QUESTION: Is it true that snipping off the bottom of each bunch of developing grapes will make the fruit larger and sweeter? If so, how much do I take off, and does it pertain to all varieties?
ANSWER: In home gardens it is possible to obtain larger, sweeter fruit on some grape varieties by removing the lower one-third to one-half of each cluster as soon as grapes begin forming in spring. Although home-grown grapes rarely can achieve the size of commercially produced ones, the varieties that respond most favorably to this treatment are Thompson Seedless, Perlette, Cardinal and Ruby Seedless (King’s Ruby). It’s a little late to do it this season, but if done immediately you might still obtain sweeter fruit.
What to Do About ‘Tobacco Budworm’
Q: Is there anything that can be done to control or eradicate the “Tobacco budworm” that is destroying my geraniums and petunias? I’ve given up on them.
A: This ubiquitous caterpillar can be quite a nuisance, but two products give hope to the gardener. One is a chemical spray called Sevin. According to Sunset, Sevin is “reasonably safe to use” and “is a champion at killing chewing insects, but . . . it (also) kills honeybees and numerous (insect) parasites and predators.”
A popular alternative is Bacillus thuringiensis, sold sometimes as B.T., Dipel, Thuricide and Biotrol. This product “contains bacteria that destroy digestive processes in caterpillars (so they stop eating and eventually starve to death); it is harmless otherwise,” according to Sunset’s researchers.
Both will work, so maybe now you can finally enjoy your geraniums and petunias.
How to Control ‘Rust’ on Rose Leaves
Q: For three years I have battled “rust” on my roses. Fungicide spray helps some, but isn’t there any means of controlling this disease?
A: Rust is a very annoying fungal disease that causes a reddish powder to form on the underside of rose leaves, usually in the springtime. Infected plants look sickly, and flowers are of inferior quality. Spores of this fungus are airborne and ever present. They become active when night temperatures are cool, day temperatures are fairly warm and the air is most. Some varieties of roses are more susceptible to this disease than others and, where conditions are right, will almost always get the disease first. Then from these plants the infection may spread to others nearby.
Spraying every four to seven days with Benomyl, from early March through mid-June, helps but does not solve the problem; and it is an impractical nuisance.
Unfortunately there is no magic wand to wave and make the problem go away completely. However, here are some fairly simple solutions, which will reduce--and maybe eliminate--the problem as a matter of practical concern:
1--At the first sign of infection in the springtime, remove all infected leaves from the garden area.
2--When you prune your roses in the wintertime--anytime from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s Day--be sure to remove all leaves from the plants and any leaf or stem debris from the garden area.
3--If one variety always seems to get the disease first or early in the season, dig it out and destroy it. You may replace it with a different variety.