A repeat of 2018?


I don’t know about you, but it feels like the spring of 2018. Wet, cool, miserable weather seems to be the norm.

There were several nice days that we were able to leave the back porch door open to the screened in porch and actually were able to have lunch and dinner, plus the cats were able to be out and watch the birds or being teased by the carpenter bees looking for a location to drill holes to lay their eggs. What will the summer of 2019 be like or will there be a repeat of 2018?

I received an email with the question about daffodils that failed to have flowers or very few flowers, but there were a lot of plants.

Daffodils, like many other flowering bulbs, will not bloom if they become crowded. What had started out as one bulb eventually became a clump. Once the clump starts to die back, you can dig up and separate the bulbs. If possible, replant the bulbs or you can store them in a sheltered location and plant in the fall. It may take a year or two for the small bulbs to mature to the point that they will send up flowers.

Another problem the emailer indicated was that their tomato plants were healthy with nice thick stems and great leaves, but little fruit. Notice I said fruit. Technically tomatoes are a fruit, not vegetable, but I digress. The problem may have been too much nitrogen, but my attempts to get more information were not successful.

If possible, when you send me an email with a question, please include your phone number and a time to reach you. It is like going to a doctor, the more information, the better the diagnosis.

This is simply conjecture on my part, since I am not a scientist, but this cool damp weather is helping with the growth of fungi that seems to be attacking and killing the dreaded spotted lanternfly.

It has been noted in the Reading area, the death of thousands of this destructive invasive insect is contributed to two different fungi. Two of Pennsylvania’s important crops, apples and grapes, could literally be destroyed by this ravenous insect, so if the current death by fungi is no fluke, this is the best thing to come down the pike since sliced bread was introduced.

Wine is a very important for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Country wide, Pa. ranks third in the production of wine, California and New York holding the top two spots. That is one reason the spotted lantern fly is creating panic. Plus wine is just not something to have with your dinner, wine can actually help you with sore throats, as wine kill germs that cause sore throats. Plus dental plaque is reduced by drinking wine. Red wine holds a slight edge over white. Guess I need to visit some of the local vineries. I don’t want to get a sore throat.

So far this year I have visited only two greenhouses, but was I in for a big surprise. I found in one of the greenhouses the new variety of downy mildew resistant impatiens, Imara XDR. The amount available was very small. Both greenhouses were carrying a wide selection of the Super Elfin variety; a quick search of the Super Elfin did not indicate mildew resistant.

Is it the smell that helps deter pests from bothering your tomatoes or other plants? The showy marigold is reported to act as a repellant against pesky pests. There is a chemical called limonene found in tomatoes and in citrus that acts as a repellant.

The study appeared to deal with tomatoes that were grown in the greenhouse. Whitefly is a common problem in greenhouses. Now I plant marigolds around my roses every year and they have never complained. If they actually repel, my roses won’t stay, but the number of Japanese beetles have always been small on my roses. To make it easier for me, the next few lines I copied and pasted for your benefit, “marigold companion planting enhances the growth of basil, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, eggplant, gourds, kale, potatoes, squash and tomatoes. Marigold also makes a good companion plant to melons because it deters beetles. Beans and cabbage are listed as bad companion plants for marigolds.”

You may have seen or even used a product called neem oil. Neem oil is a pesticide extracted from the seeds of the neem tree and has been used for pest control. Neem oil affects the ability of insects to feed, starving them. It is not a direct contact killer.

If you purchased Triple Action Neem Oil Broad Spectrum Fungicide, Insecticide, and Miticide, the PA Department of Agriculture advises you to discontinue using the product as tests have found that there are active pesticides in the product that are not listed on the label. Some of the unlisted items are not for household use and also could kill beneficial insects.

Ticks, I know every year I warn everyone about the tick problem and what measures you can take to make sure you are not a victim. Well here is one more reason to be cautious while you are out and about. Our neighbor state to the north has reported the brain swelling virus has been found in deer ticks. Powassan, the virus, is harder to treat as it is not a bacterium like Lyme disease where an antibody can be prescribed. Using the line from an old TV series, Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.”

With a face and body that only a mother could love, the Eastern Hellbender salamander has been named as our state amphibian. The list of common names given to this salamander is based on appearance. Devil dog, snot otter, mud devil, lasagna lizard are just a few names associated with the hellbender. It is not poisonous and was a food source for the Native Americans. It just isn’t something that you want to step on while wading in the river or creeks of Pa.

The caterpillars, that you may be seeing climbing up the wall of your house or elsewhere, is not the dreaded invasive forest defoliator, the gypsy moth. In spring the tent caterpillars emerge and they generally do little harm. Plus they are an important food source for birds feeding their young.

To fluff or not to fluff! You purchased your plants at the greenhouse and now is the time to actually get down and dirty. You will need to separate the plant from the container in order to relocate it to a new home. Now you need to determine the condition of the roots. Depending how long the plant was in the current container will determine if you need to fluff or not. If the plant is completely root bound into one solid ball, you will need to gently fluff out the roots to encourage the current roots to branch out into the soil.

Please feel free to ask me questions. Your questions give me material about which to write. Email me at qstocum@gmail.com or if you see me out and about, stop and talk to me. I thank everyone who has contacted me.

Remember, it is easy to be green. Happy Gardening!


Quentin Stocum, “just your common ordinary gardener,” can be reached at qstocum@gmail.com.


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