Bugs, weeds can thrive in summer garden

Published 8:40 am Thursday, August 4, 2016

By Pam Jones

Davie Extension

Horticulture Agent

Davie gardens are in their glory. Flowers are flourishing, veggies are gorgeous, and weeds are rampant.

It is too hot to do much out of doors for long so we must make our time count. The questions coming into the Extension office have had a common theme lately – so I thought they might resonate with you readers also.

Q:  My tomato leaves are turning brown, curling up and the whole plant starts to die quickly. What should I do?

A: In the long run, it really doesn’t really matter whether your tomato plants have early or late blight.Both blights are caused by a fungus, both can kill plants rather quickly, both can overwinter in plant debris left in the garden, both start as brown spots on leaves resulting in leaves curling and dying. If caught early, both early and late blight can be treated with the fungicide mancozeb according to label directions. Call your local Extension agent for specific recommendations.

Blight can also be transmitted by contaminated seeds and transplants so be certain you buy from a reputable source. Sanitation is extremely important. If the disease is already advanced in your garden, removed the diseased plants, place in a trash bag and remove from your premises.

Next year, rotate tomatoes and all other members of its plant family (potatoes, peppers, and eggplants) to another area of the garden for the next three years.

Q:  I love my ornamental cherry trees but their leaves are turning yellow and limbs are beginning to die. I lost one tree last year and I am afraid that I am going to lose the others. What can I do?

A:  In the absence of obvious insect pests, disease, or other cultural changes such as severe pruning or root disturbance due to construction, it may just be natural stressors. There are cherry trees that are native to North Carolina that do well here. Usually the ornamental cherry trees that homeowners love are recommended for our zone 7b,  8 possibly, and north. Because we are on the southernmost edge of their preferred growth zone, they may do well for a while but then succumb to excessive heat or drought. Those are weather events over which we have no control. Enjoy those beautiful blooms while you have them and remember that you can replant.

Q:  Bugs are eating more of my garden than I am. Help!

A:  This is the time of summer when farmers’ markets see an increase in sales from those who have given up on their own home gardens. Either the weeds, insects, or disease have taken over. While I want our farmers’ markets to flourish, I also want home gardens to thrive. Weeds provide habitat for many insects and diseases to overwinter so the first step to controlling insects in your garden is to keep the weeds in the garden and around the garden down. Be certain to remove all plant debris not only from the garden after harvest but the area around the garden too.

When working outside in these brutally hot temperatures, remember to go out early in the morning or late in the afternoon around dusk and to stay well-hydrated. It is time to start planning and planting your cool-season vegetables and dreaming of cooler days. For a complete list of cool-season vegetables that grow well in our area, go to The Extension Resource Catalog at resources.ces.ncsu.edu/catalog and search for Central NC Planting Calendar for Annual Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs, which was just recently updated. Printed copies are available at your local Extension office. While you are at your Extension office, now is the perfect time to pick up soil sample boxes and forms and get those tests done while there is no fee for the test. You still have time to add lime – only if needed – and for it to adjust your soil pH before next growing season.

Contact your local Extension horticulture agent with gardening, lawn, insect, wildlife pest, disease, Extension Master Gardener Volunteer, Farmers Market, local foods, community garden, gardening programs for children and other plant-related questions.

Pam Jones can be reached at pam_jones@ncsu.edu.