent. I didn’t know he sprayed and he didn’t know I had been spraying. Well, can you guess what happened? Our pretty potato plants went to potato heaven.

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Slimey Slugs – Controlling Slugs Organically

Are some of your vegetable plants and flowers being badly damaged by slugs. Do you think you should replace them in the fall or is there still a chance the flowers might come back next year? How can you control slugs organically?

Most perennials have reasonably hardy constitutions, so I wouldn’t give up on them yet. If you can control further slug damage, the roots should be able to generate new foliage this year. There are several ways to miminize slug damage. You can hand pick the slugs off of the plants.

Sometimes, you may not see them. In that case you can also use beer traps, or surround your plants with copper as a slug barrier. The slugs won’t cross the barrier as their “slime” reacts with the copper, giving them an electric shock. There are also iron-phosphate-based slug baits that safely and effectively control these pests. Some just dump salt on them. Your choice!

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Happy Gardening from the Master Gardener Girl!! Enjoy!

Japanese Beetles – How to Control Them!

Are Japanese beetles making your green bean plants look worse than baby swiss cheese? For the last two weeks, I have been constantly picking beans and spraying Japanese beetles, which is why I haven’t blogged since then. They are becoming a problem for all of us and I will explain what you can do to prevent and or control them.

Unfortunately Japanese beetles are quickly becoming a nuisance to farmers, gardeners and landscapers. Over the last few years the pest has been making a steady migration. Japanese beetles are less than one half inch long metallic green beetles. The beetles have hard copper brown colored wing covers. An easy way to distinguish Japanese beetles from other beetles is the row of white tufts that protrude from underneath the wing covers and from the tip of the abdomen.

Another distinguishing characteristic for the Japanese beetle is the absence of foliage on your favorite plants coinciding with the presence of hoards of copulating beetles. Adult beetles emerge from the ground in late May and early June. Adult beetles live approximately 30 to 45 days. Heavy feeding pressure from Japanese beetles usually lasts from 4 to 6 weeks. By September damage from the beetles has usually slowed down significantly.

Japanese beetles are not picky eaters and will feed on over 300 species of plants. Foliage of roses, many tree fruits and grapes seem to be especially attractive to the beetles. The grubs of these beetles can also damage turf before they emerge in the spring. Japanese beetles are known to fly as far as 5 miles but one to two miles is more common. There migratory nature makes controlling the beetles very challenging.

Even if you kill every beetle on your property today, more may begin showing up immediately. Japanese beetles apparently produce aggregation pheromones which attract more beetles to feed and find potential mates. Additionally, beetles may be attracted by volatile odors produced by damaged plants. It is important to maintain low numbers of beetles. High beetle populations produce more pheromones and volatile oils and attract even greater numbers of beetles.

Many chemicals are labeled for control of Japanese beetles. I have heard several reports of good control being obtained from using the chemical carbaryl (sevin®). If you choose to use an insecticide be sure to follow the label instructions and keep up with the spraying. Whatever control strategy you implement, do it when you see a few beetles and before the pest is out of control.

Some grape growers have used a product made from a fine powder of kaolin clay called Surround®. I first heard of this product several years ago when it was being used for control of fungal diseases on apple trees. The product forms a thin protective layer on the trees limbs and leaves. In addition to stopping some fungal infections the product also seems to camouflage plants from Japanese beetles. If the product is applied before the arrival of beetles they never view those plants as food and simply move on to other food sources.

Kaolin clay products do create a haze on plant surfaces that is not aesthetically pleasing which makes it impractical for plants in a landscape setting. Small amounts of beetles on high value plants can be removed by hand. Neem extracts may deter Japanese beetle feeding but will probably not give adequate control when populations are high.

Direct spraying with insecticidal soaps can kill Japanese beetles on contact but will provide no residual protection. These beetles are another in the long list of trials that we gardeners are privileged enough to get to face. Like any trial we’ll come out of it better on the other end and undoubtedly have some good stories to tell about the process.

For pesticides, insecticidal soaps and all your gardening needs, click on Gardens Alive! Remember, they still have the $20 for $40 offer at checkout…so now is the time to buy!

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8 Steps to Successful Gardening—Step 8 Visiting

The eighth step is to visit your garden regularly. Spending a measly 10 minutes a day wandering around your lawn and garden like inspector 12 is all you need to do. I like to inspect my garden while enjoying a cup of coffee. Bonding with your plants is priceless and you might stop and pull a few weeds while you’re at it. You may also notice a plant needing water or notice a huge tomato worm devouring your favorite tomato plant. The more in touch you are with your garden, the better gardener you shall be.

Dealing with those little things each day keeps you from getting overwhelmed or frustrated because you are spending quality weekend time working in your garden. In fact, you may discover that by tending to your garden often and on a daily basis keeps it from being an obnoxious chore.

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8 Steps to Successful Gardening—Step 7 Maintenance

The seventh step is to minimize the maintenance required. As a whole, steps one through six will reduce the amount of time you have to spend in the garden. Another tidbit is to cut back on fertilizers and prune when necessary.

Fertilizing and pruning can cause plants to produce new growth providing a buffet for bugs as the prefer this type of growth the most. Besides, plants shouldn’t be forced to grow faster than their normal growth rate. Pruning is not the way nature intended them to grow. No matter how many people believe that, I am not one of them.

My answer is to organically fertilize, which these types of fertilizers have small numbers for nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus.

And now I would like to offer you a Free copy of my Gardeners Journal so that you can easily document your gardening experience and track what you do. Click on “Subscribe to Master Gardener Girls’ Gardening Blog by Email” and I will send you a copy of this file.

Happy Gardening from the Master Gardener Girl!!