Friday, August 05, 2005

Fruit growing defeat and other negative topics

These few plums are all that's left of three trees planted earlier. I got tired fighting bugs, birds and disease. The blueberries and service berries I'll keep but the apples will go after the fruit ripen-I have to at least taste the Roxbury russet before I dig it out (fire blight and powdery mildew). The apricots went earlier producing only smallish fruit despite the June drop and thinning and each fruit was stung numerous times by an unknown assailant probably somekind of fruitfly or stinkbug and it also had somekind of blackish discoloration, a fungus? and bird holes. It's a shame because the tiny apricot were sweet but not much apricot taste for a tree ripened fruit.

At this late date I'm still fighting the japanese beetles! Yesterday I killed at least 200. They now favor dahlias, pussy willows, plums (now no longer a food source) and especially the crepe (crape)myrtle. I caught over 160 beetles on the crepe myrtle alone yesterday. I've modified my previous squirt them with soap solution clean method and just mash them with my fingers since they are only on low bushes. It is difficult to get them all especially if there are 20 of them on a branch. I cup one hand below the branch and brush them off with the other and because of their tactic of bailing out I get most of them. Then I mash them one at a time. Dirty and not for the squeamish but effective. It's easier if you squeeze them sideways. The record for one grab is 16 beetles. You can see that I've gotten a bit tetched in the head about this...I sort of look forward to killing them each afternoon. They've pretty much decimated the blooms on the crepe myrtle this after a severe dieback because of last winter's prolonged cold make it almost pointless to keep it.

Since this post is a downer I might as well add that the giant magnolia scale has made a comeback. According to one book if the infestation is great enough this scale can kill a tree. I believe it. What was an interesting entomological phenomenon last year has become a nightmare this year. Earlier in spring I noticed the bare branches seemed darker than usual in fact almost black. Closer inspection revealed tiny no smaller than a pin head black dots pebbling the branches. Rubbing it produced a dark fluid so I thought it might be some kind of small scale insect. Later a horrible thought crossed my mind that this could be the young of the giant magnolia scale which it indeed turned out to be in millions on all branches of the Jane magnolia. I rubbed off as much as I could and bought some insecticidal soap which was useless. I eventually let the remainder grow larger which made it easier to spot and kill and I'm still doing spot checks to make sure I get them all. As much as I hate to use insecticides I'll use dormant oil sprays in the early fall to make sure I don't have another recurrence.

We also noticed a mugo pine was yellowing and dying. There seemed to be a whitish bloom on the new growth which I thougth looked like some kind of fungus so I sprayed it with a soluble sulfur. It didn't help that plant but almost all the other mugo pines and couple other small pine trees seemed to have this whitish bloom so I sprayed and it seemed to have stemmed the disease. I guess this really humid weather is ideal for the funguses.

Enough of this negativity for now.


Blogger DWPittelli said...

I've found it is easier, quicker and less disgusting to kill many Japanese beetles with a bucket (or large coffee mug) of water (with a teaspoon or so of dish soap) in one hand. Use the other hand to brush or swat them into the bucket. The soap reduces the water's surface tension, so they drown instead of sitting on top of the water.

7:33 PM  
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12:32 AM  

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