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Excessive watering can cause grapes to abort

Here are some questions that I encountered this past week.

Q: Why are my grapes aborting?

A: There are two reasons. First, it’s a natural thinning process. Second, excessive water causes blooms to abort. Keep grapevines on the dry side during the blooming process to ensure a good set. Right now, you can see the insignificant blooms wrapped around the grapes.

Q: Why are the edges of my rose petals turning black?

A: It’s caused by the wind sapping moisture out of the tender petals, causing them to blacken. In other words, bump up the water.

Q: Why is my lawn developing brown spots?

A: It probably is caused by poor water distribution. Using a shovel, push the soil back and check for dryness. If the soil is dry, readjust the sprinklers and poke holes in the stressed area with a screwdriver. Follow with a thorough soaking of the turf and it will green up. It’s an ideal time to aerate your lawn to open up the compacted soils and then fertilize to help your lawn withstand the heat.

Q: Do you recommend gypsum to open up tight soils?

A: No. Our soils are loaded with gypsum. If a soil test determines you need it, then use it. Gypsum gets a lot of undeserved credit.

I once worked gypsum into the soil and compared it to working the soil without gypsum. There wasn’t any difference between the two plots. It was my elbow grease working the soil that improved it.

I also sprinkled gypsum on the soil surface and didn’t do anything to a plot without gypsum. A month later, the gypsum was still on the ground. It’s your opening up the tight soils that makes the difference. Give credit where credit is due, which is to your muscles.

Q: What are some surefire bloomers I can use on my patio?

A: Plant lantana and verbena for color on the patio. As the heat soars, pull containers in under the canopy for protection and be aware of their watering needs. Also, fertilize more because you will be watering more often.

Q: What vegetables can I plant now?

A: There is still plenty of time to plant eggplants, peppers, cantaloupes, cucumbers, okra, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, squash and watermelons. Be sure to improve the soil before planting to be successful.

Q: Can I get rid of the fescue in my Bermuda lawn?

A: It depends on the extent of the fescue infestation. If the lawn has large patches of fescue, spray the whole lawn with Round-up and replant hybrid Bermuda.

If you have only small patches, let the fescue get about three inches high and direct the spray at the fescue. When it dies down, mow it to the ground. Then fertilize the lawn to stimulate the Bermuda to fill in the bare spots.

Q: Why are leaves on my pyracantha turning brown?

A: It’s spider mites feeding on the leaves, causing them to turn brown. Wash the leaves off with strong jets of water or use insecticidal soap.

Q: Is it too late to transplant palms?

A: It’s an ideal time and continues into September. Plant them at the same depth as found at the original site. Keep the soil moist until you see new growth emerging through the fronds.

Q: Why all the sucker growth at the base of my California pepper tree hit hard by the frost?

A: Most desert trees naturally sucker when the tops become stressed or die. Remove suckers where they attach to the roots, or they’ll keep coming back. In some cases, it will be with a vengeance.

Q: Why didn’t my celery seeds germinate uniformly?

A: Celery seeds contain natural germination inhibitor. Soak the seeds and change the water daily to leach away the inhibitor.

If you are going to plant celery, do it in the fall or next spring when temperatures are below 70. If you are growing celery now, water it more to minimize fiber development.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@springspreserve.org or call him at 822-7754.

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