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Gardening with Laurie: Summer showers, warm temps bring fungal problems

June 9, 2010 at 1:09 a.m.


By Laurie Garretson

Is it just me or have summer temperatures snuck in overnight? It to have gone from pleasant temperatures to really hot and humid temperatures rather quickly. Officially, summer doesn't arrive for a couple of weeks, but I think we've beat the calendar.

With the summer showers and warm temperatures, we are seeing lots of fungal problems. Keep an eye on the lawn, crape myrtles, roses, and foliage on melons, squash and pumpkins for signs of leaf spots and powdery mildew. If possible, try to avoid wetting the foliage on your plants as you water. Wet foliage can lead to diseases. Drip irrigation water systems can make watering much easier and help to reduce fungal problems. They don't get foliage wet and also help conserve moisture.

If powdery mildew or leaf spot shows up in your landscape, use a fungicide to take care of the problem. Horticultural cornmeal can be applied at anytime as a preventative for all fungal problems. There are also several liquid forms of fungicides if you prefer that method.

If you are noticing the leaves on your tomato plants curling upward, it's a sign of hot weather. There seems to be some tomato varieties that are more prone to this condition. There isn't anything that can be done for this, and it's not harmful to the plants.

Bigger tomato varieties are not setting because of the heat, but smaller cherry varieties will still produce. Tomato foliage and tomato fruit are susceptible to attack from many forms of pests. Worms of all types, grasshoppers, beetles and spider mites, are out there and they are hungry.

Pepper plants require even watering, especially when blooming. A lack of moisture, as well as high temperatures, can cause blossoms to drop off the plants. For those of you that grow hot peppers to dry them, you'll want to let the peppers fully ripen on the plant before harvesting.

Even though the temperatures are rising, you can still plant many things that will thrive in this weather. Hibiscus, gingers, cannas, esperanzas, purslane, pentas, portulacas, periwinkles and ixoras love hot, sunny locations. Begonias, caladiums, impatiens, jacobenas and coleus love shady spots.

Many annuals planted this spring are getting leggy and unproductive. Never be afraid to pinch back the tops of newly-planted annuals and perennials to encourage new side shoots. Repeat this trimming throughout the season for much bushier, prettier plants with more blooms. Feed at least once a month, provide adequate moisture and control any pests when first spotted.

If your lawn is not looking as healthy as it could, it's time to give it some natural fertilizer and keep it well-watered. Watering the lawn for longer periods of time and less often, two to three times a week is usually a good practice.

Chinch bug season is upon us. These bad boys can do great damage to a lawn. Put out beneficial nematodes if you haven't already. These good guys can help rid your soil of all types of unwanted pests. Grub worms, fleas, chinch bugs and ants are all eliminated by good nematodes.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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