In the last two weeks my watermelons and cucumbers have declined in health.  Just a few leaves started wilting.  As time progressed more leaves wilted and the plant was obviously declining.  Eventually the plants died.  What is causing this?

There are several diseases that could be causing the wilting.  The most likely culprit is Fusarium wilt.  But Verticillium wilt and Phytophthora are other possibilities.  Bacterial wilt may also cause wilting in cucumber and muskmelon.

Fusarium wilt invades the vascular tissue through the root system.  Usually one side of the plant will exhibit more severe symptoms than the other side of the plant.  Leaves initially become a dull green to gray-green color with older leaves turning yellow.  The shoot tips will wilt followed by turning brown and becoming dried up with individual vines collapsing and eventually the entire plant collapses.  One way to tell if the plant has Fusarium is to cut the stem and the root to see if there is a reddish-brown discoloration of the xylem tissues.  The only problem with the discoloration is that verticillium will cause the same symptom.

The actual infection occurred earlier in the season, but as plants become stressed the symptoms show up.  Fusarium is a soil borne pathogen that can live in the soil for multiple years.  The disease is usually patchy and then spreads farther into the field over time.  The disease can also spread by plant material and seed.

To manage Fusarium plant disease-free seed and transplants, plant resistant varieties of watermelon, rotate away from watermelon for 5-10 years, remove all plant material including as much of the roots as possible, and plant watemelons on raised beds with plastic mulch.

Verticillium causes the lower leaves to become an off green color followed by wilting leaves.  The leaves will turn yellow and eventually turn brown and dry up.  Verticillum can survive in the soil for 8 to 10 years.  Samples need to be sent to a diagnostic clinic to know if the plants have fusarium or verticillium.

To manage Verticillium delay planting until temperatures are warm, avoid planting field known to have Verticillium, avoid planting in areas planted to potato, tomato, and mint, and remove as much of the diseased plant material as possible.

Another disease causing wilting is Phytophthora.  This is another soil borne disease.  The first noticeable sign of Phytophthora is water-soaking of the crown and roots that are black or brown in color, with the plants wilting.  Water-soaked brownish lesions can also occur on leaves and fruits.  The fruits may have a white “powdered” sugar layer of spores.

To manage Phytophthora remove all dead plant material, drain soils, rotate away from watermelon, cucumber, and muskmelon for several years and plant resistant varieties.

Watermelons do not get bacterial wilt, but cucumber and muskmelon can.  Bacterial wilt is caused by a bacteria called Erwinia tracheiphila which is vectored by the striped and spotted cucumber beetles.  Leaves become an off green color and wilt eventually becoming brown and the vines collapse.  If you cut a stem and slowly pull it apart there could be sticky strands of bacterial ooze to confirm bacterial wilt.  The sticky ooze can be variable based upon the environment and cucurbit host.

To manage bacterial wilt, control the striped and spotted cucumber beetles early in the growing season.


Squash, pumpkins, gourds, and muskmelon are most susceptible to powdery mildew, but watermelons and cucumbers may get the disease as well.  Powdery mildew should be getting started on cucurbits, but I have not seen any yet nor had any reports of it.

Powdery mildew starts first as pale yellow leaf spots on the oldest leaves of a plant.  White powdery spots then form on the upper and lower sides of the leaves.  These spots quickly expand encompassing large areas of the leaf, ultimately infecting the entire leaf, petiole, and stem followed by additional leaves.  The youngest leaves of a plant are resistant to infection.  Powdery mildew can colonize nearly all of the leaves on a plant and reduce fruit size and yield. 

The pathogen, Podosphaera xanthii, is believed to be airborne dispersed over long distances from southern states.  The pathogen will infect plants under low (50%) to high (95%) relative humidity and mean temperatures of 68 to 80 °F, although the pathogen can infect at temperatures into the 90’s.  Dryness is favorable for colonization, sporulation, and dispersal.  Symptoms may appear within three to seven days after infection, usually attacking the densest and lowest light intensity areas of the canopy first.  Leaves become susceptible 16 to 23 days after unfolding.

The most effective way to manage powdery mildew is to plant disease resistant varieties.  There are some biological fungicides that are antagonistic fungi that can provide some control.  Excessive nitrogen makes powdery mildew worse.

Fungicides are only protectant sprays, so fungicides need to be applied at the first sign of the disease.  The fungicides need to be applied every 7 to 10 days.  Thorough coverage of the leaves (including underside) and stems are critical to maximizing control.  Ways to maximize coverage is to apply high volumes of the spray mixture, apply at higher pressure, and use a smaller spray droplet.  Chlorothalonil is likely the only fungicide providing control that can be purchased at local garden centers.  However this product only provides fair control.  Having only one fungicide is not good since the fungus can become resistant to fungicides.  It is best to switch fungicides every other application to reduce the risk of resistance.  Other products available to control powdery mildew include Inspire Super, Procure, Quintec, Rally, and Aprovia Top, but they will need to be purchased at a local agricultural retailer.  Another option to get ahold of the products is to purchase them from ebay or Amazon.  Inspire Super, Procure, Quintec and Rally can be purchased from ebay, likely in smaller quantities than at an agricultural retailer and Rally can be purchased from Amazon.

The most effective organically approved fungicide is sulfur.  Thorough coverage is important.  Sulfur can be phytotoxic when temperatures are hot.  Other effective organic fungicides include Actinovate SP, Eco E-rase, MildewCure, JMS stylet-oil, Kaligreen, MilStop, Organocide, Regalia, SeaCide, Serenade, Sonata, Sporatec and Sporan, and Trilogy.  I am not sure of the availability of these products at local garden centers.  Another organic option is to apply a 30 to 40% solution of milk to the plants.  Results have been variable, but it is worth a try if you start when you see the first lesion.


Last week the Japanese beetle began emerging.  They are all over the place feeding upon greater than 350 known plant species.  The adult Japanese beetles usually only feed on green beans, asparagus, and okra as for vegetables. The grubs can feed on roots of sweet corn, beet, beans, tomato, and onion, but not frequently.  The adult Japanese beetle feeds on rhubarb, grape, raspberry, apple, blackberry, pear, plum, peach, and cherry.  The adult Japanese beetle will feed on the following flowers:  rose, hibiscus, hollyhock, and clematis.  The adult Japanese beetle will feed on the following trees and shrubs:  Japanese maple, Norway maple, horsechestnut, gray birch, American chestnut, Rose-of-Sharon, Black Walnut, flowering crabapple, London planetree, Lombardy poplar, sassafras, American mountain ash, American linden, American elm, basswood.  The adult Japanese beetle will feed on weeds as well, such as velvetleaf and smartweed species.

The scientific name for the Japanese beetle is Popillia japonica.  The Japanese beetle was accidentally introduced into the United States on horticultural nursery stock in 1916 in New Jersey.  Japanese beetles are present in every state east of the Mississippi River, except Florida, but can also be found west of the Mississippi river.

The Japanese beetle adult is quite large measuring 1/2 of an inch.  The fore wings or the hard wing coverings are bronze to coppery-brown in color.  The head and the thorax, the middle part of the insect are a metallic green color.  Another identifying feature are the six tufts of hair on each side of the abdomen, the area below the wing coverings.  The larvae are a greyish-white color and 1” in length and can be found in a C-shape pattern.

The larval, worm or grub, stage of the Japanese beetle feeds in the soil on the roots of grasses and ornamentals.  When the population is great enough it can kill the grasses.  This usually only occurs in home lawns.  In broadleaf crops/plants the adult beetles usually feed on the upper leaves of the plant, flowers, and overripe or wounded fruit.  They eat the soft tissues between the veins leaving a lace-like skeleton pattern.  In sweet corn it is possible to eat the leaves as well, but this is uncommon or when the population is large/dense.  In sweet corn the Japanese beetles are attracted to the silks.  When multiple beetles congregate they will eat all of the silks from an ear of corn.

The Japanese beetle only has one generation per year.  Japanese beetle adults emerge from the soil in late – June and will continue to emerge for a few weeks.  The adults are most active in the afternoon in full-sun. Immediately after emergence they begin to mate and the females will go to grassy areas to lay the eggs.  The female burrows two to four inches deep in the soil to lay the eggs.  The eggs hatch in about two weeks.  The eggs and young larvae need sufficient moisture to grow, so a long dry spell in mid-July can drastically reduce the population!  The grubs grow quickly feeding on the roots of grasses and ornamentals.  By the time the larvae reach full size (one to one and 1/4 inch) the larvae have moved to within one to two inches from the soil surface.   However if soil conditions become dry the larvae will move deeper into the soil.  After a few frosts the larvae start to move to a four to six inch soil depth to survive for the winter.  Some grubs have been found 20 inches deep in the soil.  The grubs become inactive when the soil temperature reaches 50 degrees F.  The grubs become active again in the spring when the soil temperature has reached 50 degrees F and move back to the surface.  The larvae will feed for another three to five weeks, then will begin to pupate, resting stage, to prepare for emergence as an adult again in late-June.

Management of adult Japanese beetles can be accomplished by physical removal if there are not too many present. 

The following active ingredient insecticides will control adult Japanese beetles:  cyfluthrin, bifenthrin, deltamethrin, lambda cyhalothrin, esfenvalerate, permethrin, and carbaryl.  The pyrethroid insecticides provide two to three weeks of protection while carbaryl only provides one to two weeks of protection.  Some botanical products include Neem products and Pyola.

Management of Japanese beetle larvae in the lawn is best achieved by applying imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, or clothianidin in June or early July before the eggs hatch.  Be sure to apply 0.5 to 1” of water after application to incorporate the product into the soil.


I have received several samples and visited a location to look at pine trees having brown needles.  As I drive around the county I see many Austrian pine trees having brown needles.  One location has over 20 trees, with nearly every tree having some amount of disease present and some dead trees.  Yes, this disease can kill trees.

The disease is called Dothistroma needle blight or sometimes called red-band needle blight.  The disease is caused by the pathogen Dothistroma septosporum.  Austrian, ponderosa, and mugo pines are most susceptible.  Red and Scots pines are usually resistant to the disease.

To identify the disease look for small reddish-brown spots that eventually encircle the needle forming a band.  This is most evident in the fall, but can also be seen now.  Once the band is formed the needle tip will turn a brown or tan color while the base of the needle stays green.  This is what you see now.  The needles having a green base and a brownish tip is the tell tail sign that the tree has Dothistroma needle blight.  Eventually the entire needle will turn brown and fall off the tree.  The oldest needles on the tree are the ones that become infected.  Tiny black pimple-like fungal spore producing structures, called stromata, may be visible pushing through the surface of the needle within the spots and bands.  The disease usually starts from the lowest branches and moves upward.

Dothistroma needle blight takes over a year to complete its life cycle.  Stromata, the fruiting structures, start to form under the needle epidermis in the fall and break through in the fall.  The stromata contain spores called conidia that do not mature until spring.  Around mid-May the conidia begin to be released during periods of cool and wet conditions. Spores will be produced throughout the growing season any time there are several consecutive days of cool (41-77 degrees F) and wet weather.  The spores are windblown or rain-splashed onto mature needles.  The mature needles, second year and older needles, are the ones infected at this time.  New needles are not susceptible until they become hardened off around July.  The symptoms usually do not show up for three to six months after infection.  Needles infected during the growing season will not become completely brown and drop off until the following summer or fall.

Management options to reduce the risk of getting the disease include wide spacing for good air flow, remove the bottom branches for better air flow, control weeds under tree with mulch, maintain a three to four inch depth of the mulch, make sure lawn sprinkler is not spraying the tree, and do not plant these pines in a low-lying area.  If you can observe the disease soon enough you could prune it out of the tree and burn the branch, but only do this during sunny and dry conditions.  If the disease is present apply a copper based fungicide in mid-May to protect the old needles and again in mid-July to protect the new and old needle.  Fungicide applications probably need to be made for a two to three year period to ensure control.  Once a tree has developed symptoms on 50 to 60 percent of the tree, applying fungicides may not be able to save the tree.  If you have a severely infested tree and several pine trees not infected or barely infected, remove the severely infested tree, otherwise the other trees will end up the same way.

Pine trees in Ohio have a limited life span because they are not native, so they easily become infected with a disease or infested with an insect.  Get out and scout your pine trees for the presence of Dothistroma.


An apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Apple trees are only starting to bud out.  To obtain store quality apples in the home apple orchard, timely applications of effective pesticides are necessary.

The first pesticide application should occur at green tip.  Green tip is when the bud has swollen and has started to turn green.  Most apple varieties are at this stage now or slight beyond this stage.  Fungicides are recommended to control apple scab at this time.

At half-inch green apply fungicides to control scab and insecticides to control San Jose scale, rosy apple aphid, European red mite eggs, and spotted tentiform leaf miner adults.  Half-inch green is just what it means, the bud is one-half inch in length.

At apple tight cluster apply fungicides to control scab, rust, and powdery mildew.  Tight cluster is when you can see the flower buds, but they are still tightly clustered next to each other or 7 days after half-inch green.

At apple pink apply fungicides for control of scab, rust, and powdery mildew.  Insecticides should be applied to control rosy apple aphid, spotted tentiform leafminer, tarnished plant bugs, stinkbugs, especially the brown marmorated stink bug, and San Jose scale. Apple pink is considered to occur 7 to 10 days after tight cluster. The apple pink is where the flower buds have swollen and are turning pink in color.

At apple bloom apply fungicides to control scab, rust, and powdery mildew.  Apple bloom occurs 7 to 10 days after pink.  This is when the flowers are open.  During bloom DO NOT apply any insecticides!  Honey bees and other bees pollinate apple flowers.  If an insecticide is applied at this time the pollinators will be killed and lower apple production will occur.

To determine what fungicides and insecticides to apply and at what rates visit the following website for the Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide:  https://ag.purdue.edu/hla/Hort/Documents/ID-465.pdf


It is that time of the year to begin starting vegetable seeds indoors for transplanting outdoors. Why would you want to consider planting seeds when you can purchase plants from a greenhouse? The three biggest reasons for starting your own plants are that you know how they were grown, can plant a specific variety that you want rather than what is available, and save money as seeds are cheaper than plants.

Choose good seeds. The best quality seeds are those that were produced last year. The younger the seed the faster a seedling will grow. Two-year old seed can work as well, if it was stored properly. Properly stored seeds should be placed in a sealed container to keep moisture out and placed in a refrigerator that is near freezing. Properly stored seeds older than two years can germinate, but not all species will germinate at the same percentage and plants will not start out as vigorously the older the seeds get.

When should I start vegetables? Some species need to be started now or should have been started. The plants that take the longest to get to good transplanting stage is onion and celery, which take 10 to 12 weeks. Eggplant and peppers need 6 to 8 weeks before transplanting. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, head lettuce, and tomato need 5-7 weeks before transplanting. Okra need 4 to 6 weeks. Cucumber, melons, and squash only need 3 to 4 weeks. These time periods are recommended, you can shorten them, but you will just have smaller plants and less of a jumpstart on the season. Start the plants based upon when the transplants can be placed in the garden. Broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, onions, celery, and head lettuce can be planted in mid-April. Everything else mentioned should not be planted until early May and preferably the middle of May, unless you want to cover the plants so they do not freeze.

The biggest problem with growing your own plants is light quality and quantity! If you do not have the correct amount and type of light the hypocotyl (part of the stem below the cotyledon (seed leaves) will become too elongated and the seedling will lay over, especially when watering. You want to keep the hypocotyl as short as possible. The stem can also become too long if the light is not right.

Place containers as close to a south facing window as possible. This is to help provide some natural light, but it will not be enough for the “best” quality of plants. Supplemental lighting is preferred. The minimum amount of light is to have 40-watt fluorescent lamps. The more lights and higher wattage, the better. A better quality of light would be to have a 50:50 combination of cool white and fluorescent lamps. Place the lights 2 inches from the top of the pots/trays or plants. Raise the lights as the plants grow, so that the plants do not get burned when touching the lights. A higher quality of light would be to use a metal halide lamp, but they are expensive, however they provide the best quality and quantity of light when using the 1000-watt bulbs. For these lights, you can place them about 4 feet from the pots/plants. Keep lights on for a 14 to 16 hour period during the day and be sure to turn them off at night. The easiest way to control day length is to use a timer.

Germinate seeds at 80 degrees Fahrenheit, except for celery and spinach which should not go beyond 70 degrees. The use of a heat pad will keep the soil temperature more consistent. The soil temperature can be 5 degrees Fahrenheit colder than the air temperature. Grow plants at 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 63 degrees at night. Daytime temperatures can be higher for warmer-season crops like melons, but cooler for cool-season plants like broccoli.

Plant the seeds into a well-drained potting media. The potting media needs to stay moist at all times until the plants emerge, but not saturated. After the plants have emerged, water to saturation and let the media dry out on the surface before watering again. Do not keep pots saturated as this may allow root rots to occur.

Planting containers come in many sizes. Use whatever size you desire, just remember when using small plug flats, the plants will need to be transplanted into a larger container when the plant is in the cotyledon stage of development.

If the potting media included a fertilizer, then there is no need to add additional fertilizer. If the potting media has no fertilizer, then apply a soluble form of a complete fertilizer when the plants are in the cotyledon stage of growth.

Before transplanting the plants be sure to “harden them off” by placing them outside a little bit at a time eventually leaving them outside, unless the temperature gets too low.

Enjoy this opportunity to start gardening early and the opportunity to grow the variety you most desire. Happy gardening.


Devil’s ivy is one of the most commonly grown house plants. The scientific name is Epipremnum aureum. Other common names include golden pothos, variegated philodendron, hunter’s robe, ivy arum, money plant, silver vine, Solomon Islands vine, and taro vine. It is called devil’s ivy because it is nearly impossible to kill. It is similar to Philodendron and is often mislabeled as such in plant stores.

Devil's ivy is a member of the Arum family and originates from the Solomon Islands which are northeast of Australia. One reference stated the plant may have been picked up and brought back to France during the voyage of Bougainville in the mid- to late-1700’s. In its natural tropical habitat the vines grow 20 to 40 feet long on trees and leaves can get up to 20 inches in length.

Devil’s ivy has waxy, heart-shaped, alternating leaves on a stem that is vine. When grown indoors leaves are usually only two to five inches long. With the standard variety, leaves are dark green with mottled or variegated patterns of yellow. There is a variety called ‘Neon’ that has a solid pale yellow-green color. Another variety, called ‘Marble Queen’ has variegated or mottled white and green leaves.

Devil's ivy can be grown in a hanging basket or a table-top pot and trained to grow on objects. Plants can be grown in a standard indoor soil mixture with good drainage. Plants grow best with temperatures between 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and typical humidity levels. Set plants in bright filtered light. One source mentioned that low light may cause the leaves to have less yellow color. Water plants to saturation and remove the excess water and allow the potting media to dry out before watering again. Saturated soils will cause the greatest harm to this hardy, easy to grow plant. For maximum growth fertilize the plants every two to three weeks with a complete fertilizer from Spring through Fall. During the winter months reduce fertilization and water.

If you want dense foliage and short stems, then pinch off the growing tips from time to time. There are usually no pests that bother devil’s ivy.

Based upon a NASA research study, Devil’s ivy is one of the best plants for improving air quality.

Devil’s ivy is fairly easy to propagate. Just cut the stem one half inch away from the leaf node and place this single-node cutting into a fine potting media. Keep the soil moist, but not saturated until roots appear which may take six weeks.

Enjoy this nice vining plant.


Amaryllis is a bulb producing a large beautiful trumpet-shaped flower. The flowers can be six to ten inches and come in numerous colors. Flowers may be single or double.

When starting for the first time, purchase a large firm bulb with no signs of mold, decay, or injury. The larger the bulb the more stalks and blooms will emerge. Bulbs may be purchased planted or not planted. If planted check the pot to make sure it is durable, in good condition and has drainage holes at the bottom. If purchasing the bulb only, obtain a durable pot with drainage holes that is only one inch larger in diameter than the bulb. Amaryllis likes to be grown in close quarters. Place a shallow layer of a good quality high organic matter and well drained potting soil in the bottom of the pot. Place the bulb in the pot and fill the pot leaving one third to one half of the bulb exposed and one inch of space below the top of the pot. Firm the potting mix. Water thoroughly and place the pot in a warm (70 to 75° F), sunny location. Keep the soil moist, but not wet. Do not fertilize the plant until it begins to grow. After it begins to grow fertilize regularly with a high phosphorus fertilizer. When the flower buds begin to show color move the pot out of direct sunlight. In four to six weeks after planting the amaryllis should begin to flower.

Once the flowers have faded, cut them off to prevent seed production. Leave the flower stalk until after it has turned yellow, then remove it without damaging the leaves. Keep the leaves growing to produce food for next year’s flowers. Place the pot near a sunny window and water when the soil surface is dry. Remove any excess water from the bottom of the pot after watering. Fertilize the plant every two to four weeks with high phosphorus fertilizer. After the danger of frost get the plant acclimated to outdoor conditions by first placing it in a shaded area. Once acclimated, place the pot in a well-drained area of the garden with partial to full sunlight. Only water when dry. Fertilize every two to four weeks with a balanced fertilizer. Before any chance of frost in the fall move the plant indoors. When taking the plant indoors move to a sunny window if you don’t mind the plant flowering when it wants. To control when it flowers it must go through a resting phase. During the resting phase place the pot in a cool (50 to 55° F) dark location and stop watering. Once the foliage has become dried and shriveled cut it off. Allow the bulb to rest for 8 to 12 weeks. Check the bulb occasionally and if leaves begin to appear move it into full sunshine and begin watering. If the plants do not begin growing early, keep them in the cool dark area until four to six weeks before you want them to flower. Place the pot in a sunny window and water thoroughly the first time and sparingly after that. Since amaryllis bulbs like to be root bound they should only be repotted every three to four years. Enjoy these beautiful flowers.


It is the Christmas season. Time to put up your Christmas tree. One way to make putting up a Christmas memorable would be to go to a Christmas tree farm and cut your own tree and bring it home. There are many things to consider when purchasing and caring for a real Christmas tree.

Be sure to measure the location in the house where you plan to put the Christmas tree, so you can choose the proper size at the farm. Measure the height and width of your area and take those measurements with you because when you are out in the open the tree will look smaller than it really is. Be sure you’re taking into account the height of the tree stand and the height of the angel when measuring the tree in the field to prevent getting a tree that is too tall. The width of the tree is important as well because some lower branches can get fairly long.

When selecting a tree in the field, mark the side of the tree that is most appealing when displaying it in the home. Once the tree is cut it will get “baled”. That means a netting will be put around the tree for easy transport and set up, making it impossible to know the best side unless marked. Before the tree is baled, shake the tree vigorously to remove any dead needles.

Purchasing a quality and sturdy tree stand is very important. There are three things to consider when purchasing a tree stand: 1. Stability (be sure the feet go out far enough to support the tree); 2. Adequate water capacity (should be large enough to hold one quart of water for each inch of stem diameter); and 3. Ease-of-set-up (traditional thumb screws can be difficult, especially if the tree trunk is curved).

A properly cared for, fresh-cut, real Christmas tree should last from just after Thanksgiving to somewhat after Christmas. Within six to eight hours after a tree has been cut and the cut surface is exposed to air, the tree will no longer take up water. Therefore when you get the tree home cut off at least ½ inch of the base of the trunk to provide a fresh cut for water to enter the tree. If you can’t set up the tree right away when you get it home, be sure to make the fresh cut and place it in a bucket of water that is placed in the shade and away from the wind. When watering the tree use cool water.

When placing the tree in the house, keep it away from direct sources of heat. These sources include warm-air floor vents, operating wood stoves, fireplaces, hot lights, and other sources. The tree will dry out faster if placed near heat sources. Use lights and ornaments that give off little to no heat to reduce risk of fire.

The tree must be watered daily with one quart of water per inch diameter of the tree trunk. Products added to water have not been proven to extend the longevity of the tree. A seven-foot tree may easily use two quarts of water a day for the first week. After the second week the tree will use less water. If the water runs out you will need to make a new fresh cut to allow the tree to take up water. If you have pets they may want to drink this water so keep that in mind to be sure you have enough water for the tree.

Needles will fall off the tree over time so clean them up often to prevent foot injuries if not wearing shoes.

Tree disposal is something to be considered with a real tree. If you live in a city find out if they have a tree recycling program. If in the country find out if there is a recycling facility near you that you can take the tree. Other uses for old Christmas trees include weighting them down and sinking them into a pond or lake to provide protection for smaller baitfish. Check the regulations of a lake to make sure you can sink a Christmas tree. A tree could be used to help with stream bank or shore stabilization. Lastly you could leave the tree in the backyard to provide habitat for birds and small animals.

Hope you consider purchasing a real Christmas tree from a local Christmas tree farm.


There has been many discussions for two decades about whether hydroponically and aquaponically grown vegetables are considered organic production. The National Organic Standards Board recently voted to allow vegetables to be marketed as organic if they are produced by hydroponics or aquaponics.

Hydroponics is the growth of plants where the roots are grown in water and some organic or inorganic substrate with nutrients added to the water to maximize plant growth. No soil is used in a hydroponic system which is one main reason people thought it should not be given organic status. Aquaponics is the growth of fish and vegetables in a combined system. In this system the fish waste is utilized by the plants and the plants filter the water to be recycled back to the fish. The plants are grown like they are in a hydroponic system.

Aearoponics, a cultivation technique in which roots hang suspended in the air while the nutrient solution is delivered in the form of a fine mist, was not approved as an organic practice.

This official certification will not change anything in the marketplace as hydroponic and aquaponic production was being marketed as organic. Organic proponents thought this was unnatural and pushed the National Organic Standards Board to make a ruling.


Tomatoes are extremely diverse in their genetics and fruit characteristics. In the spring of 2018 the world’s smallest tomato will be available in the United States. “Tomberry” tomatoes originate from the Netherlands and has been grown there for several years now. NatureFresh Farms will be growing these tomatoes in the Ontario Canada Facility for the United States, Canada, and Mexico markets.

The tomatoes are about 0.5 to 1 cm in diameter, about the size of a pearl, and bright red. One cm is 0.4 inches, so this is a very small tomato! You can use a spoon to eat these tomatoes. The Tomberry tomato is categorized as a snacking tomato. The Tomberry has exceptional taste according to one article. They should be great in salads and hot dishes.

There is no mention as to how this new tomato variety will be distributed in the United States to know if it will arrive in Wapakoneta this spring, but keep your eyes and ears open to find this unique tomato.


Once freezing temperatures arrive it is time to clean up the garden and prepare it for next season, unless you still have some cool season vegetables in the garden. Remove all plant material from the garden or till it under. If you have a compost pile, place the plant material in the pile, unless the material was diseased. Do not put diseased plant material in a compost pile, especially tomatoes, potatoes and vine crops. Till the soil and level off the garden in preparation for next season. Instead of having the soil exposed all winter long, scatter rye over the soil and lightly till it into the soil to help improve soil health and hold nutrients from leaving the garden.

Rye can be purchased in small quantities from Johnny’s and some other seed sources or locally in larger quantities from your local fertilizer company. There is some risk with seeding the rye in regarding to how and when to kill the rye. It is best to kill the rye by applying glyphosate 2 to 4 weeks before you plant the garden. For small seeded plants such as carrots, onions, and radishes it is best to kill the rye 3 to 4 weeks before planting. It must be killed at this time because of allelopathic chemicals from the rye will kill the germinating vegetables. Till in the dead rye to prepare the seedbed. The biggest risk with a rye cover crop is that the dead rye will hold moisture potentially causing a delay in tilling the soil.


Freezing temperatures likely will be arriving shortly after October 22nd which will bring an end to the tomato growing season. Tomatoes have been producing quite well into the end of the season.  You can harvest all of the large green tomatoes to enjoy later.  There are two harvesting methods.  One is to carefully dig the plant and remove the soil.  Then hang the plant in a sheltered warm and dry location and allow them to ripen.  The other harvesting method is to remove each tomato from the plant.  Store the green tomatoes in an opaque sealed container, a box, a plastic grocery bag with some ventilation holes, or a paper bag.  Store the tomatoes in a warm semi-humid place out of the sunlight.  Place a ripening banana along with the tomatoes to speed up the ripening process.  If you do not want the tomatoes to ripen all at one time, then place a banana in a container with just a few tomatoes and leave the others in a container by themselves.  Check the container for ripe tomatoes and enjoy them.


It is that time of year to be thinking ahead for next season when it comes to your lawn. The fall is the best time to rejuvenate the yard and remove those pesky weeds.

There are two options to fertilizing the lawn in the fall. The first option is to apply urea (46-0-0) as soon as possible (preferably mid-September) at 1.1 pounds per 1000 square feet (0.5 pound nitrogen per 1000 square feet) followed by the same amount in mid-November. The second option is to apply urea at 2.2 pounds per 1000 square feet (1 pound nitrogen per 1000 square feet) in mid- to late October. A slow-release nitrogen fertilizer is not needed in the fall. All of the nitrogen should be immediately available to the grass otherwise it has a chance to leach away. If you can’t obtain urea at the local garden center, then you could visit your local farm chemical retailer to see if they will sell you urea. It is acceptable to purchase a fertilizer having a different analysis than urea as long as it is not a controlled (slow) release formulation, only contains nitrogen and does not contain a herbicide. There is no need to apply phosphate (source of phosphorus) or potash (source of potassium) to the lawn, unless you have a soil test indicating it is necessary and/or you remove all grass clippings. There are organic fertilizers available for the lawn. Fertilizing the lawn makes it healthier, thereby improving the competitiveness against weeds.

Fall is the best time to control most broadleaf weeds in the lawn. However if you have problems with summer annual weeds and warm-season perennial broadleaf weeds then you may still need a late spring application. The fall is a good time to apply herbicides because it coincides with plants starting to store nutrients to resume growth for next spring allowing the herbicide to move with the nutrients. Key weeds that are more effectively controlled in the fall include dandelion, ground-ivy (creeping Charlie), black medic, white clover, Canada thistle, and wild violet.

The most effective herbicides include a combination of 2,4-D, MCPP, and dicamba. Product names include Triplet, Trimec, Ortho Weed B Gon Weed Killer and many others. If dandelions are present, apply the maximum rate of the herbicide. As an example, the maximum rate for Triplet Low Odor is 4 pints per acre or 1.5 fluid ounces per 1000 square feet. CAREFULLY read the product label at the time of purchase to ensure you are getting very close to 2.38 pounds active ingredient per gallon of 2,4-D, 0.63 pounds active ingredient per gallon of MCPP and 0.22 pounds active ingredient per gallon of dicamba. If ground ivy, wild violets, or clovers are key weeds to control, apply TZONE SE at the maximum rate or apply Turflon Ester at 0.75 pint per acre plus 80% of the maximum rate of a three-way product (like Triplet). The use of Turflon Ester on drought stressed grasses such as we have in many parts of the county can injure the grass, especially tall fescue. Application of these liquid herbicides will control weeds more effectively than dry weed and feed products! Most stores carry one of the three way mixtures, but not all stores carry the Turflon Ester.

Apply these herbicides after a light frost or after October 20th. Apply these herbicides during sunny and warm conditions (> 65°F), ideally during Indian Summer. Preference is to also have the low temperature above 40°F. If possible the high and low temperatures should be the same for the day before and after application as for the day of application. If the forecast does not show these desired temperatures, choose the best day possible as it is better to apply the herbicide in less than desirable temperature conditions in the fall than to wait until next spring. Stop mowing at least three days prior to application and do not resume mowing until three days after application. Remove all leaves prior to application so weeds are effectively covered by the spray solution. Allow at least 8 hours from application until rainfall. Weed control may not be completely effective this fall in areas suffering from lack of moisture.


As you are enjoying your tomatoes and cucumbers it is time to start thinking about fall gardening. Hopefully you saved some space to do this and have some seeds available. If you plant immediately, you could plant a short season green bean or pea, although planting about July 25th would have been better. Planting green beans and peas now will have its challenges as the bean leaf beetle will injure the green beans and powdery mildew will attack the peas.

Carrots and red beets planted now will likely be sweeter than spring planting because a light frost will trigger the plant to produce more sugars. Start these right away. Carrots need lots of water to germinate, so be sure to water them well, until they emerge. Other species that can be planted now include radishes, turnips, lettuce, other greens, scallions (green onions), spinach, swiss chard, and kale. In another three weeks you could plant another crop of spinach and lettuce to continue harvest into late fall. September planted spinach may survive the winter if it is covered and the winter is mild.

Plant lettuce only 1/16 inch deep. Plant carrots and other greens 1/4 inch deep. Plant radishes, turnips, kale, scallions and spinach 1/2 inch deep. Plant swiss chard and red beets 1 inch deep.

If you know the fertility of your soil fertilize as necessary. If you have not soil tested for some time apply a 10-10-10 type of fertilizer at 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet and incorporate the fertilizer at least 3 inches deep. This will be enough fertilizer for the rest of the season for most of the vegetables, except lettuce, greens, and red beets. Once the lettuce and greens are close to harvest apply a nitrogen source such as urea. Apply nitrogen to the red beets at the 5-leaf stage. Be sure to incorporate the urea right away and water if dry.


As the season progresses aphids will start to show up. They usually appear when plants are under stress. Aphids are small pear-shaped soft-bodied insects. They have piercing sucking mouth parts that remove fluid from plants and can transmit viruses. There are many species of aphids and they can be found on many different vegetable and fruit species.

Visible symptoms of aphid infestations include curled leaves, presence of ants, and a sticky substance on the leaves. Aphids live on the undersides of leaves and on stems. They can form dense populations on plants. During the growing season aphids bear their young alive, but in the fall they mate and lay eggs. Aphids produce many generations per year.

Aphids can be controlled by pruning off infected leaves or by washing the aphids off the plant. This is only successful when there are a few aphids present. Biological control is another option. Aphids have many natural enemies such as lady beetles, lace wing, syrphid fly larvae, parasitic wasps, and fungi. Biological control is a viable option, but patience is required and artificial releases of beneficial insects may be needed.

Neem oil and insecticidal soaps can effectively reduce the aphid populations as long as thorough coverage is achieved and multiple applications are made. Insecticides will effectively manage aphids, but most beneficial insects will also be controlled. Effective insecticides include acetamiprid, bifenthrin, cyfluthrin, imidacloprid, and malathion.


I have received numerous calls over the last year regarding spruce trees. Spruce trees have a single square-shaped needle, with Colorado blue spruce as the most popular or frequent species in Auglaize County.

There are two diseases that spruce trees are getting, Rhizosphaera and Stigmina. Rhizosphaera is caused by the pathogen Rhizosphaera kalkhoffi and Stigmina is caused by Stigmina lautii. Both diseases attack the needles of Colorado blue, white, and Norway spruce, although Norway spruce is considered to have the highest level of resistance. The diseases usually attack older trees.

Spruce trees generally keep three to four years worth of needles. Both diseases attack the oldest needles causing the needles to turn purple or brown and eventually fall off the tree. The diseases usually start at the bottom of the tree and work its way upward.

Stigmina lautii has a two-year life cycle. Sporodochia (fruiting body) develop in late spring the year after infection, mature that fall and produce spores that can cause infections the next spring. Spores typically develop in the spring just prior to new shoot growth. The spores can infect any age class of needles throughout the season when the temperatures are above 50°F.

Rhizosphaera kalkoffii has a one-year life cycle. Pycnidia produce spores in late May through July during periods of wet weather. The spores are spread by rain splash and will infect all age classes of needles. The symptoms of the disease on newly infected needles will not appear until spring of the following year. Spores are produced shortly after the appearance of the pycnidia. Infected needles on the tree and those that have fallen from the tree produce spores.

To identify the diseases you need to use a hand lens to observe the stomata (openings for gas exchange). The needles should have three or four rows of white spots. With diseased needles the pycnidia of Rhizosphaera emerge from the stomata forming a smooth-edged black circular pattern. The sporodochia of Stigmina emerge from the stomata forming discontinuous black fuzzy lines. The fruiting bodies are visible on green and discolored needles. Proper identification of these fruiting bodies is important to know how to manage the diseases.

For cultural control of both diseases, obtain maximum airflow around the tree and maximum sunlight to reduce the time the needles are wet. Keep trees spread apart as much as possible to reduce tree to tree spread. Remove infected branches and severely infected trees. Clean up the needles from under the tree and burn the needles and removed branches. Plant the most resistant spruce which is Norway, although both diseases may still affect the Norway spruce.

Chlorothalonil and copper containing fungicides can be used to control Rhizosphaera. These fungicides may control Stigmina, but limited research is available to prove this. For Rhizosphaera, apply the fungicide when buds have broken and new needles are half their normal size. Apply the highest labeled rate. Apply the fungicide again three to four weeks later. Apply fungicides for the next two years. After this scout the trees to determine when or if future treatments will be necessary. The best information for controlling Stigmina is to apply a fungicide at bud break, which is a little late now, and then three to four weeks later. Preliminary research shows these treatments may need to be applied indefinitely. Applying these fungicides this often will become quite expensive, so you will need to decide how much money you want to spend to protect these trees. Removing the tree may be less expensive. If choosing to cut the tree, cut it down early to reduce the spread of the disease.


When purchasing a fertilizer it will have three numbers on it; the numbers represent the amount of nitrogen – phosphate – and potassium as a percentage of the weight of the bag. I will give the fertilizer rates in pounds active ingredient per acre (/A). You will need to convert this to the number of pounds of product/A based upon the analysis of the fertilizer you are using. For example if you need 120 pounds of P2O5 (phosphate)/A and you will use 0-46-0 then you need to divide 120 by 0.46 (because analysis is based on a percent) to obtain 261 pounds of 0-46-0 per acre. Next multiply this number by 0.002295 to convert pounds per acre to pounds per 100 square feet. Therefore you need to apply 0.6 pounds of 0-46-0 per 100 square feet.

Apply 20 and 30 pounds of nitrogen/A to peas and green beans, tomatoes, peppers, and sweet potato, respectively, before planting. Apply a liquid solution of nitrogen to tomato and pepper plugs before transplanting and put some nitrogen solution in hole when transplanting sweet potato. Apply 50 pounds of nitrogen/A to cucurbits (squash, pumpkin, and melons), 60 pounds of nitrogen/A to leafy greens, root crops (carrot, turnip, beets) and sweet corn, 70 pounds of nitrogen/A to onion, 120 pounds of nitrogen/A to cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and 135 pounds of nitrogen/A to potatoes, herbs and mint before planting. In addition to the preplant nitrogen applications some species need additional nitrogen later in the season. When making a second application use a fertilizer that only contains nitrogen. Be sure to incorporate the fertilizer to keep it from volatilizing. Apply 30 to 40 pounds nitrogen/A to pumpkins and squash when vines start to run. For melons, apply 45 pounds of nitrogen/A when vines start to run. Apply 35 pounds of nitrogen/A to peppers and tomatoes 3 to 4 weeks after transplanting and another 35 pounds of nitrogen/A 6 to 8 weeks after transplanting. Apply 40 pounds of nitrogen/A to sweet corn at the 5 to 10” stage, 50 pounds of nitrogen/A to leafy greens and herbs about 3 weeks after planting, and 60 pounds of nitrogen/A to root crops 4 to 6 weeks after planting.

If the soil test value for phosphorus is greater than 100 parts per million with a Bray P1 extraction method then no phosphorus is required for any crop! If the soil test value for phosphorus is greater than 50, but less than 100 parts per million Bray P1, apply 20, 25, and 50 pounds P2O5 /A to root crops and herbs, onion and cole crops, and potato, respectively. If the soil test value for phosphorus is greater than 50 parts per million Bray P1, no phosphorus is needed for any vegetable crop not mentioned above. If soil test phosphorus values are not known or are below 30 parts per million Bray P1, apply 40 pounds P2O5 /A to sweet potato, 50 pounds P2O5 /A to green beans, peas, corn, and mint, 75 pounds P2O5 /A to cucurbit species , 90 pounds P2O5 /A to root crops, 110 pounds P2O5 /A to cole crops, 115 pounds P2O5 /A to onion, 120 pounds P2O5 /A to pepper and tomato, 125 pounds P2O5 /A to leafy greens and potato, and 150 pounds P2O5 /A to herbs. If soil test phosphorus values are below 15 parts per million increase all P2O5 rates by 30%.

If soil test potassium values are greater than 200 parts per million with a CEC of 10 or greater than 220 parts per million for CEC greater than 20, then no potash (K2O) is needed for any vegetable, except potato which needs 50 pounds K2O/A and herbs need 100 pounds K2O/A. If soil test potassium values are at 75 parts per million at a CEC of 10 or 115 parts per million at a CEC of greater than 20, then apply 50 pounds K2O/A to green beans and peas, 100 pounds K2O/A to cucurbits, leafy greens, and root crops, 125 pounds K2O/A to cole crops, onion, corn, and sweet potato, 150 pounds K2O/A to tomato, green pepper and herbs, and 175 pounds K2O/A to potato. If soil test potassium values are below 60 parts per million at a CEC of 10 or below 90 parts per million at a CEC of greater than 20, then increase all rates by 30%. If soil test potassium levels are greater than 110 parts per million at a CEC of 10 or greater than 155 parts per million at a CEC greater than 20, then reduce the above rates by 30%.

The reasons to follow these guidelines are to reduce nutrient loss in the environment, maximize production, and reduce fertilizer costs. Happy gardening.


The 70 degree days a few weeks ago and the warm weather since that time has caused fruit trees to begin spring development.  Therefore; fruit buds have developed further along than they should be for this time of the year.  We have had freezing temperatures after these warm spells already and this will occur again this weekend when temperatures reach the mid-teens.  These temperatures will not be good for the fruit crop.

Cherries are the first to bloom followed by plums, pears, peaches, and apples.  The earlier the flowering the more advanced bud development will be at this time and the likelihood of negative impacts on fruit development from these cold temperatures.  Different varieties flower at different times as well, meaning some varieties are more susceptible to cold temperatures compared to others.  MacIntosh apples flower ahead of Rome Beauty.  The location of the tree in the landscape can influence the possibility of damage to fruit buds.  The lower the area the more likely damage will occur.

A chart has been developed for different tree fruits showing the average temperatures required to kill 10 to 90 percent of buds if they are exposed for 30 minutes.  Sudden changes in temperatures will cause the greatest damage.  Prolonged cool weather tends to increase bud hardiiness during the early stages of bud development.  A chart showing pictures of the various stages and temperatures to kill buds can be found at http://msue.anr.msu.edu/uploads/files/PictureTableofFruitFreezeDamageThresholds.pdf

Bud development in tart cherries begins with a swollen bud.  At this stage 10% of buds can be killed at 15 degrees F and 90% killed at 0 degrees.  Side green is the next stage.  Ten percent of buds can be killed at 24 degrees F and 90% at 10 degrees.  Green tip is the next stage.  Ten percent of buds can be killed at 26 degrees F and 90% at 22 degrees.  At Tight cluster, ten percent of buds can be killed at 26 degrees F and 90% at 24 degrees.  At open cluster all the way to full plum ten percent of buds can be killed at 28 degrees F and 90% at 24 degrees.

Bud development in European plums begins with first swelling.  At this stage 10% of buds can be killed at 14 degrees F and 90% at 0 degrees.  Side white is the next stage with 10% of buds being killed at 17 degrees F and 90% at 3 degrees.  Tight cluster is the next stage with 10% of buds being killed at 24 degrees F and 90% at 16 degrees.  At first white flowers start to separate from each other and 10% of buds can be killed at 26 degrees F and 90% at 22 degrees.  At first bloom 10% of buds can be killed at 27 degrees F and 90% at 23 degrees.  At full bloom and post bloom, 10% of buds can be killed at 28 degrees F and 90% at 23 degrees.

Bud development in pears begins with bud scales separating.  At this stage 10% of buds can be killed at 15 degrees F and 90% killed at 0 degrees F.  At blossom buds exposed, 10% of buds can be killed at 20 degrees F and 90% at 6 degrees.  At tight cluster, 10% of buds can be killed at 24 degrees F and 90% at 15 degrees.  At first white, 10% of buds can be killed at 25 degrees F and 90% at 19 degrees.  At full white 10% of buds can be killed at 26 degrees F and 90% at 22 degrees.  At first bloom 10% of buds can be killed at 27 degrees F and 90% at 23 degrees.  At full bloom and post bloom 10% of buds can be killed at 28 degrees F and 90% of buds at 24 degrees.

Bud development in peaches begins with swollen buds.  At this stage 10% of buds can be killed at 18 degrees F and 90% at 1 degree F.  At calyx green stage 10% of buds can be killed at 21 degrees F and 90% at 5 degrees.  At calyx red stage, 10% of buds can be killed at 23 degrees F and 90% at 9 degrees.  At first pink, 10% of buds can be killed at 25 degrees F and 90% at 15 degrees.  At first bloom 10% of buds can be killed at 26 degrees F and 90% at 21 degrees.  At full bloom, 10% of buds can be killed at 27 degrees F and 90% at 24 degrees.  At post bloom, 10% of buds can be killed at 28 degrees F and 90% of buds killed at 25 degrees.

Bud development in apples begins with silver tip.  At this stage 10% of buds can be killed at 15 degrees F and 90% at 2 degrees.  At green tip, 10% of buds can be killed at 18 degrees F and 90% at 10 degrees.  At half inch green, 10 percent of buds can be killed at 23 degrees F and 90% killed at 15 degrees.  At tight cluster, 10% of buds can be killed at 27 degrees F and 90% at 21 degrees.  At first pink, 10% of flowers can be killed at 28 degrees F and 90% at 24 degrees.  From full pink to post bloom 10% of buds can be killed at 28 degrees F and 90% of buds at 25 degrees.


Roses are beautiful and fragrant flowers that are enjoyed during summer.  But miniature roses can also bring beauty and fragrance indoors during winter.  Miniature roses can be purchased or started from plants established outdoors.  They are available for purchase usually around Valentine's Day.  Miniature roses come in many colors, such as red, pink, peach, orange, white, yellow, and combination of flowers.

Once spring arrives, plant the roses in your flowerbed.  Plant them in borders, or in front of tall rose bushes.  Miniature roses can also be grown in pots on a sunny porch or patio.  Train climbing miniature roses on a small trellis.

Care for miniature roses are not easy.  Light is extremely important to allow the plant to continue blooming.  Place the miniature rose in an area of the house with the most direct sunlight.  Adding artificial light will help maintain good flowering.  For best lighting have a combination of cool-white and warm-white fluorescent bulbs or cool-white and incandescent bulbs.

Water plants regularly.  Flowering roses are thirsty, drying out quickly in containers.  Check potting media daily to determine if water is needed.  When potting media is dry 1/2 inch below the surface, water the pot until water drains through the holes.  Do not allow the pot to stand in water for more than a couple of hours.

Maintain daytime temperatures from 70 to 75 degrees F.  Maintain nighttime temperatures from 60 to 65 degrees F.  Humidity is very important for good rose growth.  Maintain humidity at 50 to 55%.  Maintain humidity by misting the plants at least two times during the day or by placing plants on trays filled with moist pebbles or by placing containers filled with water between the pots.

Remove flowers as soon as they fade to keep plants looking their best and to encourage a long blooming period.  Use a sharp pruner to remove flowers, cutting at a 45 degree angle.  Enjoy the beautiful miniature roses!


The spider plant name comes from the "spidery" look of the baby plants that grow rapidly.  Another common name for the plant is airplane plant.  The scientific name is Chlorophytum comosum.  The spider plant is native to coastal areas of South Africa.  The spider plant is a monocot meaning it is somewhat related to grasses, sedges, and lilies.

The spider plant is a clump-forming perennial.  The leaves are long and narrow with a fairly prominent mid-rib.  The leaves are somewhat folded or in a v-shaped pattern, especially at the base of the plant.  Flower stems are stiff, wiry, and long.  At the end of the flower stem plantlets begin to form.  Flowers are white having three petals and three sepals.  The flower is 0.25 to 0.75 inch in diameter.  Spider plants have thick fleshy roots that store food reserves.

There are four common varieties or cultivars of spider plant.  The native plant has a solid green leaf color with a lighter green color in the center of the leaf.  The Mandaianum variety is a dwarf spider plant with 4-6 inch dark green leaves with a bright yellow stripe.  The Vittatum variety is the most common cultivated variety through the late 1990's.  It has pale green leaves with a white central stripe.  The Variegatum variety has dark green leaves with white leaf margins.  Leaves are longer and wider than the other varieties.  Bonnie has dark green leaves with a center white stripe and the leaves curl and bend.  The flowering stems are yellow.

Spider plants are easy to grow!  They can handle abusive care better than most plants.  Spider plants grow best in bright indirect light.  If plants are grown outside, direct sunlight can scorch the leaves.  Plants can also grow in very low light environments although the white stripes may not develop well for those varieties having stripes.  Spider plants grow best when the soil has time to dry out between waterings, although they can go a week or more without water.  Spider plants do not grow well in saturated potting media as this is about the only way to kill plants.  Plants can be grown in any well-drained potting media.  Ideal temperatures for spider plants are 65 to 75 degrees F during the day and 50 to 55 degrees F at night.  If keeping plants outside be aware that leaves can fade and become burnt.  Spider plants do not need much fertilizer.  Matter of fact, over fertilizing may reduce the production of plantlets.  Fertilizer may be applied monthly from March through September.  Bring outside plants indoors before frost as the plants are very susceptible to frost.  Flower stems are usually produced in the fall as daylight is reduced, although it is possible to flower at other times of the year.

Plantlets are easy to get established.  Cut the stem near the plantlet and place the base end in potting media.  One source mentioned using a paper clip to hold the plant to the potting media.  Bend the paper clip into an elongated U shape to hold the plantlet in place.  Keep the soil moist, but not saturated, until roots are visible and plant is supported by the roots.  Spider plants make great plants for beginners because they tolerate extreme conditions very well.  This is a foolproof houseplant.


Poinsettias are wonderfully beautiful flowers during the Christmas Holiday Season.  Proper care of poinsettias after purchase include watering pots thoroughly on a regular basis allowing the potting media surface to dry out between waterings. Never let the pot stand in water.  Keep temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place plants near a sunny window, but out of direct sunlight and away from hot and cold drafts.  Plants prefer high humidity like in their tropical native environment.  The flowering bracts can stay on the plants for many weeks if kept as presented above.

Since poinsettias are perennial plants, you can keep them and make them flower next year, although it is not easy  After blooming, gradually reduce water.  Leaves will begin to fall off.  After leaves have dropped, store the plant in a cool place at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit until spring.  Water just enough to keep roots from drying out.

In late April or early May cut the plants back to four to six inches and fertilize.  If multiple plants are in a pot you can divide plants as desired.  Use a well drained potting media.  Water plants thoroughly and subsequently water when potting media becomes dry, never exposing roots to excess water.

Plants can be grown in the house or outside once temperatures stay above 50 degrees F.  Place plants in the house in a bright, sunny south window at a temperature below 75 degrees F.  When placing plants outside place them in a partially shaded area.  Fertilize plants every two weeks.

At the end of August cut the plants back to four to six inches.  If plants are placed outside take them inside when nighttime temperatures go below 50 degrees F.  Place them near a sunny south facing window out of a draft.  Keep night time temperatures near 62 degrees F and below 75 degrees F.

After September 25 place the plants in a no light area for 12 to 14 hours each day until the colored bracts begin to appear.  Any amount of light for even a few seconds can prevent flowering.  Plants will need light during the day.  It is best to also keep the plants at 60 to 70 degrees F.


With Christmas right around the corner, you may be interested in purchasing a beautiful flowering Christmas cactus for someone.  There are actually three different holiday cacti, Thanksgiving (Schlumbergera truncata), Christmas (Schlumbergera bridgesii) and Easter (Rhipsalidopsis gaertnernii).  Holiday cacti have no leaves just stem segments.  The Thanksgiving cactus has two to four sawtoothed stem margins pointing upwards, the Christmas cactus has two to four stem margins more rounded, and the Easter cactus has four to six rippled stem margins and brownish hair-like bristles at the stem tips.  Thanksgiving cacti flower from Thanksgiving to Christmas having the greatest variation in flower color.  The Christmas cacti flower from late December to March having rosy-red flowers.  The Easter cacti flower from March thru May having pink or red flowers.

Holiday cacti are relatively easy to grow.  If purchasing new plants keep the potting media evenly moist to encourage additional flowers.  Holiday cacti need more water than most cacti, but do not saturate the potting media.  Water plants when the potting media is dry to the touch.  Fertilize plants monthly from the time new growth starts in late winter and until August with a 20-10-20 or 20-20-20 soluble fertilizer at half strength.  Holiday cacti require high levels of magnesium during the growth phase so fertilize monthly, although not the same week as the other fertilizer, with Epsom salt at 1 teaspoon per gallon of water.  Keep plants near 68 degrees when flowering to encourage additional flowers.  Plants can be grown between 70 and 80 degrees during the growth phase.  Keep plants in full sun during the fall and winter.  During the summer months keep the plants in partial shade, especially if put outside to grow.  Pinch back the stems in early June to promote branching and more terminals for production of more flowers.


An individual brought a specimen in for me to identify.  It was a bagworm.  What is a bagworm?  A bagworm is a larva that makes a case or bag out of silk and pieces of leaves or needles that hangs down from the tree branch.  The larvae feed on the needles or leaves.  They can defoliate a tree if the population is allowed to develop.  They feed on arborvitae, juniper, pine, spruce, and other evergreen species.  They may also attack deciduous trees such as black locust, honey locust, sycamore, maple and crabapple.  Damage is most detrimental to conifer (evergreen) trees because they do not produce new needles later in the season compared to deciduous trees.

Bagworm eggs hatch about the first of June.  The larva crawl to different parts of the tree to begin feeding on the foliage or can be dispersed by wind by creating a balloon of silk.  The ballooning effect is the only mechanism to cause the spread of bagworms, other than moving trees infested with the bagworm.  Once they arrive at their feeding location, the larvae start to make the bag.  The bag keeps the larvae from being eaten by predators.  Young larvae are about two millimeters in length and have a glossy back and a dull amber undersurface of their body.  Mature larvae are dull, dirty gray, and splotched with darker markings toward the head.  Fully grown larvae will have a bag up to 2 inches in length.  The adult female is worm-like.  The adult female lacks eyes, wings, functional legs and mouthparts.  The adult male is sooty black and moth-like with transparent wings that are nearly devoid of scales.

Larvae feed during June, July and August.  The bagworms mature in late August to early September and attach the bag securely to the branch and develop into the adult stage.  The adult female stays in the bag.  The adult males hatch and fly to females to fertilize them.  The adult female will lay between 300 to 1000 eggs in the bag, then crawl out and die.  The eggs over winter and hatch in early June.

If previous infestations are present in your trees or neighboring trees, begin careful and frequent scouting of trees into the upper part of the tree after June 1st.  For insecticides to be most effective, the larvae need to be small.  The problem is easily finding the small bags created by the young larvae.

The only method of control at this time of the year is to trim out heavily infested branches or removing the bags by hand.  Burning the removed bags may be the best way to destroy the eggs.  The bags can be removed from now until eggs hatch.

Insecticides can be fairly effective in controlling the bagworms if applied at the right time.  Insecticides should be applied when most of the eggs have hatched.  This means insecticides should be applied at the end of June.

The safest products to beneficial insects and yet can control the bagworms include biorational insecticides such as chloraniliprol (Acelepryn), indoxacarb (Provaunt), spinosad (Conserve), and Tebufenozide (Confirm).  Insecticides that control other species, especially beneficial insects include: acephate (Orthene), acetamiprid (TriStar), bifentrin (Talstar L&T), carbaryl (Sevin), cyfluthrin (Tempo and others), deltamethrin (Deltagard), dinotefuran (Safari), fluvalinate (Mavrik), lambda-cyhalothrin (Scimitar), malthion, and permethrin (Astro).  Thorough coverage of plants is necessary for most insecticides to obtain the best control.


The fall is a great time to control winter annual, biennial, and perennial weed species.  The cool temperatures and shorter day length trigger plants to send nutrients down to the plant structures that make them perennials.  Perennial plant structures include rhizomes, creeping roots, bulbs, tubers, and corms.  These structures store energy for the plant to produce shoots for next year.  If herbicides are applied at this time of the year, the herbicides travel with the nutrients killing next year's plants.

The weather we have had this fall has been excellent to control these weed species.  Saturday morning's low will be quite cold, but the long term forecast is for night time lows to stay above freezing.  Wait at least 3 days after Saturday's low to spray.  As long as night time temperatures stay above 20 to 25 degrees, herbicides can still be applied to these weeds.  Once temperatures get below this, spraying may not be as effective.

For non-crop areas apply glyphosate at 1.125 pounds acid equivalent/acre (32 fluid ounces per acre of a Roundup branded product).  For spraying small areas, add a glyphosate product at 3 fluid ounces per gallon of water.  For areas where grass vegetation is desired, a combination of 2,4-D ester (1 quart per acre) plus dicamba (Clarity/Banvel) (1 pt/A) should control most species.  For spraying small areas add 2,4-D ester at 1.6 fluid ounces per gallon of water and dicamba at 0.8 fluid ounces per gallon of water.


The term "evergreen" is not exactly accurate when describing conifer trees.  The needles of conifer trees do not stay on the trees for the life of the tree.  It is normal for some of the needles to turn yellow or brown and fall from the tree in the autumn.  This process is called fall needle drop. Some of the oldest (innermost) needles eventually drop from the trees of pine, spruce, and fir.  This discoloration can be alarming as some individuals think a disease is rapidly occurring.

Seasonal needle loss is especially striking on bald cypress and larch trees.  For these species all of the needles turn brown or reddish in color and drop from the tree.  Some individuals have been known to remove such trees as they believe they have died from a rapid disease.

Environmental stresses, such as drought and hot temperatures and excessive moisture, may cause greater-than-normal loss of needles.  There appears to be more needle drop than normal because of two years of stress on the trees.  The usual pattern of seasonal needle loss is gradual discoloration and eventual loss of the inner needles from the top to the bottom of the tree.  In contrast, fungal diseases often cause browning of the newest (outermost) needles, death of branches, or thinning of the needles on just the lower branches.  Two common needle diseases of spruce cause death of the oldest needles, not the youngest needles.

Knowing what is normal for landscape plants at different times of the year is the first step in diagnosing possible problems.


I have observed and heard about lawns that have a yellowish-orange cast to them from a distance.  When inspecting closer you see short linear raised structures on the leaves, called pustules, that are reddish-orange.  This is leaf rust.  The rust colored dust are spores that blow in the wind to spread to other grass plants.  The rust is bad enough in some lawns to cause light colored shoes to turn reddish-orange.

The disease cycle of rust is complex.  Most species of rust, which are many, go through five distinct spore production stages.  Some of the stages must occur on other plant species unrelated to grasses.

Leaf rust occurs nearly exclusively on Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass.  Rust outbreaks are most common in late summer and early fall and in many cases show up first in shaded or protected areas.  Rust is usually present on slow growing turf caused by such factors as heat, drought, low nitrogen fertility, compaction, and shade.

Rust outbreaks require moderate temperatures and long evening dew periods.  Leaf rust is mostly a cosmetic disease.  However; rust can severely damage spring-seeded grasses that lost their vigor from heat and drought conditions.  It will not harm established turfgrass.

Cultural control methods should be deployed first.  Maintaining a healthy and vigorous turf stand is the most effective and efficient method of rust control.  Since slow growing turf in mid to late summer is most vulnerable to outbreaks, small amounts of nitrogen fertilizer (0.2 to 0.5 pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet) will help control the disease.  The nitrogen is used to stimulate growth and more frequent mowing which stays ahead of the slowly developing disease.  Irrigation may be needed to stimulate growth if it is dry.  This cultural control method needs to be employed before the onset of disease or just shortly after seeing the disease.

Fungicides really only need to be used in slow growing turf caused by heat, drought, and compaction that was seeded in the spring.  Strobilurin and DMI fungicides can effectively manage rust.


Many gardeners don't plant summer blooming bulbs and rhizomes (underground stem) because of the challenges and the work associated with digging and storing them for the winter.  However, it can be done relatively easy by following some simple tips.

After a killing frost, which has not occurred yet in our area, it's time to start digging and storing bulbs, rhizomes, corms, and tubers such as dahlia, tuberous begonia, cally lilly, cannas, and any other summer flowering bulbs.  These bulbs (term used loosely as there are other terms that are more precise) are tender and usually won't make it through the winter.  I have to say usually in this case because I have had cannas and calla lillies survive the winter in the ground.  However, this is unusual and due to the fact that they were in a protected place.  Most tender summer bulbs won't make it; therefore, you have to dig up the bulbs and bring them in.

Dahlias are actually tubers, not bulbs.  Tubers are thickened parts of an underground stem or root.  Dig the tubers after a frost has killed the foliage.  Place tubers in sawdust or peat in a box.  Store the box in a room that remains around 60F.  Calla lillies are rhizomes and are stored in sawdust or peat moss just like dahlias.

For tuberous begonias, remove the stems after the frost has killed the foliage.  Let the tubers dry for a week.  Place single layers on a table in order for them to dry and to prevent disease. Clean the tubers and then store in a box of peat moss or sawdust in a room around 50F.  Don't allow tubers to freeze.  Tuberous begonias can be divided by separating the tuberous roots.  Keep at least one shoot bud per root.

Cannas are probably the easiest to store for the winter.  Cut off the dead foliage and dig the rhizomes out of the soil.  Rhizomes are a horizontal stem that grows shoots and roots.  Wash the soil off the rhizomes and allow drying.  You can place the cannas in a box or crate and store in a room at around 45-50F.  Again, don't allow them to freeze.  Propagate cannas by separating the rhizomes, leaving at least one "eye" or bud on the rhizome.

Gladioli are corms; corms are swollen underground stems.  Dig the corms out of the soil now and remove the soil and any old sub-corms.  The sub-corm is the original plant; the new corms or cormels are around the side of the original plant.  Air-dry the corms and store in a mesh bag at around 35 to 40F.  The cormels can be planted in the spring and will take around 2 years to bloom since they are young plants.

Caladiums are tubers and should be dug now as well.  Wipe off the soil and store in peat moss at 65 to 70F.  These do not tolerate colder temperatures.

The key to success is to make sure the bulbs are dry when placing them in their storage container and if you are putting them in peat moss or sawdust, make sure you layer them so that the bulbs themselves are not touching.

Having to dig them up and store them is probably the main reason that people don't partake of these fantastic flowering plants.  It is sort of a pain, but you can enjoy the beauty as well as propagate these plants for many years.  In the spring, don't get too anxious to plant them.  They don't tolerate cold damp spring soils and will definitely rot.  If you want to get a jump on spring, start planting them in pots in the house in March and April.  This way, you have blooms earlier in the season.  Plant them in the ground around mid to late May.


Cool-season turfgrass benefits from a fall fertilization which should take place early to mid-September.  An additional fertilization in mid to late November will help maintain a healthy turf.  This late fall application, otherwise known as a winterizing fertilizer, helps promote good root health because little foliar growth is occurring.  Winterizing fertilizers often contain higher amounts of potassium to aid with plant hardiness.  Late fall applications should be done before the soil freezes.

If you did not apply September fertilizer application, it is not too late to apply some fertilizer yet this fall.  A single fertilizer application at the end of October early November can still provide benefits to the grass, especially since it is still growing this fall.  For this application just applying 1 pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet is sufficient, although adding some potassium is fine.

The benefits from the fall fertilization will be seen next spring as turf will generally green-up quicker, be denser, and will have higher tolerance to diseases such as red thread and pink patch.  Spring applications of fertilizer encourage green up and foliar growth. 


Pruning can be done to achieve many goals in the landscape such as encouraging flowering, directing overall shape, managing pest problems, thinning, and rejuvenation just to name a few.  No matter what our goal may be, the appropriate timing for "making-the-cuts" will help determine the optimal time to prune.

Winter can be a great time to tackle this maintenance practice proactively.  It can be easier to see the overall plant structure, especially without leaves camouflaging main branches and lateral limbs.  A simple word of warning is - if one prunes a spring-flowering shrub such as Koreanspice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) now or this winter will decrease the number of blooms it will have next spring.  Spring-blooming plants have already set their flowerbuds for next year and pruning these plants now or in the winter will remove those buds.  Other plants that would be similarly impacted include lilac, forsythia, serviceberry and crabapples.  These types of trees and shrubs should have been pruned shortly after they had bloomed in the spring.

Pruning cuts should be made just above a bud.  Flush cuts, a cut made directly next to the main trunk or larger branches should be avoided.  You will want to look for the collar and prune just on the outside of this area.  And, it is no longer recommended to follow pruning cuts with a pruning paint.

It is a great idea, especially if you are relatively new to the pruning scene to take before and after photos, and then revisit the plant about every six months to see the reaction of the plant to the pruning cuts that you made.  It can be a tremendous learning experience.  You will likely see many examples of being spot-on, but there can be the occasional example of a pruning decision that you might be able to improve upon the next time.

Prepare the pruning equipment before using it.  The sharper the pruning equipment the less stress to the trees and shrubs.  Also before making any cuts sterilize the equipment, especially if the equipment was last used to prune diseased plant material.  Use a 10% bleach solution to sterilize the equipment.

So, head out to the garden and enjoy the therapy that pruning can provide...it can be truly cathartic!


After a long winter it is nice to see flowering plants in the early spring!  Crocuses are the first to flower in the spring and look really cool when a thin layer of snow lies below the base of the flower.

Plants that flower in the spring and need to be planted in the fall include allium, Greek anemone, camassia (Indian hyacinth), glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa), crocus, daffodil, Spanish and Siberian squill (scilla), bluebells, winter aconite, dog-tooth violet, trout lily, crown imperial, snowdrop, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, puschkinia, narcissus, and tulip.  Bulbs ideally should be planted by mid-October, but can be planted later if the extended forecast shows warm temperatures.  Tulips can be planted into November.

When purchasing bulbs, do not purchase bulbs that are rotting.  The smalest bulbs in a package will have the smallest flowers next spring.  If dividing bulbs you already have, be sure to discard any rotten or insect eaten bulbs.

Plant bulbs in soils that are well drained and friable.  If soils are heavy clays, amend the soil with plenty of compost.  Scilla, crocus, daffodils, winter aconite, and snowdrops can be planted in shaded areas such as around trees.  The remainder of the species, especially tulips, need to be planted in full sun and away from other competing plant species.  Most bulbs do well the first year, regardless of where they are planted, but very few do well for several years when planted in unfavorable (low light and competition with other plants) conditions.  This is especially true for tulips and hyacinths.  If bulbs are planted in a south facing raised bed along a foundation, they will emerge the earliest in the spring, but understand in some years the foliage and/or flowers may be killed by freezing temperatures.

Bulbs need fertilizers high in phosphorus (the middle number), unless a soil test shows greater than 60 parts per million of phosphorus.  Apply the fertilizer at 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per hole.  Place the fertilizer greater than one inch below where the bulb will be placed.  Well composted manure also works great as a fertilizer and should be placed greater than one inch below the placement of the bulb.

Holes can be made by using a pointed stick greater than the diameter of the bulb, a trowel, a bulb planter, or your hands if the soil is really loose.  Plant all bulbs with the pointed end upwards.  Plant tulips, hyacinth and daffodils six to eight inches deep from the tip of the bulb.  Plant smaller bulbs such as squill, glory-of-the-snow, grape hyacinth, and snow drops two inches from the tip of the bulb.  A general rule of the thumb is to plant a bulb four times the height of the bulb.  Plant large bulbs, such as tulips, six to eight inches apart.  Plant crocus and grape hyacinth four inches apart and smaller bulbs such as winter aconite and scilla two to three inches apart.  Daffodil can probably be planted at least 12 inches apart as they will fill in over time.  For bulbs planted greater than two inches deep, cover the bulbs half way then water well.  Finish covering the bulb and water well again.  If watered well and average rainfall is received, then additional watering is probably not needed, but if below normal precipitation is received, then water bulbs.

If you are in an area where rodents and mammals are known to dig up the bulbs, the most effective strategy is to bury chicken wire about 1 inch below the surface.  Another option is to dip the bulbs in Ropel before planting the bulb.  This product likely only lasts for one season; then the animals will be back to eat.


Sweet potatoes are a highly nutritious vegetable.  Sweet potato is a very long season crop.  Based upon the current long-term forecast, they are not forecasting low temperatures to get close to freezing until October 24th and the day time high temperatures are supposed to stay above 60 degrees F through October 10th.  Keep the plants growing at least through October 10th.

Careful planning of sweet potato harvest is critical for long-term storage and enjoyment of home grown sweet potatoes into the spring.  Harvesting sweet potatoes can begin as early as roots reach a desirable size or can be delayed until a light frost.  Sweet potatoes must be harvested before any chance of the soil freezing as this will ruin the roots.  To begin harvest, cut the vines from the roots with pruning sheers.  When pulling the vines away from the main roots, watch to see if any secondary roots from the vines may be large enough to produce desirable sized roots.  Keep track of the location of these large secondary roots for digging.  Some varieties can produce secondary roots of desirable size.

Sweet potatoes have a very thin skin making them easily damaged when digging.  Use a fork or spade to dig the sweet potatoes.  Be sure to push the digging tool in the soil as deep as possible and away from the roots and gently lift the roots out of the soil trying not to break the roots.  Be careful not to bruise the roots while digging.  Leave the roots out in the sunshine while digging to dry the soil on the roots.  Carefully remove the soil from the root without damaging the skin.  Once soil is removed, separate the roots that were broken or cut from those that are whole so that injured roots can be eaten soon and while unbruised roots can be stored.

Curing sweet potato roots is crucial for long-term storage.  Curing helps heal light surface wounds and toughens skin.  Cure roots at a steady 80 to 85 degrees F for seven to ten days.  Cover the sweet potatoes while curing to keep the humidity high.  Too low of humidity will cause the roots to shrivel.  Store roots in a location at 55 to 60 degrees F and 80 to 85% humidity to keep roots from shriveling.  Cover the storage container with plastic that has some holes to allow air movement to aid in maintaining proper humiditiy.  Enjoy eating home-grown sweet potatoes into the spring.


By this time of year, usually powdery mildew of cucurbits has almost totally overwhelmed the foliage of pumpkins and gourds.  This collapsing of the plant's leaves leads directly to the exposure of the pumpkins and gourds to the sun, which is both good and bad.  The sun will definitely help to color the pumpkins, if they have begun to color already; however, it they have not begun to turn color or the pumpkins are too young, then the direct sunlight can actually damage the pumpkins!  So what to do now that the foliage that was protecting the fruits is gone?

The real key to success is to allow the pumpkins and gourds to harden-off their rinds or outer skin.  Ideally, the fruit is removed from the field or garden when the foliage and vines near the pumpkin collapse.  This will get the pumpkin out of the direct, intense sunlight, off of the wet soils or out of low spots where water may collect.  The underside of the pumpkin, which is against the soil, remains a tender spot that both insects and diseases love to exploit.  Roll the pumpkins on their sides to allow that tender spot to toughen up a bit or cure before moving them.  Be sure to place the pumpkins in an open, dry area to help cure or toughen up the rind.  When picking and transporting the pumpkins, take extra precautions to avoid wounding or injuring the rind because those wounds create an entryway for infections to occur.  Thankfully, with the proper environmental conditions during rind curing, these wounds can heal over by producing a corky tissue to seal-off minor abrasions.  Do not stack pumpkins together or allow the pumpkins to contact one another during this rind curing time.  If one pumpkin begins to break down and rot, any other fruit dripped or oozed on or touching the infected fruit, will also begin to rot!  Ideal curing conditions consist of no direct sunlight, temperatures of 70-85F, relative humidity around 70-85% and good air circulation around the pumpkins for 10-14 days.  This will cure or harden the rind and some of the slightly immature pumpkins may even ripen or color up too!  Once the rinds have been cured properly, as long as the rind doesn't freeze, pumpkins can remain eerily appealing for about 2-3 months.

Gourds should be harvestedd when stems turn brown and become dry.  Do not use the "thumbnail test" to determine if fruits are mature as it will damage the appearance of the fruit.  If dirt is on the gourds wash with soapy water and rinse with a 10% bleach solution.  Dry gourds on newspaper in a dry cool place turning gourds daily and replacing damp newspaper for one week.


The Ohio State University will be offering a program about soils for the home garden and why soils should be tested.  The meeting will be held September 26, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at Western Ohio True Value Hardware in Minster, Ohio.  There is no cost for the program.  Pre-registration is required and only the first 25 people may attend due to space constraints.  Call the Auglaize County Extension Office at 419-739-6580 to register.


Some people have harvested potatoes while others need to do that yet.  Potatoes can start to be harvested seven to eight weeks after planting if you want to harvest small potatoes and willing to carefully move the soil to not damage the rhizomes and move the soil back to cover the rhizomes.  To maximize potato size, harvest much later.  Potatoes can be harvested any time after flowering begins and before stems die, but they can't be stored for a long period of time and size will be small.  The proper time to harvest for long-term storage is to wait two to three weeks after the vines are completely brown.  The reason to wait this length of time is to allow the skin to thicken to protect the potato during storage.  Skins have been set (thickened) when you gently rub the skin and it is not removed.  If you want to harvest potatoes when the stems are green, you can cut the stems at the soil surface and wait until skins have set.  Harvest the potatoes before the soil has a chance to freeze.  Potatoes are more likely to be injured during harvest when soil temperatures are below 45 degrees.

Use a spade or fork to dig potatoes.  It is best to enter the soil at the farthest point of the hill from the plant going fairly deeply and "lifting" the soil as to not damage the tuber.  Try to dig when the soil is dry.  If soil is sticking to the potato, leave the tubers on the soil surface to dry.  Carefully rub off any large amounts of soil.  Do not wash the potatoes at time of harvest as this can encourage growth of rotting organisms and reduce storage.  Skins can thicken on their own to some degree after harvest.  To set the skins store potatoes in the dark at 55 to 60 degrees F with high relative humidity (95%) for two to three weeks.  Even with the skins set it is best to let the potatoes cure before putting them into long term storage.  Store potatoes at 38 to 50 degrees F in a dark and high humidity space for long term storage.  If light gets to the potato tuber, they will turn green which must be removed before preparing the potato.  The cooler the temperature the longer the potatoes can be stored; however, the starch turns to sugar below 40 degrees F.  The higher sugar content causes the potato to brown when fried.  Do not store potatoes near fruit as this will encourage sprouting.  For really long-term storage take the sprouts off when they are small to reduce the amont of nutrition lost.  Allow good air circulation during storage.  Keep close watch of the potatoes during storage and remove any rotting potato as soon as possible to reduce the chance of spread to other potatoes.


Late August to early September is the best time of the year to establish or renovate lawns.  Seeding can continue into early October, but successful estalishment can be risky at that time.

Site preparation can be done in two different ways.  The area can be tilled and leveled out or the area can be seeded with a slit seeder.  The advantage of tilling the area is that it can be leveled out for a smooth soil surface, the soil can be amended as necessary and you do not need a slit seeder to seed.  Apply fetilizer according to a soil test report.  If a soil test was not completed, apply 10 pounds per 1000 square feet of a 10-10-10 fertilizer.  Incorporate the fertilizer to a depth of four inches.  If slit seeding, apply the fertilizer after emergence, because putting fertilizer on the surface before seeding can kill germinating seeds.  When tilling the soil, lightly roll the area to determine low areas needing to be filled in and to provide a firmer seedbed. A slit seeder can be used in the growing turf or turf that is killed.  Slit seeding is usually more effective than overseeding.  If weeds are present and you want them controlled, apply glyphosate at 1.5 pounds acid equivalent per acre (44 fluid ounces of a Roundup brand) to large (not mowed for a week or two) plants.  Wait at least four days from application until slit seeding or tilling the area.  Operate the slit seeder in a perpendicular pattern.

What type of seed should I plant?  For the darkest green lawn, plant Kentucky bluegrass, but this is the highest maintenance (lots of water, fungicides and insecticides to stay green) grass species and shuts down the fastest when hot or dry.  Turf-type tall fescue requires the least maintenance and will stay greener longer under hot and dry conditions.  Kentucky bluegrass has rhizomes to provide the thickest turf, establishes slow, will need to be mowed the most times, tolerates close mowing, tolerates traffic, poorly tolerates drought (needs the most irrigation), and has medium shade tolerance.  Perennial ryegrass is a bunch-type grass species meaning it will not spread, establishes quickly, needs less mowing than Kentucky bluegrass, does not tolerate close mowing, traffic, and has less shade tolerance than Kentucky bluegrass, and poorly tolerates drought (needs the most irrigation).  Turf-type tall fescue is a bunch-type species, has medium establishment rate, needs mowing the fewest times, has good tolerance to close mowing, traffic tolerance and drought tolerance and has medium shade tolerance.  Purchase turf-type tall fescue having more than two varieties.  Do not mix Kentucky bluegrass or ryegrass with turf-type tall fescue.  Turf-type tall fescue seed can be a little difficult to find.

Seed 100% Kentucky bluegrass at 1 to 1.5 pounds per 1000 square feet.  Seed a 20% ryegrass plus 80% Kentucky bluegrass mixture at 2 to 2.5 pounds per 1000 square feet.  Seed a 50% ryegrass plus 50% Kentucky bluegrasss mixture at 3 to 3.5 pounds per 1000 square feet.  Seed 100% turf-type tall fescue at 7 to 9 pounds per 1000 square feet.

Scout grass prior to first mowing to determine the need to control weeds.  If needing to spray, wait at least two days before mowing.  Weeds are usually less of a problem in the fall.

When seeding on a tilled soil surface, water frequently to keep the soil surface moist until emergence.  After emergence water thoroughly and less frequently.  A thin layer of straw mulch can be applied to the soil surface to hold moisture and help keep the seed in place.  Be sure to use straw having no weeds.


They are not bees, but a wasp.  It is that time of year when yellowjackets become more prevalent as they are searching for food for the winter. Yellowjackets are predatory wasps that many homeowners have encountered in their yards.  While these are beneficial general predators that kill soft-bodied pests such as caterpillars and sawflies to feed to the young larva, they can become a nuisance if they draw near recreational area or accidentally enter homes.  Most often these insects can come into conflict with people in late summer when their food preference switches from other protein-rich insects to food items having sugar or other sweeteners.  This often draws them to our summer picnics when they are attracted to sweet foods such as soda.  Adult wasps are also drawn to fruit, tree sap, and garbage cans, so keep lids tightly affixed outdoors and clean up fallen or rotting fruit from any fruit trees or shrubs to prevent attracting them.

While most people are familiar with yellowjackets, many may be surprised to know there is more than one species in Ohio. The German yellowjacket (Paravespula germanica) first appeared in Ohio in 1975 and is most commonly found today.  The other yellowjackets include the comon yellowjacket (Paravespula vulgaris) and Eastern yellowjacket (Paravespula maculifrons).  They often build their nests in abandoned rodent burrows or hollowed spaces in the ground, but can also be found in wall voids and other building structures, bringing them again into conflict with humans.  There is also a species of aerial yellowjack (Dolichovespula arenaria) that builds a hanging nest in eaves or trees.

Yellowjackets are social insects with queen and worker wasps.  Workers are about 1/2" long with yellow and black stripes on the abdomen. There are many helpful guides that use these stripes to help differentiate the species. Queens are larger, about 3/4".  These wasps are often confused with honeybees because of their similar size but remember that bees have many branched hairs, giving them a furry appearance whereas most wasps are relatively hairless and may appear shiny.  Many bees can also be differentiated by the presence of a pollen basket carrying pollen whereas yellowjackets are predatory.  Only the fertilized new queens survive the winter hiding well protected under hollow logs, bark, rocks, or soil cavities.  Queens will emerge in April to May to select a new nesting site.  Nests are not reused.

Be mindful of potential underground nests as many complaints often arise when lawnmowers or weed-wackers draw too near their underground burrows.  If you can wait, jellowjackets will die off in winter and only the queens will survive.  If you must remove a nest, there are dust insecticides labeled for wasps, such as carbaryl {Sevin} (read all labels).  However, hiring a professional pest control operator may be the best bet to prevent risk of being stung.


Winter squash can be harvested when the rind surface looses its sheen or gloss, the tendril (curly stucture) nearest the fruit has died completely, the groundspot has yellowed, and the fruit stem has become corked (initiation of abcission).  One other harvesting characteristic is when the skin or rind becomes hard enough to not be punctured by a thumbnail.  Once these characteristics have been met harvesting can begin; however, if plants are mostly green wait to harvest the majority of fruits until 50% plant death.  When harvesting hubbard-type squash remove the entire fruit stem, but with all other squash types leave at least a one-inch fruit stem.  Squash does not need to be cured to maximize storage life.


A vole is a rodent similar to a mouse, but has a short (1 inch) tail and very small ears.  Voles make surface runways and tunnels.  The most common species in our area is the meadow and prairie vole.  Voles have a short life expectance, but are very productive breeders.  One female vole can have 5 to 10 litters a year about every 21 days and average 3 to 6 young per litter.  They make shallow grass filled nests on the ground or dig a small tunnel 4 to 5 inches deep.  Voles are active the entire year.  They are most active at dusk and dawn.  Their home range is usually 1/4 acre.  Vole populations cycle with population booms every 3 to 5 years.

Voles are very devastating when they get into a garden.  They will eat almost anything in the garden.  Examples include red beet roots, muskmelon, green beans, squash, sweet potato and more.  They really enjoy sweet potatoes, often eating the entire root. They will put holes in fruits.  Take time to spread the canopy of vegetables looking for runs and damaged roots and fruits.

The two ways to control voles is with traps and rodenticides.  Place two mouse traps back to back with the triggers next to each other in the center of a run or a single mouse trap placed perpendicular to the run with the trigger end in the run.  Place a peanut butter oatmeal mixture or small apple pieces on the triggers for bait.  Traps placed in a square tube in the center of a run will work as well.  If the vole is not caught completely in the trap they may take it with them.  The other strategy is to use a rodenticide bait. Use a pelleted rat/mouse bait containing chlorophacinone or diphacinone.  Place 2 tablespoons of the bait in a covered runway to keep the bait dry.  The cover can be a board that is raised up enough for the vole to get under the board.  Another way to keep the bait dry is to place it in a 2 to 3 inch diameter PVC pipe that is 24 to 36 inches in length with the ends cut at a 45 degree angle and place the pipe with the shortest length onto the soil in the center of a run. Another rodenticide that is more toxic to voles and other species, including humans is zinc phosphide which can be purchased at Rural King. Place the zinc phosphide in the run during a 48 hour period of no rain or place it in a bait station or under a board where they have some runs.


Now that we got some rain and based upon the calendar, it is time to start planting again.  You may say start planting again?  I say sure.  Short and cool season vegetables can be planted now for late summer/fall harvest.  Species that can be planted now include radishes, turnips, lettuce, other greens, scallions (green onions), spinach, swiss chard, kale, and red beets.

If you know the fertility of your soil, fertilize as necessary.  If you have not soil tested for some time, apply a 5-10-10 type of fertilizer at 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet and incorporate the fertilizer at least 3 inches deep. This will be enough fertilizer for the rest of the season for all of the vegetables, except lettuce and greens. Once the lettuce and greens are close to harvest apply a nitrogen source such as urea.  Be sure to incorporate the urea right away and water if necessary.

Plant lettuce only 1/16 inch deep.  Plant other greens 1/4 inch deep.  Plant radishes, turnips, kale, scallions and spinach 1/2 inch deep.  Plant swiss chard and red beets 1 inch deep.


Snap bean (green bean) pods are being chewed upon and holes are showing up in leaves.  The culprit is the bean leaf beetle.  Bean leaf beetle adults are about one quarter inch long and oval-shaped.  The wing covers have a black line around the edge and six black spots.  Where the wing cover is attached there is a triangular black mark which is present on all beetles. Some beetles will have no spots or margin markings and be a reddish-brown color.

Bean leaf beetle adults overwinter and emerge in mid-May to June.  They lay orange eggs at the base of the plant.  The larva that hatch out feed on the snap bean roots, although plants are not injured from this feeding.  Adults emerge over time starting about five weeks later.  The adults chew holes in leaves and the bean pods.  The earliest emerging adults usualy lay eggs producing a second generation that hatch in late August through September.  Scout for bean leaf beetles from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. when they are most active.

If you find moderate to severe feeding injury (about 25% defoliation) on 10% of plants, then control strategies are warranted.  Early planted snap beans have the greatest leaf feeding injury from the overwintering population, and late planted snap beans have the greatest pod feeding.  Pod feeding is really cosmetic injury, unless extensive feeding is occurring.

If you have a small patch of snap beans, the beetles could be picked off and killed by putting them in soap water.  Effective insecticides include esfenvalerate, permethrin, or carbaryl (Sevin).  Be sure to follow the label instructions on the preharvest interval and proper rates.


I had a call last week about a tree that had brown leaves.  Most of the leaves on the tree had brown leaves, but I could not find any apparent disease lesions on the leaves.  With further investigation the leaves on the entire tree had turned brown.  In addition, when I looked at the base of the tree I noticed that the roots were sticking out of the ground that were injured by a lawn mower and the bark was damaged all the way around the tree or girdled from a weed trimmer.  The tree was on top of a hill and two years ago was shaded by some ash trees that have since been cut down.  Under normal rainfall the tree was getting enough water to stay alive despite the injury to the roots and base of the tree.  However; with the extremely dry conditions in the area where the tree was located and the extra sunshine the tree received compared to previous years, the tree could not sustain itself from all of the root and trunk damage.  Always be careful not to use a weed trimmer around the base of a tree and not injure roots with a mower.  Trees may live normally for awhile, but will decline over time and when additional stresses are put on the tree they may die completely.


I received two samples of magnolia tree branches this week having magnolia scale.  Please scout your magnolia trees for these scales as the infestation was large enough on one tree to begin killing the branches and retarding growth.

Magnolia scales are tan in color, about 1/2 in diameter looking like half sea shells and having a white waxing coating covering the shell.  Young scales (crawlers) will be hatching very soon if they have not already begun hatching.  Scales are sap feeders and if the population is large enough the excrement can cause leaves to turn black with sooty mold.

The most effective way to manage the scales, which needs to be done right away, is to apply an imidacloprid drench treatment.  Next spring before the trees leaf out, apply a dormant oil.  Hopefully this will knock the population down enough that an annual spring application of dormant oil will be enough.  If the population is not controlled by next summer, then another application of imidacloprid will need to be made.  If the density of scales is really low you could pick them off the branches.


I have seen samples of tomato leaves turning yellow with brown circular lesions.  This is early blight of tomato and potato.  The lowest leaves of the plants start to have these brown circular spots with yellow around the spots.  The brown spots have rings in them looking like a bulls-eye.  As time progresses the lesions grow larger becoming more angular followed by the leaf turning yellow and then brown (necrotic) and moving up the plant.  Lesions will also appear on the stem as circular brown spots having sunken appearance and concentric rings like the leaf lesions.  Both the tomato fruit and the potato tuber can be infected.  Both will have a sunken leathery appearance with the concentric rings seen on the leaves and stems and with black fruiting structures.  The lesions usually start at the top of the tomato near the stem.

The fungus (Alternaria solani) overwinters in infected plant material in the soil and on weeds in the nightshade family.  Spores infect leaves directly when leaves come in contact with the soil or spores are blown or splashed onto leaves.  The oldest and most stressed (water, nutrients) leaves are infected first.  Under cool, moist conditions numerous spores are produced that are blown onto nearby leaves and plants leading to new infections.  The fungus grows best in areas with warm weather and alternating between dry and wet (dew and fog) cycles.  Potato tubers become infected when they are injured during harvest and this injured area comes in contact with soil or plant material that is infected.  If a film of water is on the potato, infection is more likely to occur.

How do I manage early blight?  Management starts with the removal of all plant material of nightshade species (tomato, potato, eggplant, peppers and weeds such as eastern black nightshade) from the garden and destroying it so it never gets to the garden again.  As an added precaution deep till the garden in the fall to bury any remaining plant material.  Rotate all nightshade crops into a new area not returning to the same area for three to five years.  Plant disease free seeds and plants and do not injure the potato tuber during planting.  Plant varieties having resistance or reduced susceptibility to early blight.  Maintain healthy plants.  Plants having deficiencies in phosphorus and nitrogen and too much or too little water are infected first.  Water plants to reduce the length of leaf wetness to a minimum.  Drip irrigation is best.  Add good quality compost to the areas where planting nightshade crops as this will maintain better plant health thereby reducing early blight.  Apply fungicides at the first sign of infection.  Fungicides are only protectants, not curative, so applications must be applied before the onset of disease.  No fungicide will completely control early blight, but will keep it reduced.  Effective fungicides include chlorothalonil, fixed copper, iprodione, mancozeb, and maneb.  Spray fungicides every seven to 10 days.  The only non-chemical method to controlling the disease is to remove infected leaves, but removing leaves must start at the first sign of the disease and once the stems become infected its nearly impossible to maintain enough leaves to maximize yield.  Organic approved fungicides include fixed copper, hydrogen peroxide, potassium bicarbonate, garlic and neem oils, seaweed extract, and compost tea (1:5 compost:water) plus Serenade Max and Sonata.  Be diligent in managing this disease.


If the bottom or flower end of a tomato has a water-soaked appearance followed by a sunken area and turning black, then the fruit has what is called blossom end rot.  The lesions may also occur on the sides of the fruit near the flower end of the tomato.  In addition to tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, melons, squashes and cucumbers can also get blossom end rot.

Blossom end rot is not a disease, it is a physiological disorder caused by an insufficient amount of calcium in the developing fruit.  It looks like a disease because the injured area of the fruit is colonized by secondary pathogens.  Even though multiple fruits may have blossom end rot, it will not spread to other fruits like a typical disease.

Is there anything that can be done once you notice the injured fruits?  There really is nothing that can be done to solve the problem, unless you catch it very early in the water-soaked lesion stage on the first fruit.  At this stage calcium chloride or calcium nitrate can be applied to the foliage.  The biggest reason why this really will not help is because the lack of sufficient calcium usually is transient.

The best thing to do is to take measures to reduce the chance of having the problem in the future.  The most important thing to do is to determine if the soil is deficient in calcium, which it likely will not be the case.  The only way to do this is to take a soil test.  If soil pH is below 5.5, calcium is less available to the plant and applying lime in the fall and incorporating it deeply will raise the pH to allow more calcium to be available and add additional calcium to the soil.

The biggest reason for blossom end rot to occur is a lack of sufficient water and hot temperatures for several days.  This is caused by wide fluctuations of moisture levels to the plant.  Ways to correct this in future years include having an extensive root system.  The way to do this is to transplant the plants deeply in the soil and allow the soil to be dry to encourage deeper root growth prior to plants flowering.  Be careful when weeding to not destroy roots while hoeing.

As plants are growing before flowering add mulch to the soil to allow the soil to hold moisture for a longer period of time and reduce soil temperatures.

Another reason for blossom end rot is excessive nitrogen in the soil.  The ammonia form of nitrogen competes for the uptake of calcium, reducing the amount getting into the plant.  To solve this reduce the amount of ammonia forms of nitrogen to reduce excessive growth.


Yesterday I found this large green colored worm eating my tomato plants.  Is it a tomato hornworm or a tobacco hornworm?  If this very large larva is about three inches long, green with seven diagonal white lines on the sides and a red curved horn on the last segment, then it is the tobacco hornworm.  If the large green larva has seven V-shaped white markings on its side and a black straight horn on the last segment, then it is the tomato hornworm.  The tomato hornworm can also be a dark or black colored larva.

The person usually observes the round brown to black-colored droppings (frass) that is about the size of a miniature M & M and young leaves missing at the top of a tomato plant before observing the larva.  The mostly green color of the larva matches the color of the tomato and camouflages them very effectively.  Look for the larvae near dawn and dusk because they can be found feeding on the outside of the plant.  The larvae usually move into the interior of the plant to feed during the day.

Hornworms also feed on potato, pepper and eggplant.

The adult stage of the hornworm is a moth called a hawk or sphinx moth.  They are large, gray-brown moths with a wingspan of four to five inches.  The front wings are much longer than the hind wings having dark and white uneven bands.  The abdomen of the tomato hornworm has five orange spots on the sides of its abdomen and the tobacco hornworm has six orange spots.  The moths can travel long distances.

The moths emerge in May laying individual smooth round (pearls) yellow to light green eggs on the underside of a tomato leaf or closely related species.  Moths can continue to emerge until early August.  The moths are active at sunset and before dawn feeding on flowers.  The larva hatches from the egg and begins voraciously feeding on leaves, stems and sometimes the green fruits.  They have four to five instars (growth stages).  The larvae mature over a one-month period reaching up to 4 inches in length.  The mature larva falls to the ground and burrow up to 6 inches deep into the soil to form a pupal case.  The adult may emerge this season or stay in the soil over winter in the pupal stage.

If you see a hornworm larva with white cocoons like a rice kernel, then do not kill these larvae.  The larvae have stopped eating and will die because it has been parasitized by a braconid wasp.  Allow the wasps to complete their life cycle to help control additional larvae.

For small numbers of tomato plants hand picking the larvae and killing them is the most cost-effective and environmentally friendly way to manage hornworms.  A biological method of control is to spray Bacillus thuringensis or BT (Dipel, Thuricide) starting in June as a preventative application because it is most effective on small larvae.  Rototilling the soil to a depth of six inches at the end of the season will destroy the pupae.  For large patches of tomatoes carbaryl (Sevin), permethrin, or spinosad insecticides effectively control hornworms.  Read the label for application rates and for preharvest or withdrawal intervals.


Squash bugs have arrived.  Squash bugs attack squash and pumpkins, but can also attack cucumbers.  Adult squash bugs are dark grey to dark brown in color.  The top of the squash bug is flat and measures about 5/8 inch long and 1/3 inch wide.  They hide on the underside of the leaves and scatter very quickly when disturbed.

The adult lays yellow to bronze colored elliptical eggs that are 1/16 inch long in clusters of about 20 on the underside of leaves where veins connect with each other.  The eggs hatch in about 10 days.  The nymphs are greenish in color with black legs turning to a more greyish color over time.  It takes about four to six weeks for the nymphs to turn into an adult.

The adults and nymphs have piercing sucking mouth parts so they suck sap out of leaves.  The feeding causes yellow spots on the leaves that eventually turn brown.  The feeding disrupts the flow of water and nutrients causing the leaves to wilt.  Young plants are much more susceptible to injury compared to larger plants.  Plants can be killed with severe infestations.

One way to manage squash bugs is to remove the adults and nymphs by hand placing them in a bucket of soapy water.  Another non-chemical way to manage squash bugs is to constantly scout for eggs and destroy the eggs.  The easiest way to get rid of adults and nymphs is to lay some boards or pieces of newspaper on the ground near the plants at night.  Go out early the next morning and lift up the boards or paper and destroy the squash bugs.

If the infestation is large, insecticides can be used to control squash bugs, but the adults are difficult to control.  Apply insecticides when the bees are at their least activity, which is early morning or late in the day.  Carbaryl, permethrin, bifenthrin, and esfenvalerate will effectively control squash bugs.


The squash vine borer adults should be visible making it time to manage this pest.  Adult squash vine borer begin emerging as early as mid-June and continue laying eggs into August.  The adult squash vine borer resembles a wasp having metallic green front wings and clear-colored hind wings, but it is a moth.  The abdomen is orange witih black spots.  The moth lays a single brown flattened egg or a few eggs the size of a pencil point onto the stem of summer and winter squash and pumpkins just above the soil surface.

The eggs will hatch in 7 to 10 days and the larvae will begin boring into the stem.  The entry point is visible due to the frass (worm excrement) that is pushed out of the hole.  The larvae will tunnel through the stem for about four weeks.  The tunneling disrupts water movement through the stem and the plant eventually dies.  When the larvae are ready to pupate they leave the plant and enter the soil where they make a cocoon.  The pupa stays in the soil until next June when it emerges as an adult.

The best way to scout for the presence of adult squash vine borers is to place a solid yellow-colored dish containing water near squash and pumpkins.  Check the traps daily.  The moths are attracted to yellow and will fall into the water and die.

The first damage that will be visible is the frass exiting the entry point. As time progresses the plants will wilt during the heat of the day and looking normal at night.  Eventually the plants will stay wilted most of the day with the plant eventually dying due to a collapsed stem base.

There are two methods of excluding the moths from laying eggs on the plant stems.  Method one is to place a floating row cover over the vine crop to exclude the moths.  There are two potential problems with this method.  The row cover will exclude pollinators from the plants when the plants are flowering and if growing squash or pumpkins in the same area as a year ago you may trap the moths under the row cover.  The other method is to wrap panty hose around the first six to eight inches of the stem to exclude the moths from laying eggs.

Applying an insecticide such as Sevin dust onto the first six to eight inches of the stem once the moths have been detected will effectively control the hatching larvae.  Reapply the Sevin dust every seven to 10 days through the beginning of August.  Permethrin, bifenthrin, and esfenvalerate may also be used to control squash vine borer.  The esfenvalerate has longer residual activity than Sevin, so applications are only needed every 24 days.

A last resort method of controlling the larvae is to surgically remove the larvae from the stem.  I have done this successfully several times.  Scout for the presence of frass to find the entry hole.  Make an incision starting at the entry hole going no deeper than half way through the diameter of the stem.  Continue cutting until you have reached the larvae, then remove it.  As long as minimal damage is done to the plant, it should recover quite well.  As a precaution, place soil at the nodes of the vines to encourage root growth.  This will give the plant an alternative source of water in case the base of the stem dies or is significantly damaged.  This method is most successful when a single borer is present, for multiple borers this method is less successful.

To reduce future populations do not let any larvae survive and enter the soil.  Squash vine borer larvae do not borer into butternut squash, cucumbers, and melons.


Most of us purchase our food from a grocery store.  How far away did those food items travel to get to our area?  Some items come from other countries or from California or Florida.

Ohioans spend $29 billion dollars per year on food according to Brian Williams with MORPC.  This does not include school and other institutional food sources.  How much of the money spent on food leaves Ohio?  The answer is $26 billion dollars per year.  That means little money stays in Ohio when purchasing food.

What is considered local food?  According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) local is defined as food coming from the state you live in or within 400 miles.  Therefore Libby's pumpkin mix made in Morton, Illinois which is 338 miles from Wapakoneta can be considered local food.  But what if you could purchase food within Auglaize County?  That certainly is local food.

Why should we buy food locally?  One reason is that the money stays within the area and may cost less than purchasing it in a store.  Another is that food can taste better and contain a greater concentration of nutrients.  Local fruits and vegetables can be picked at the peak of ripeness and get to the table within hours or certainly a few days.  It was shown in a study that 45% of nutrients of vegetables were lost from the time of harvest and until it was eaten.  Local foods can have fewer pesticides although not always.  If nothing else you have the opportunity to ask the local producer how they grew their products.  Buying local also strengthens the community through networking with others.

How can you get local food?  One place is from a Farmers Market.  A Farmers Market is a common meeting place for vendors to sell their produce/products.  In Auglaize County there are four Farmers Markets, two in Wapakoneta, one in St. Marys, and one in New Bremen.  The Wapakoneta Farmers Market is located at Belcher Park and operates on Saturdays from 8:30 to noon. The Farmers Market on the North side of Wapakoneta is located at Walter & Sons, Inc., Meats and operates Saturdays from 8:00 to 10:30 a.m.  The St. Marys Farmers Market is located at 1659 S.R. 703 next to Dave's Barbeque and operates on Saturdays from 9:00 to noon. The New Bremen Farmers Market is located at Amsterdam Center Parking Lot and operates Saturdays from 8:00 to noon.

Another source of local food is from a Farm Market.  A Farm Market is where a farmer sells their products from their farm.  We have several in Auglaize County. They include Barry Farms, Ber-Gust Farms LLC, Green Thumb Farm Market, Hibner Family Farm LLC, Hilltop Harvest Farm Self-Serve Farm Market, Hill Top Honey House, Homestead Pastures, Mike's Koop Creek Honey, Pusheta Creek Farms, Steinke's Bee World, Steinke Farms, and The Market.

Another source is a Community Supported Agriculture which would be Ber-Gust Farms LLC and Hibner Family Farm LLC.  Local food processing/retail includes Kah Meats and Walter & Sons, Inc. Meats in Wapakoneta.  One last source of local foods are restaurants that purchase most of their food items locally.  Green Thumb Fresh Cafe and J. Marie's Wood-Fired Kitchen and Drinks are two such restaurants in Auglaize County.


I have received multiple calls in the last three weeks regarding spruce trees.  Spruce trees have a single square-shaped needle, with Colorado blue spruce as the most popular or frequent species in Auglaize County.

There are two diseases that spruce trees are getting, Rhizosphaera and StigminaRhizospaera is caused by the pathogen Rhizosphaera kalkhoffi and Stigminia is caused by Stigmina lautii.  Both diseases attack the needles of Colorado blue, white, and Norway spruce, although Norway spruce is considered to have the highest level of resistance.  The diseases usually attack older trees.

Spruce trees generally keep three to four years worth of needles.  Both diseases attack the oldest needles causing the needles to turn purple or brown and eventually fall off the tree.  The diseases usually start at the bottom of the tree and work its way upward.

Stigmina lautii has a two-year life cycle.  Sporodochia (fruiting body) develop in late spring the year after infection, mature that fall and produce spores that can cuase infections the next spring. Spores typically develop in the spring just prior to new shoot growth.  The spores can infect any age class of needles throughout the season when the temperatures are above 50 degrees F.

Rhizosphaera kalkoffi has a one-year life cycle.  Pycnidia produce spores in late May through July during periods of wet weather.  The spores are spread by rain splash and will infect all age classes of needles.  The symptoms of the disease on newly infected needles will not appear until spring of the following year.  Spores are produced shortly after the appearance of the pycnidia.  Infected needles on the tree and those that have fallen from the tree produce spores.

A close look at a spruce needle with a hand lens three of four rows of white spots which are the stomata (openings for gas exchange).  The pycnidia of Rhizosphaera emerge from the stomata forming a black smooth edged circular pattern.  The sporodochia of Stigmina emerge from the stomata forming discontinuous black fuzzy lines.  The fruiting bodies are visible on green and discolored needles.  Proper identification of these fruiting bodies is important to know how to manage the diseases.

For cultural control of both diseases, get the needles to dry as fast as possible with full sunshine and maximum air flow.  Keep trees spread about as much as possible to reduce tree to tree spread.  Remove infected branches and severely infected trees.  Clean up the needles from under the tree and burn the needles and removed branches.  Plant the most resistant spruce which is Norway, although Stigmina can still infect this species.

Chlorothalonil and copper containing fungicides can be used to control Rhizosphaera and may be effective on Stigmina, but limited research proves this.  Apply the fungicide when new needles are half their normal size and continue to protect the new needles for two months and for the next two to three years.  The best information for controlling Stigmina is to apply fungicide at bud break and for the next two months and for four to five years.  This makes fungicide applications very expensive to maybe control Stigmina, making tree branch and tree removal the cheapest options.


Colorado potato beetles have hatched and are feeding on potato.  The larvae are short and wide with a black head.  The abdomen is red when small and turns to a pinkish color as they become larger and has a row of black spots on the sides.  The adult is oval about the size of a pea and is yellowish-orange with 10 narrow black stripes on the wing cover.  Larvae eat leaves to the mid-vein.

Each adult female can lay up to 350 eggs which will hatch in 2 weeks. Larvae can complete their life cycle in 10 days when hot.  Large larvae will drop to the ground to pupate and a second generation of adults will emerge to lay eggs.

For small potato patches with few Colorado potato beetles, picking them off by hand and placing them in soapy water is the best control option.  For large patches or heavy infestation you can try Sevin dust or Malathion, but these products may not work due to resistant beetles.  Other products available to home gardeners that can work are Bt for Colorado potato beetles, esfenvalerate, pyrethrins, azadirechtin, and spinosad.  For the Bt and azadirechtin to work they must be applied often as there is little residual control and they only work on small larvae.  For commercial potato growers Assail works really well.  Read and follow label directions.


Rainfall in the month of May in Wapakoneta was 1.69 inches below normal and the area has only received 0.49 inch of rain through 6-8-16.  Add to that 11 consecutive days greater than 81 degrees F at the end of May and lawns are suffering from water stress and heat.

Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, two of the most common grass species in lawns, are considered cool season grasses.  Optimum temperatures for leaf growth of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass is 60 to 75 degrees F and optimum soil temperatures for root growth is 50 to 65 degrees F.  Therefore, our lawns are suffering from temperature and moisture stress.  This causes the plants to reduce growth and eventually shut down.

Turf type tall fescue, although considered a cool season grass, can tolerate heat and moisture stress better than Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass.  These lawns will stay greener longer, although will shut down as well in extreme conditions.

The only way to keep Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass lawns green is to water them.  With the forecasted hot temperatures the lawn should receive at least one inch of rain per week.  The best way to water a lawn is to apply the entire inch of rain at one time as long as it is delivered slowly and then allow it to dry out.  When temperatures are greater than 90 degrees F the irrigated grasses may still slow growth unless additional water is applied.

For non-irrigated lawn the only way to reduce (not eliminate) discoloration of the lawn is to increase mowing height to three to four inches.  Leaving the grass longer will help to reduce soil temperature and reduce mowing stress on the lawn.  Increasing mowing height will only work with marginal heat and moisture stress.  Eventually the stress can become great enough for the lawn to cease growth.  Increasing the mowing height in an irrigated lawn will keep it greener as well.

The take home message is to mow grass higher and/or water the lawn to keep it green.


Fireblight is fairly prevalent again this year.  Fireblight is caused by Erwinia amylovora, a bacteria.  Bacterial diseases are the most difficult to control diseases.  Fireblight affects plants in the Rose family.  Rose family species include apples, pears, plums, Prunus species (flowering almond, plum, and cherry), roses, crabapples, serviceberry, flowering quince, cotoneaster, hawthorn, loquat, phontinia, pyracantha, and spirea.

In the spring cankers on branches begin to exude a liquid substance containing the bacteria.  Insects, including honey bees, wind, rain, and gravity moves the bacteria to other parts of the tree and to other trees.  The bacteria must enter the plant through an entry point.  This entry point is a flower or damaged bark.  Once the bacteria enters the tree it will enter the vascular system and move a short distance up and down the stem killing it and creating a canker for next season.

Infected flowers and leaves turn black in color.  Only a single petal may turn black at the time of infection, but then a single fruit or a few leaves in the spur or the entire spur or all the leaves on a branch may turn black.  If branches turn black, then the growing point will likely turn downward looking like a shepherd's crook.

The more the tree is covered with bacteria, the greater the chance for infection, especially in the case of a hailstorm which could create many entry points.  The multiple holes created by the hail are excellelnt entry points for the bacteria, making hail damage the most devastating disease outbreak for the tree.

Most people recommend doing nothing for the remainder of this season because it is impossible to know where the bacteria have traveled on the stems.  If an infected branch is cut and the bacteria are present on the outside of the branch then it can enter the cut and reinfect that branch.

Copper products applied to the branches before flowering can kill the bacteria on the wood.  Apogee applied around petal fall may reduce shoot blight.  The only other means of control is to remove infected branches.  Because the bacteria may be on the branches, it is recommended to prune out the dead branches after November and before March to make sure no bacterial oozing has started from the cankers.  When pruning, cut the branch 4 to 12 inches below the stem canker.  After each cut soak the pruner in a 10% bleach solution to kill any bacteria that may be present from entering the cut surface.  Since the recommendation is to wait to prune until the dormant season, spray paint infected branches now so you will not miss them.

Pruning at this time of the season is very risky due to the presence of the bacteria on the wood.  If you have young trees and only a single branch is affected for the first time, then removing that branch may be warranted, but soak the pruner in bleach before and after the cut and cut 12 inches below the canker.


In the last two weeks, I have looked at peach trees and some leaf samples.  I have identified the disease as peach leaf curl.  Peach leaf curl is a very common disease of peaches caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans.

Peach leaf curl is identified by initially causing reddish areas on developing leaves.  These reddish areas become thickened and puckered causing the leaves to curl and become very distorted.  These thickened areas will turn yellow and then grayish white.  Velvety spores will be visible on the leaf surface.  As the disease progresses the leaves turn brown and fall off the tree or may stay attached. The pathogen can also infect blossoms, fruit and shoots.  Shoots with the pathogen become thickened, stunted, distorted, and then often die.  If this disease is left uncontrolled for several years, the tree will decline and will need to be removed.

As leaves continue to decline, powdery grey spores are produced that are carried by the wind onto the branches where they remain through the winter.  The overwintering spores begin multiplying in the spring during periods of moist weather just as the bud begins to swell and open.  Infection occurs when the bud surface remains wet for greater than 12.5 hours and temperatures are below 61 degrees F.  Maximum infection occurs when trees are wet for two or more days and cool weather slows the development of the buds.  Infection will not occur as temperatures reach over 80 degrees F.

If the disease is present now, there are no fungicides that will stop it and infection is likely no longer possible due to the current temperatures.  The only things that can be done now is to water the trees thoroughly during extended periods, apply a little nitrogen fertilizer before June 15th, and remove some of the fruit.  These management strategies are to reduce stress on the tree since few leaves will be producing food for the plant.  When fertilizing the tree, be sure to apply the nitrogen at least to the dripline of the tree.

The only way to manage the disease in the future is to apply a fungicide in the fall after leaf drop or in the spring prior to bud swell.  If waiting until the spring, the fungicide MUST be applied BEFORE ANY growth.  For homeowners chlorothalonil is the only effective fungicide available.  When appying chlorothalonil, be sure to cover the tree completely, including the trunk, until spray solution begins to run off the branches.

Some peach cultivars have some level of resistance.  Frost has the greatest resistance.  Redhaven and any variety from that have some resistance.


Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), also known as hedge garlic, Jack-by-the-hedge, and sauce alone is a non-native invasive weed of forest borders.  Garlic mustard is native to Europe believed to have been introduced as a cooking herb.  Garlic mustard is a member of the mustard family.  Garlic mustard is found most often along forest borders, but can also be found in fence row, barnyards, road ditches and deeper into a woods if seeds are dispersed by humans, animals and water.

Garlic mustard has a biennial life cycle meaning it takes two years to complete its life cycle.  The tall plants you see now are the ones that germinated last spring.  If you look near the soil you will see small young plants that will live through the winter and flower next spring.

Garlic mustard has four white petals.  Plants may still be flowering at this time, but are close to being finished.  Identifying features of garlic mustard include plants up to 3 feet in height, alternately attached triangular-shaped leaves having coarsely toothed margins, hairy petioles (structure supporting leaf blade to stem), smooth stems although sometime having hair and long (up to 2") and very narrow seed pods.  Identifying features of a young seedling that is also present include oblong cotyledons with a longer than normal petiole, round leaves (similar to ground ivy) with a serrated leaf margin forming a rosette leaf pattern and very long hairy petioles.  If you crush the leaves they smell like garlic.

Garlic mustard is a bad weed because it can withstand very shaded areas and establish a very dense canopy early in the spring shading and competing against native woodland plants.  There is even some evidence that garlic mustard roots may exude a chemical inhibiting growth of other plants.  Other negativeattributes of garlic mustard include the production of over 20,000 seeds per square foot in a dense stand and the seeds may remain viable in the soil for at least 6 years.

In order to save all or most of the native herbaceous and woody species in garlic mustard area, controlling it becomes difficult.  The goal to controlling or maybe eradicating the garlic mustard is to stop seed production!  Hand pulling plants from before flowering to green seed pods is probably the most effective control strategy causing the least disturbance of native plants.  It may be best to pile the plants having green seed pods into one area and burn them after they have dried to ensure no viable seed production.  Fortunately the root system allows for easy hand pulling.  If large or numerous dense patches have been established for many years, hand-pulling may not be an option.

Cutting or mowing plants can be somewhat effective, but the most effective time is when plants begin to flower at which time native plants have already begun to grow and will be cut off as well.  In addition some plants may regrow.

Chemical control is difficult as well because of the desire to maintain native species.  The most effective herbicide is glyphosate (Roundup), but this herbicide kills all other plants.  To cause the least damage to native plants apply glyphosate in late November or December after native plants have died.  The problem with this timing is that leaves will cover plants.  Glyphosate can also be applied at the first warm spell during late winter or early spring before new growth.  Apply a 2% solution of concentrated glyphosate.  Other herbicide options include Crossbow at a 1.5% solution or 2,4-D plus dicamba premixed product at 1% solution.  These herbicides need to be applied at the same time as glyphosate so that desirable broadleaf vegetation is not killed.  These products will not kill monocots (grass-like).


Last week I discussed the basics of soil fertility and sources of nutrients.  I forgot to mention the soil pH should be between 6 and 6.8 for most vegetables, but the minimum for some is 6.5.  This week I want to talk about the amounts of nutrients needed by vegetables and when it should be applied.  I will give the fertilizer rates in pounds active ingredient per acre (/A).  Then you will need to convert to the number of pounds of product /A based upon the analysis of the fertilizer.  For example, if you need 120 pounds of P2O5 (phosphate) /A and you have 0-46-0 then you need to divide 120 by 0.46 (because analysis is based on a percent) to obtain 261 pounds of 0-46-0 per acre.  Next multiply this number by 0.002295 to convert pounds per acre to pounds per 100 square feet.  Therefore, you need to apply 0.6 pounds of 0-46-0 per 100 square feet.

Apply 20 and 30 pounds of nitrogen/A to peas and green beans, tomatoes, peppers, and sweet potato, respectively, before planting.  Apply a liquid solution of nitrogen to tomato and pepper plugs before transplanting and put some nitrogen solution in hole when transplanting sweet potato.  Apply 50 pounds of nitrogen/A to cucurbits (squash, pumpkin, and melons), 60 pounds of nitrogen/A to leafy greens, root crops (carrot, turnip, beets) and sweet corn, 70 pounds of nitrogen/A to onion, 120 pounds of nitrogen/A to cole crops (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts), and 135 pounds of nitrogen/A to potatoes, herbs and mint before planting.  In addition to the preplant nitrogen applications, some species need additional nitrogen later in the season.  Apply 30 to 40 pounds nitrogen/A to pumpkins and squash when vines start to run.  For melons, apply 45 pounds of nitrogen/A when vines start to run.  Apply 35 pounds of nitrogen/A to peppers and tomatoes 3 to 4 weeks after transplanting and another 35 pounds of nitrogen/A 6 to 8 weeks after transplanting.  Apply 40 pounds of nitrogen/A to sweet corn at the 5 to 10" stage, 50 pounds of nitrogen/A to leafy greens and herbs about 3 weeks after planting, and 60 pounds of nitrogen/A to root crops 4 to 6 weeks after planting.

If the soil test value for phosphorus is greater than 100 parts per million with a Bray P1 extraction method, then no phosphorus is required for any crop!  If the soil test value for phosphorus is greater than 50, but less than 100 parts per million Bray P1, apply 20, 25, and 50 pounds P2O5 /A to root crops and herbs, onion and cole crops, and potato, respectively.  If the soil test value for phosphorus is greater than 50 parts per million Bray P1, no phosphorus is needed for any vegetable crop not mentioned above.  If soil test phosphorus values are not known or are below 30 parts per million Bray P1, apply 40 pounds P2O5 /A to sweet potato; 50 pounds P2O5 /A to green beans, peas, corn and mint; 75 pounds P2O5 /A to cucurbit species; 90 pounds P2O5 /A to root crops; 110 pounds P2O5 /A to cole crops; 115 pounds P2O5 /A to onion; 120 pounds P2O5 /A to pepper and tomato; 125 pounds P2O5 /A to leafy greens and potato; and 150 pounds P2O5 /A to herbs.  If soil test phosphorous values are below 15 parts per million increase all P2O5 rates by 30%.

If soil test potassium values are greater than 150 parts per million with a CEC of 10 or greater than 175 parts per million for CEC greater than 20, then no potash (K2O) is needed for any vegetable, except potato which needs 50 pounds K2O/A and herbs need 100 pounds K2O/A.  If soil test potassium values are at 75 parts per million at a CEC of 10 or 115 parts per million at a CEC of greater than 20, then apply 50 pounds K2O/A to green beans and peas; 100 pounds K2O/A to cucurbits, leafy greens, and root crops; 125 pounds K2O/A to cole crops, onion, corn, and sweet potato; 150 pounds K2O/A to tomato, green pepper and herbs; and 175 pounds K2O/A to potato.  If soil test potassium values are below 60 parts per million at a CEC of 10 or below 90 parts per million at a CEC of greater than 20, then increase all rates by 30%.  If soil test potassium levels are greater than 95 parts per million at a CEC of 10 or greater than 145 parts per million at a CEC greater than 20, then reduce the above rates by 30%.

The reasons to follow these guidelines are to reduce nutrient loss in the environment, maximize production, and reduce fertilizer costs.  Happy gardening.


Now that gardening season is upon us, I thought I would discuss soil fertility and what plants need to maximize quality yields.  Plants need water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, and minerals for proper growth.  Roots need oxygen for proper growth and roots take up the majority of the water plants use.  The way to get the most water and oxygen to the roots is to increase pore space.  The best way to add pore space and to improve fertility at the same time is to increase the amount of organic matter in the soil  The organic matter acts as a sponge holding water and minerals for plants.  The darker the soil, the greater the organic matter content.  Clay particles are also useful in holding water and nutrients.

The only way to know what nutrients are in the soil is to have the soil tested.  Testing the soil is important to reducing water pollution from excess minerals such as nitrogen and phosphorus, making sure minerals are not out of balance, and knowing the pH of the soil.  The closest soil testing laboratory to our area is Brookside Laboratory at New Bremen, Ohio.  To collect a two cup soil sample, take 10 to 12, 8-inch deep soil cores (0.75 inch diameter) randomly from the garden.  If you need assistance in getting a soil sample, the OSU Extension Office has a soil probe available to check out.

The primary minerals for plants are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  When purchasing a fertilizer the three numbers on the bag represent the percentage of nitrogen, phosphate, the source of phosphorus, and potash, the source for potassium, by weight.  Secondary nutrients include calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.  Micro-nutrients are also needed by plants, but these nutrients are usually sufficient in the soil   Micro-nutrients include chlorine, iron, manganese, zinc, copper, molybdenum, and nickel.

If you plan to grow your vegetables organically obtaining nutrients can be difficult.  Animal manure will provide all three primary nutrients and some secondary and micro-nutrients, but at low concentrations. Poultry manure has the highest concentrations of nutrients.  Organic sources of nitrogen with the highest concentrations include dry fish meal, McGeary Organics 8-1-1, animal tankage, and soybean meal.  Organic sources of phosphorus with the highest concentration include rock phosphate, colloidal phosphate, bone meal, and animal tankage.  Organic sources of potassium with the greatest concentration include greensand, McGeary Organics 0-2-9, and kelp.

Non-organic sources of nitrogen include urea (46-0-0), 28% nitrogen, monoammonium phosphate (11-52-0), and diammonium phosphate (18-46-0).  Non-organic sources of phosphate include the two mentioned with nitrogen and superphosphate and concentrated phosphate.  Non-organic sources of potassium include monopotassium phosphate (0-52-34), potassium nitrate (13-0-44), potassium chloride (0-0-60) and potassium sulphate (0-0-50).  There are blended fertilizers having all three nutrients that can be purchased at most stores carrying fertilizer, but you may not need as much phosphorus as is included in those blends and for some crops there will not be enough nitrogen.  To obtain the fertilizers mentioned above visit your local agriculture retailer.

Always incorporate nutrients to reduce runoff, some leaching, and volatilization of urea.  I will discuss nutrient needs of vegetables next week.


An apple a day keeps the doctor away.  Most apple varieties are in full flower.  To obtain store quality apples in the home apple orchard, timely applications of effective pesticides are necessary.  At apple bloom do apply any insecticides so honey bees and other pollinators have a chance to pollinate flowers to produce a bumper crop.  Diseases to be concerned about at this time include scab, rust, powdery mildew and fire blight.  The application is at apple petal fall or 7-10 days after bloom.  Pests to potentially manage include: scab, rust, powdery mildew, fire blight, leafrollers, plum curculio, oriental fruit moth, spotted tentiform leafminer, white apple leafhopper, aphids, and mites.

First and second cover sprays are to be applied 7-10 days after petal fall and 7-10 days after first cover, respectively.  Pests to manage at this time include: scab, fruit rots, powdery mildew, sooty blotch, flyspeck, codling moth, oriental fruit moth, plum curculio, leafrollers, mites, San Jose scale, green apple aphid, cork spot, bitter pit, and jonathan spot.

Third cover application occurs 10 days after second cover.  The same pests needing to be managed in the third cover are the same ones in the first two covers plus white apple leafhopper and apple maggot.  Summer cover applications should be made every 10 to 14 days to manage the pests above plus Japanese beetles and woolly apple aphid.

To know what fungicides and insecticides and their rates should be applied visit the following website for the Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide:  https://ag.purdue.edu/hla/Hort/Documents/ID-465.pdf      Follow directions regarding resistance management strategies.

Chemically thinning apple trees reduces fruit set thus promoting larger fruit size at harvest and increased return bloom.  There are three products available for thinning apple trees.  Be sure to read page 56 in the Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide for special instructions before applying any products.

To manage apple pests organically utilize the Cornell University's  Grower's Guide to Organic Apples at http://nysipm.cornell.edu/organic_guide/apples.pdf    The Guide provides a description as to how to manage specific pests and the pesticides that are available to be considered organic.  There are limited biological controls for the pests so pesticides are necessary.

For the approved list of products to be applied consult the U.S. National Organic Program standards OMRI Products List at  http://www.omri.org/sites/default/files/opl_pdf/CropByCategory-NOP.pdf   In addition to the products allowed it provides the manufacturer as well.  Hope you have a blemish free bumper crop of apples this season.


If you have not started your garden yet, now is the time to get the "early" crops planted,as long as your soil conditions are fit.  Radish, carrot, red beet, kohlrabi, turnip, onion, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, collards, kale, leek, peas, potato, and sweet corn can be planted.  For sweet corn plant hybrids that have the greatest cold tolerance to ensure the best germination for this time of year.

The high temperatures are forecasted to be above 65 degrees F for the next 14 days, except this Friday, and the low temperatures above 41 degrees F.  Based upon this forecast, green beans and tomatoes could also be planted/transplanted as long as you are willing to cover the plants if freezing temperatures occur after May 2nd.  Hold off from planting all other crops.  If you plan to transplant vine crops and you have not started them yet, it's not too late, but start them right away.

Planting depth is very critical to successful emergence and proper development of plants.  In most cases, plant seeds to a depth 4 times the diameter of the seed.  Lettuce seeds should be covered lightly (< 0.25") with soil.  Planting depth for kale, carrot, and leek should be 0.25".  Onion planted by seed should be placed at 0.33".  Planting depth for radish, kohlrabi, kale, turnip, and onion (seeds) should be 0.5".  Spinach can be seeded 0.5 to 0.67" deep.  Planting depth for red beet and Swiss chard should be 0.75 to 1".  Peas can be planted 1" deep.  Plant green beans 1.25" deep.  Plant sweet corn 1.75" deep.  Planting sweet corn at this depth is critical for proper nodal root development.  Onion sets should be placed 1-2" deep.  Potato should be planted 4-6" deep.  Seeds planted less than 1" deep may need to be watered until emergence.  Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and tomato should be transplanted at least to the top of the potting mix.  If transplanting a little deeper, that is fine, especially for tomato.  Transplant in the evening and place some water in the hole before placing the plant in the hole.

Row spacing can usually be closer than listed on seed packets.  Sweet corn needs to be planted in a square block design to maximize pollination, all other crops can be planted in single long rows.


It is too early to be applying herbicides to lawns to control broadleaf weeds.  Current soil temperature in Auglaize County ranges from 40 to 45 degrees F.  Weeds are not actively growing at the current soil and air temperatures.  Wait to apply broadleaf herbicides until soil temperatures are above 60 degrees F, air temperatures are between 75 and 80 degrees F for multiple days, sunny conditions and the dandelions are in full bloom.

To control broadleaf weeds with herbicides in turfgrass apply products containing the three active ingredients dicamba, 2,4-D, and mecoprop (MCPP).  Some trade names containing these active ingredients include Bayer Advanced Weed Killer for lawns, Ortho Weed B Gon, Trimec and Triplet.  These products will control most broadleaf weeds.  However, some weeds will not be completely controlled by this mixture.  These weeds incude groundivy (creeping Charlie), clovers, knotweed, oxalis, spurge and wild violet.  To control these weeds include triclopyr with the three-way products.  Turflon Ester contains the active ingredient triclopyr.  To maximize wild violet control, apply the triclopyr during full flower.  Use the full labeled rates of these herbicides to maximize weed control.  The University of Kentucky has a great publication http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/AGR/AGR218/AGR218.pdf   concerning the effectiveness of several other herbicides to control some key broadleaf weeds.

Weed and feed products do not control broadleaf weeds as effectively as liquid sprays.  If a weed and feed is your only option, be sure to apply to grass during a heavy dew to activate the herbicide.

There are some precautions and comments about weed control and herbicide usage to consider.  When using the liquid sprays be sure no rain or irrigation occurs for at least 8 hours.  Do not apply products containing dicamba when the air temperatures are greater than 85 degrees F as dicamba can convert to a gas and injure desirable plant material.  Apply the herbicides when the wind speed is low and be careful that spray particles do not drift onto desirable vegetation. Do not apply these herbicides when the grass is under moisture stress, especially if adding triclopyr.  Apply the herbicides 2 to 3 days after mowing and 2 to 3 days before mowing the lawn.  Strong healthy turf will compete against weeds reducing the need for herbicides.  To obtain thick healthy turf only cut 1/3 of the leaf blade, mow to a height of 3 inches, and check soil fertility levels.  Do not spray the entire lawn if only a few scattered weeds are present.  Use a spot treatment. Spring-applied broadleaf herbicides are not as effective on perennial weeds as compared to a fall application.  If summer annual weeds are a problem, then spring applications will be more effective.  Dicamba can move into the root zone of trees and shrubs and injure them.

Herbicide products containing dicamba, 2,4-D and MCPP can be purchased at Lowe's, TSC, WalMart (at least online), and local agricultural retailers.  You can even purchase herbicides from Amazon.  Turflon is available from WalMart and Amazon.

When using herbicides always read and follow label directions as it is the law.  Also use proper personal protective equipment, especially the minimum listed on the label.  If you are wearing leather shoes when making the herbicide application, any herbicide that gets onto your shoe will bind to the leather allowing for chronic exposure to the herbicides.


As the lawn comes back to life from the winter, so do the weeds.  The biggest problem with weeds in turfgrass is reduced aesthetic value, although some weeds can out compete turf when management is reduced.  Smooth and large crabgrass and annual bluegrass are the most frequent annual grass weeds in turf.  Quackgrass (cool season) and nimblewill (warm season) are two perennial grasses found in turf.

Smooth crabgrass emerges in the spring before large crabgrass.  Smooth crabgrass emergence begins slowly when soil temperatures in the upper inch of soil reaches 54 degrees F for seven days and moisture is available.  This soil temperature occurs many times when the dogwood begin to flower and the forsythia flowers begin to fade.

Current soil temperatures are slightly about 50 degrees F.  Based upon the current 10 day forecast, crabgrass preventer does not need to be applied until sometime after April 10th.  Waiting to apply crabgrass preventer until just before emergence will ensure control of smooth and large crabgrass later into the season.  Peak crabgrass emergemnce is from mid-May to July 1st.  Crabgrass preventer must be applied before plants emerge, otherwise it will not be effective.  After applying the crabgrass preventer irrigate the lawn to get the herbicide incorporated into the soil.

If large crabgrass densities exist, a postemergence herbicide application may be required.  If you have used preemergence crabgrass preventer for several years and have successfuly controlled the crabgrass, it may be wise to not apply the crabgrass preventer and scout to see whether any crabgrass will emerge and then apply a postemergence herbicide if needed.  Crabgrass can be controlled with some postemergence herbicides, but timing and rate are very important to effectively control crabgrass and Acclaim Extra can injure certain bluegrass varieties. The effective postemergence herbicides include Dimension, Methar 30, Acclaim Extra, MSMA Turf Herbicide, and Drive 75 DF, but some of these may be difficult to obtain.  When applying postemergence be sure to get thorough coverage and do not mow for two days before and after the herbicide application.  Annual bluegrass is difficult to control in turf and complete control is not possible.  Apply premergence herbicide twice in the fall starting late August since the fall is when most annual bluegrass emerges.

There are no good options to controlling quackgrass in turf.  One method is to make many low rate nitrogen applications through the season and mowing to promote healthy dense turfgrass.  This will only reduce and hide the quackgrass.  Another option is to use plastic and solarize the soil to kill the rhizomes, but this may not kill all rhizomes deep in the soil   The last option is to apply glyphosate and start over.  Hopefully you can catch the quackgrass early enough to just kill small areas.  With this method leave the grass unmowed for a week before applying the glyphosate to maximize growth, then apply glyphosate at 1.125 lb ae/A (32 fl oz/A of Roundup PowerMAX or WeatherMAX)  Wait about 4 weeks to allow new shoots to arise, then spray again, then wait to reseed in 3-4 days.

Nimblewill spreads with shallow rhizomes or stolons, making hand removal of this species possible if done carefully and early enough so as to not have to hand weed large areas.


Now that Spring has sprung and I have seen some lawn mowers running, it is time to discuss what should be done to grow a healthy lawn for the season.

If you did not aerate your yard in the fall, now through April is a good time.  Use a core aerator and not a spike aerator.  Aeration relieves soil compaction, improves water and nutrient movement and reduces thatch build up.

If you have never taken a soil sample from your lawn, now is a good time to do that.  To determine the pH of the soil take a 2-4" soil sample and an 8 inch soil sample for determining phosphorus and potassium.  When looking at the soil test report, look at the soil pH, phosphorus and potassium data.  If the soil pH is below 6.0, apply lime, if phosphorus is below 20 parts per million (Bray P1 extraction) add  phosphate fertilizer, and if postassium is below 150 parts per million then add potash.  Apply phosphate at 1 pound per 1000 square feet if phosphorus level is below 10 ppm and 0.5 pound per 1000 square feet if phosphorus level is 10 to 20 ppm.  DO NOT add phosphorus to the lawn if you have not soil tested or if the soil test value is greater than 20 ppm of Bray P1 extraction!  Apply potash at 1 pound per 1000 square feet when potassium level is between 100 to 150 ppm and 2 pound per 1000 square feet when potassium level is between 50 and 100 ppm.  Only apply potash at a maximum rate of 1 pound per 1000 square feet in a single application.

Application of nitrogen fertilizer to the lawn depends upon whether you have a high (regular watering) or low (no watering) maintenance lawn and whether grass clippings are recycled or removed.  The greatest amount of nitrogen (3 to 4 pounds N per 1000 square feet per year) will be required in high maintenance lawns where grass clippings are removed.  For these lawns apply nitrogen 4 to 5 times during the growing season starting now.  For low maintenance lawns recycling grass clippings apply 1 pound of N per 1000 square feet per year in late September.   For lawns between these ranges apply nitrogen fertilizer at 2 to 3 pounds per 1000 square feet 2 or 3 times.  Two nitrogen applications in the fall will provide a healthier lawn than one in the spring and one in the fall.  Slow release nitrogen should only be used in spring applications.

Mow grass at a 3 inch height to reduce the stress on plants and provide a thicker lawn to compete against weeds.  Mow frequently enough to remove only 1/3 of the length of a grass blade.  This will reduce mowing stress on the lawn.

It is too early to apply herbicides in lawns.  I will talk more about this next week.


Now is the time to prune certain shrubs and trees.  Not all shrubs and trees should be pruned at this time of the year.  Only trim those shrubs and trees that flowered in the summer or those that can be trimmed before and after flowering.  What are those species?  Some of the summer flowering species include glossy abelia, aralia, silk tree, butterfly bush, beautyberry, shrub-althea, smooth hydrangea, pee gee hydrangea, St. Johnswort, goldenrain tree, sweet bay, sumac, hybrid tea roses, false-spirea, stewarti, Japanese spirea, potentilla, rose-of-Sharon, and snowberry or coralberry.  Red-osier dogwood, cranberry cotoneaster, spreading cotoneaster, many flowered cotoneaster, Oregon holly grape, Anthony Waterer and Froebel spirea, snowberry, Chenault coralberry and weigela can be pruned before and after flowering.  Broadleaf evergreen (leaves stay on the plant through the winter) trees and shrubs such as aucuba, camellia, boxwood, cherrylaurel, elaeagnus, holly, mahonia, nandina, and photinia can be pruned in the spring.  Narrowleaf (coniferous) evergreens can be divided into two groups, needle-leaf and scale-leaf.  Most species in the needle-leaf group should be pruned while the candle (new growth) is tan-colored and before the needles reach full length which is not this time of the year.  The scale-leaf group such as arborvitae, junipers, cypress, false-cypress, China fir, incense-cedar, and yew should be pruned now.

Reasons or benefits for pruning shrubs and trees include: training or shaping the plant; maintain plant health (remove diseased branches and thinning overcrowed branches); improve the quality of flowers, fruit, foliage, and stems; and restrict growth.

There are three simple techniques basic to all pruning situations.  Pinching is usualy done by hand and is a good way to control plant size.  Thinning is the removal of some branches back to the main branch, trunk, or soil line.  Heading back involves shortening branches back to a good bud or lateral branch.

Landscape plants that will regrow when completely cut back to the ground include:  orange-eye butterfly bush; forsythia; shrub-althea; hills-of-snow; oakleaf hydrangea; privet; honeysuckle; spirea; and lilac.

Plan every cut.  Prune to an outwardly facing bud.  Stand back and look.  Don't give "haircuts", leave stubs, use dull equipment, or prune everything into one shape.

Pruning tools include hand pruner, lopping shear, folding saw for tight places, bow saw for large limbs, pole pruners, hedge shears, and leather gloves.  Do not use carpenter saws as they gum up, especially with plants producing sticky sap.  Keep hand pruner and lopping shear sharp for easy cutting and reduce damage to the tree.  Do not paint the cut surfaces as research has shown this to be detrimental to the life of the tree.

Think safety when pruning. Keep fingers and other exposed skin away from the cutting surface of the pruning tools.  When pruning with a ladder have someone hold the ladder or secure it so it can't fall.  If climbing a tree, use a safety rope.


The current 14 day extended forecast is for the high temperatures to stay above 49 degrees F and low temperatures to stay above 34 degrees F.  The remainder of March is to have temperatures much above normal and April and May are to be above normal temperatures.  This would indicate an earlier than normal spring.  Actually I observed prostrate knotweed and annual bluegrass emerging already!  Despite the warmer temperatures to allow seeding, it looks like precipitation for March will be above normal with April being below normal.

If you have not already started your broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprout plants indoors, get them started right away as they can be set out in the garden April 1st based upon the current long-range forecast.

Radish, leaf and head lettuce, onion (dry and green), spinach, collards, kale, carrots, red beets, swiss chard, kohlrabi, and turnips can be planted now because of the current temperature forecast.  There is some risk in planting these crops now.  One strategy would be to plant 50% of these crops now to reduce the area to cover if temperatures get below 25 degrees F and then plant the remainder after April 1st.  This strategy will reduce seed loss if the crops are completely lost and allow for a staggered harvest.  Peas and potatoes can be planted April 1st.  If you want to transplant large tomato plants early in the garden, then you could start tomato seeds now.  For smaller plants or if you will wait until mid-May to transplant, begin seeding early April.

Planting depth for lettuce is to just cover the seed lightly (<0.25").  Planting depth for kale and leek should be 0.25".  Planting depth for carrot should be 0.33".  Planting depth for cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, radish, and onion should be 0.5".  Spinach can be seeded 0.5 to 0.67" deep.  Planting depth for red beet and swiss chard should be 0.75 to 1".

Row width for these crops can be narrower than for most crops planted in May.  There are many different width designs.  My opinion is to plant two to four rows of radish, leaf lettuce, carrot, onion, and spinach 4 to 6" apart and then leave a space wide enough between the next set of rows to allow for easy access to harvest.  Red beet, collards, kale, kohlrabi, and turnips can be planted in the same design, but should be planted 6 to 8" between the set of rows.  Swiss chard should probably be planted 10" between the set of rows.  Head lettuce can be spaced 8 to 10" apart in a single row.  Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprouts are heavy feeders with extensive root systems; plants should be spaced at least 18" apart in a row and between rows. 


Early blight of tomato and potato is caused by the fungi Alternaria solani and also Alternaria tomatophila.  The Alternaria species may cause a stem canker or collar rot of transplants, although this is not very common.  The canker will have a concentric ring pattern.  Symptoms on older leaves first appear as small, irregular, brown spots.  The spots enlarge over time forming concentric rings or bull's-eye pattern in the center of the lesion.  Lesions may be surrounded by a yellow halo.  Symptoms can occur early in the season, but usually appears after fruit set or tuber initiation.  The disese progresses up the plant with severe defoliation occurring during periods of high temperature and high humidity.

The disease may also attack the fruits and tubers.  Lesions often appear on the stem-end of the fruit.  The lesions appear dark, sunken, and leathery.  Fruit lesions can attain considerable size having a concentric ring pattern.  Infected fruits frequently drop.  The fungus may also cause spotting of fruit stems and blossoms.  Lesions on potatoes appear as sunken and irregular often surrounded by a raised purple border.

The fungi survive on infected plant debris.  Other solanaceous crops such as potato, eggplant, and peppers and weeds such as eastern black nightshade, horsenettle, and groundcherry are hosts to the disease.  Splashing rain, running water, and moving machinery can transport the fungi to other parts of the field.  Symptoms are usually visible about 10 days after infection.  Infection progresses slowly unless plants have been wounded or weakened.

Cultural control methods include obtaining disease free seeds, tubers (certified) and transplants, rotating away from solanaceous weeds and crops every three to four years, destroy solanaceous weeds and volunteer solanaceous crops, widely space tomato plants and potato rows to allow good air flow, remove all plant tissues or deeply plow, do not apply water to leaf surfaces, and trim off and dispose of infected lower branches and leaves.

Some resistant tomato varieties exist.  Resistant varieties include Mountain Fresh, Mountain Supreme, Plum Dandy, Mountain Magic, Plum Regal, Cabernet, Manalucie, Merlot, and Tommy Toe.  Mountain Merit, Jasper, Iron Lady, Matt's Wild Cherry, Juliet, Defiant, Legend and Old Brooks have moderate resistance to early blight.  Some resistant potato varieties include Castile, IdaRose, Red Cloud, and Sangre.

Mancozeb (very good) and chlorothalonil, and copper (good) fungicides can be applied to manage early blight.  These products must be applied at the initial onset of the disease or just prior to its development and every 7 to 10 days as they are protectant fungicides.


It is that time of the year to start pruning fruit trees. Pruning trees at this time of the year is easiest because branches can be seen more readily, although pruning can be accomplished at anytime of the year.  Pruning during the growing season should be focused on removing diseased branches with the exception of fire blight.  It is best to remove branches having fire blight during the dormant season while the bacteria is dormant.

Start by preparing your tools.  Obtain a sharp sturdy hand pruner, lopping shear, and pruning saw.  Clean cuts will reduce stress and diseases.

Know the fruit species and the size (spur, dwarf, semi-dwarf, standard) of the tree before beginning to prune. Peaches and nectarines produce fruit on last year's growth so only remove 50% of new growth from these trees.  Apples, pears, and plums produce fruit on old fruit spurs so most new growth can be removed.  The smaller the tree the less pruning needs to be done.  For semi-dwarf and standard trees establish an open center or vase-shaped design for peach, cherry, and nectarine trees, although apple and pear trees can also be pruned this way.  The open center design removes the leader keeping out large branches in the center and allows four to six scaffold (main branch) branches.  The center leader design, usually used for pears and apples, involves keeping trees shaped somewhat like a Christmas tree with lateral branches arranged in separate layers or "tiers", separated by open areas of canopy and branches in lower tiers wider than the upper ones.

Before making a cut visualize the results of the action as the branch can't be put back onto the tree.  Suggested pruning cuts include suckers at the base of the tree, diseased branches, especially those infested with fire blight, broken branches, rubbing or criss-crossing branches (branches that rub each other will have a thinner bark and allow disease to enter the branches more easily), downward-growing branches, upright branches, shaded interior branches, narrow crotches (those branches having less than a 45 degree angle), competing leaders, and whorls (multiple branches near a single node). Make all cuts at a slight angle to allow water to run off the cut surface.

New growth occurs right where a cut is made.  The more buds removed the more vigorous the new shoots.  Sun exposed wood remains fruitful and produces the largest fruit.  Shaded branches eventually stop fruiting and will never produce again without drastic topping and renewal of the entire tree.  Do most of the pruning in the top of the tree so that the lower branches are exposed to sunlight.

In addition to the pruning instructions above it may be wise to view some videos to get a visual image of  pruning.  One such video is from the University of Alabama Extension: https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=how+to+prune+fruit+trees+.ext&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-004

Viewing additional videos may be helpful, but view those videos produced by Extension.

Remove ALL cut branches from the tree and the ground and burn them to prevent the spread of diseases.


Late Blight of potato and tomato is a very devastating disease. This disease is what caused the Irish potato famine. Late Blight is caused by Phytophthora infestans, an oomycete or water mold (not a true fungi).  Phytophthora infestans need a living host to survive from one season to the next, usually infected potato tubers. Sporangia of Phytophthora infestans travel through the air for several miles, maybe up to 30 miles, to infect living potato or tomato foliage.  Within a few hours after the sporangia lands on the foliage it begins to germinate if free moisture (dew, fog, or rain) is present.  Within three to four days small lesions appear.  The necrotic (brown) lesion may only be 1 to 2 mm in diameter and lesions enlarge as the pathogen grows.  Lesions usually develop where water pools such as the point of attachment of the leaflet to the petiole or on the leaf margin.  Sporulation can occur within four to six days after infection when the environment is favorable (leaf wetness for more than 10 to 12 hours at 60 to 70 degrees F).  Sporulation does not occur under dry conditions.  Lesions have a dead brown center surrounded by collapsed host cells appearing water soaked, gray-green, or yellow.  Leaves, stems, and fruits of potato and tomatoes and leaves and stems of the weeds hairy nightshade and bittersweet nightshade can be infected.  Stem lesions produce sporangia for a longer time than leaf lesions.

Late Blight can spread very quickly in a field because of the high reproductive potential of the pathogen.  A single lesion can produce 100,000 to 300,000 sporangia per day.  If the disease is left unchecked it can defoliate a field within three weeks of the first visible lesion.

An integrated management approach to Late Blight is critical to reducing the development of the disease.  One strategy is to plant resistant varieties.  Planting resistant varieties of potatoes and tomatoes can be useful in reducing the disease; however, this is not complete because of the presence of many different races (strains) of Phytophthora infestans.  Therefore, no single variety will prevent infection from all strains.  There are very few potato varieties and several tomato varieties with some level of resistance.  The potato varieties, Defender from Irish Eyes Garden Seeds and Jacqueline Lee and Ozette from unknown sources have the greatest resistance to Late Blight.  The following potato varieties have some level of resistance: Kennebec from many different sources; Satina and Strawberry Paw (only root resistance) from Johnny's; Red Luna from Burpee; Chieftan and Cranberry from E&R; and Buffalo Red Ruby, Red Lady, and Redsen from unknown sources.  The following tomato varieties have good to excellent resistance to Late Blight: Plum Regal from Totally Tomato and Johnny's; Mountain Magic from Johnny's, Gurney's, Jung's, and Territorial; Defiant PhR from Johnny's, Gurney's and Jung's; Mountain Merit from Johnny's, Jung's, and Totally Tomato; Jasper from Johnny's and Jung's, Iron Lady from High Mowing Organic Seeds and White Flower Farm; Matt's Wild Cherry from Johnny's, High Mowing Organic Seeds, White Flower Farm, and Peaceful Valley; Lemon Drop from Totally Tomato, Mr. Stripey from Burpee, Jung's, and Totally Tomato; Pruden's Purple from Johnny's, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and Peaceful Valley; and Wapsipinicon Peach from Totally Tomato and High Mowing Organic Seeds.  Jasper was voted as having the best taste and most likely to be purchased.  Mountain Merit, Matt's Wild Cherry, and Mountain Magic also scored well with taste.  Rugged Boy from Totally Tomato and Cherry Bomb from Johnny's are new varieties for 2016 and are reported to have resistance to Late Blight, but I could find no research to prove the level of resistance.  Other varieties with slight resistance or resistance to one or two races include Red Pearl and Juliet from Johnny's, Lizzano and Legend from Territorial, and Cloudy Day from Burpee.  


Now that the day length is getting longer and spring is only six weeks away it is time to start preparing for the 2016 growing season. Let's investigate a serious disease of cucurbits (cucumbers, squash, pumpkin, muskmelon, and watermelon) called powdery mildew.

Powdery mildew can affect all cucurbit species, although watermelon is least affected.  There are two fungi species, Podosphaera xanthii and Sphaerotheca fuliginea, causing powdery mildew.  P. xanthii is most prevalent.  Multiple strains or races of the fungi are possible.  Spores of powdery mildew are not known to over winter in our area.  Spores are highly mobile in wind currents and must be transported each year to our area from the southern United States.

Favorable conditions for the disease include dense plant growth, low light intensity and high relative humidity.  Infections occur between 50 and 90 degrees F with 68 to 80 degrees F being ideal.  The disease will not spread when temperatures are greater than 100 degrees F.  High relative humidity is beneficial, but not necessary for spore germination.  Infection can occur below a relative humidity of 50%.  High relative humidity allows the fungi to grow more rapidly.  Excessive moisture on the leaf is detrimental to growth.  Powdery mildew spreads quickly because it takes only three to seven days from infection to production of spores and numerous spores are produced.

Look for symptoms on the oldest leaves deep within the canopy.  Symptoms begin as pale yellow spots.  Soon after, the fungus begins to sporulate yielding the characteristic powdery-white appearance.  This powdery appearance can involve the entire leaf which eventually turns yellow then brown and dries to the point that it crumbles when touched.  Symptoms can appear on the upper or lower side of the leaf and can spread to petioles, stems, and fruits.

An integrated pest management approach is necessary to reduce losses from powdery mildew.  The most cost effective strategy to managing powdery mildew is to plant resistant varieties.  Be aware there are different levels of resistance between varieties.  Most cucumber and many muskmelon varieties have resistance to powdery mildew.  Few, although an increasing number, of squash and pumpkin varieties have some level of disease resistance.  Despite the effectiveness of disease resistance it is possible to have a strain or race of the pathogen that can reproduce on a resistant variety.

Scout for the onset of disease, regardless of planting resistant varieties, just as fruits begin to develop.  The earlier the disease is found, the more effective the chemical control strategies will be.  Scout on a weekly basis.  Look for symptoms on upper and lower sides of the oldest leaves.

Begin applying fungicides once the onset of the disease is found because most products only provide protective control.  Most fungicides need to be applied every seven days, but follow label directions.  Since most products only provide protective control complete coverage of the plant, including the underside of the leaves, is necessary to maximize control.  Daconil (chlorothalonil) is the most commonly available fungicide for homeowners with average to good control of powdery mildew.  Other fungicides providing effective control include Quintec, Procure, Rally, Monsoon, Aprovia Top, Inspire Super, Fontelis, Merivon, Pristine, Microthiol Disperss, and Torino.  These fungicides are likely only available from agricultural retail businesses.  Know the mode of action of the fungicides as rotation of modes of action is necessary to stop the development of resistant strains of the fungus.

There are fungicides labeled for organic production of cucurbits.  The most effective products include 'Stylet' oil and sulfur.  Complete coverage of the foliage is necessary to maximize control.  Other organic products providing some level of control include copper, Actinovate SP, Eco E-rase, MildewCure, Kaligreen, MilStop, Organocide, Regalia, SeaCide, Serenade, Sonata, Sporatec and Sporan, and Trilogy.


Air pollution in a home can be two to five times worse than outdoor air quality, especially in today's homes that are sealed tightly.  One way to improve air quailty is to raise indoor plants.  Plants obviously take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen during photosynthesis.  But plants can also take in harmful gases such as benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, and others from the air.  Some pollutants can also be tied to the potting media the plants are growing in.

Most likely all household plants will take in some amount of harmful gases, but not all house plants have been tested.  Some house plants are better at removing certain gases compared to other house plants.  Since most house plants are tropical or sub-tropical plants, they can process gases more efficiently under low light intensities compared to full sun plants.

The NASA studies recommend the use of 15 to 18 good-sized house plants in 6 to 8 inch diameter containers to improve air quality in a 1,800 square foot home.  The more vigorous the growth the better plants will remove pollutants from the air.

The best 15 species tested for removing air pollution were English ivy (Hedera helix), spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum), golden pothos (Epipirumnum aureum), peace lily (Spathiphyllum 'Mauna Loa'), Chinese evergreen (Aglaonema modestum), bamboo or reed palm (Chamaedorea sefritzii), snake plant or Mother In-Law's Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata), heartleaf philodendron (Philodendron scandens 'oxycardium'), selloum philodendron (Philodendron selloum), elephant ear philodendron (Philodendron domesticum), red-edged dracaena (Dracaena marginata), cornstalk (Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana'), Janet Craig dracaena (Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig'), Warneck dracaena (Dracaena deremensis 'Warneckii'), weeping fig or ficus (Ficus benjamina).


Now that it has gotten colder and food supplies have decreased outside mice have been moving into homes and other structures to find warmth and food.  Mice are nocturnal animals making it difficult to see them on a regular basis.  The most obvious indicators of the presence of mice include the presence of droppings, sound of them running, gnawing or squeaking, or damage to stored food and materials for nesting.  Mice feed in short distances (a maximum of only 10-25 feet) from their nest.  When food and shelter are adequate, they may only feed a few feet from the nest.  Mice prefer to travel adjacent to walls and other edges.  Mice are inquisitive and will investigate new objects placed in their feeding area.

Mice feed on a variety of foods, but prefer cereal grains and seeds.  They also like to eat foods high in fat and protein such as nuts, bacon, butter and sweets.  Mice nibble on their food making 20-30 visits to foot sites a night.

Preventing mice from coming into the house and reducing nesting sites are the first strategies to managing mice.  Seal all openings especially those 1/4 inch or greater in size.

Baits (rodenticides) and traps are the only strategies to managing mice once you have them.  Place rodenticides next to walls behind objects and in secluded areas out of the reach of children and pets.  The two major down falls to using rodenticides are safety to children and pets and the smell of dead mice in secluded areas. There are three types of traps: snap, multiple-catch (Ketch-All), and glue boards.  A snap trap with a wider trigger is more effective than a small trigger.  Place traps along walls behind objects or in secluded areas where you have seen the evidence of mice or near bait.  Place a snap trap perpendicular to the wall and place a multiple catch trap parallel to the wall.  Baiting a trap with food such as peanut butter, gum drop, bacon, or raisins can improve the chances of capturing the mice.  Once a trap is set and nothing is caught in a few days, move the trap to another area.

Mice are prolific breeders, producing 6 to 10 litters throughout the year.  Mice are more common and cause more damage than rats.  Mice can transmit diseases such as salmonellosis (bacterial food poisoning).  For these reasons it is important to manage mice as quickly as possible.


One of the most commonly grown vegetable plants is the tomato.  Tomatoes are nutritious and very versatile. From stew, salsas, ketchup, juice, to eating them fried, they are a nice addition to the dinner table especially when you can open a can of homegrown tomatoes for a dish in the winter.  They come in variety of different colors from yellow, orange, black, purple, to red.  Sizes range from cherry types to giant beefsteak types, with one slice covering a whole sandwich.

There are so many varieties of tomatoes and each year more become available.  Newer or more modern cultivars as opposed to heirloom varieties offer more disease-resistance, which can help cut down on the instances of disease in your tomato plantings, especially in wet, humid weather patterns like what we have been experiencing over the last few weeks across the State. Tomatoes can also be classified according to their growth habit. Determinate varieties make great patio tomatoes because they reach a certain height and stop growing. They also typically set all their fruit within a couple of weeks' time once mature.  Indeterminate tomato plants continuously grow and produce more fruit. These types do better if they are staked and are in a raised bed or even better yet an in-ground garden where they have more space.

Tomatoes grow best in well-drained, fertile soils but will do just fine in most types.  Tomatoes also generally ideally grow in a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.2 - 6.8.  Tomato plants require full sun, meaning the more sunlight they receive, they better they will perform. The planting site should receive at least 6 - 8 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Tomato hornworm is the most common insect pest of tomato.  These are very large green worms with a red tail-like appendage at the rear of the worm eating large quantities of leaves.

Some of the most common diseases include early blight, late blight, blossom end rot, anthracnose, septoria leaf spot, and bacterial speck.  The signs of early blight include appearance of irregular necrotic lesions surrounded by an area of yellowing tissue of older leaves.  Fruit damage appears as sunken leathery dark lesions near the stem scar.  The signs of late blight include lesions on leaves as large watersoaked areas eventually turning brown and papery.  Fruit lesions are large irregular greenish-brown patches having a greasy rough appearance.  Green to black irregular lesions are also present on the stems.  Blossom end rot is not a disease but a nutritional imbalance exaggerated by alternating periods of water stress.  Signs include end of fruit failing to develop normally turning black-dark brown and eventually shriveling and becoming hard.  Anthracnose signs include water-soaked spots on leaves and fruit with leaf spots developing into brown, papery necrotic lesions having lighter centers.  Spots on fruit develop into sunken pits.  The signs of septoria leaf spot include circular water-soaked lesions occurring on the oldest leaves.  The spots eventually turn brown with gray centers and die.  If infection is severe enough the entire leaf will die.  The signs of bacterial speck appear on any plant part with leaves covered by small, dark brown, irregular patches of necrotic tissue surrounded by yellow halos.


Yes, it is that time of year when a tick check needs to be done on a regular basis.  Did you know there are twelve species of ticks known to occur in Ohio?  All ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of animals.  Here are some of the more common ticks you should know.

Brown Dog Tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus)  The adult brown dog tick is reddish brown and unfed adults are about 1/8 inch long.  After feeding, the female is much larger (~1/2 inch long), bluish gray, and oval shaped.  All stages of the brown dog tick have a pair of small eyes.

The brown dog tick is the one tick in Ohio that can complete its life cycle indoors.  They survive in warm dry conditions that occur inside and outside the home.  While these ticks do not thrive in our woodland areas, they do occur in the grassy and bushy areas that are adjacent to these areas.  Brown dog ticks can transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and several other disease organisms to dogs.

American Dog Tick (Dermacentor variabilis)  The adult American dog tick is brown with light grey mottling on the upper surface.  The unfed adult female is about 3/16 inches long.  After feeding, she is much larger (~5/8 inches long), mostly gray, and oval shaped.  The male, whether fed or unfed, is ~1/8 inch long.

This tick will be found in overgrown, weedy areas and along the edges of paths and hiking trails.  Larvae and nymphs crawl about actively seeking a host to feed on; typically small rodents.  After feeding, they drop to the ground where they seek shelter and digest the blood meal before they shed their skin.

The adult American dog tick is most abundant from mid-April to mid July and feeds on a wide variety of medium to large size mammals, such as raccoons, ground hogs, opossum, dogs, and humans.  The adult tick waits on grass and weeds for a suitable host to brush against the vegetation.  It then clings to the fur or clothing and crawls upward seeking a place to attach and feed.  American dog ticks are the primary transmitter of Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Injury:  Tick feeding often results in inflammation, swelling, irritation, and the potential for secondary bacterial infection at the feeding site.  When dogs are heavily infested, excessive blood loss can result in death.  If you experience fever or flu-like symptoms following a tick bite, immediately contact your physician.

Tick Checks and Tick Removal:  Inspect for ticks periodically (every hour or so if in tick habitat and as soon as you leave their habitat) to remove them before they attach and begin feeding.  Ticks can be found crawling on clothing and bare skin before attachment.  Be sure to also inspect children and companion animals.

Pay special attention to the head and back of the neck of humans to detect attached ticks.  PROMPTLY REMOVE any ticks.  Prompt removal of an attached tick reduces the chance of infection by Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease.  Tick attachment of several hours or more often is required for disease transmission.

Take care not to crush or puncture the tick during removal.  Rocky Mountain spotted fever may be acquired from infected tick body fluids that contact broken skin, the mouth, or eyes.  DO NOT use a hot match or cigarette to remove a tick as this may cause the tick to burst.

DO NOT apply solvents or other materials to the tick to stimulate the tick to detach.  Such treatments can result in increased tick salivation and disease transmission.  Avoid touching a tick with bare hands.  Shield your fingers with a paper towel, wear rubber gloves, or use tweezers.

Grasp an embedded tick as close to your skin as possible (the area where the tick’s mouthparts enter the skin) and use steady pressure to pull it straight out.  Do not twist or jerk the tick, as its mouthparts may be left in the skin.

After tick removal, thoroughly disinfect the bite site and wash your hands with soap and water.  The feeding lesion should be swabbed with a topical antiseptic to prevent secondary bacterial infection.  If you want to have the tick checked for disease, contact the Ohio Department of Health’s Zoonotic Disease Program, 8955 E. Main Street, Bldg 22, Reynoldsburg,OH 43068; Phone 1-888-RABIES1.