Bugs may be feasting on citrus fruit
Q: Do you have an explanation as to why the fruit on my orange and grapefruit trees is so small, and fewer in number than most years? Also some of the grapefruit are rotting and falling to the ground. Richard Flint, Zephyrhills
A: Fruit size and count are both down due to last year's winter. Commercial grove owners are experiencing the same problem. As for the rotten spots on your grapefruit, check to see if there is a soft tan spot or spots. These are caused by big leaf footed plant bugs, which have been abundant this year. They are large, 1- to 1 ½-inch brown bugs with a long stylet (mouth part) that pierces the skin and gets its fill of grapefruit juice. A bacterial infection ensues, causing the fruit to rot.
Plant mystery bulbs with top exposed
Q: A friend of mine gave me several lily bulbs, some of which are already sprouting. When I plant these bulbs, should the sprouts be underground or should I leave them exposed? Kay Reitz
A: A common tropical bulb that gardeners like to pass on as they thin their beds is amaryllis, Hippeastrum spp. They bloom from March to April with orange-red, trumpet flowers on 16-inch stalk. Hopefully those are your mystery bulbs. They should be planted so the top third of the bulb is exposed, in a sunny location; water when the spirit moves you and you should have flowers this spring. If they are tulips or daffodils, send them to a relative in the north.
Get help with crabgrass control
Q: Last year in March, I put pre-emergence crabgrass killer in my landscaped beds. When I returned in October, my beds were filled with crabgrass. When and how much should I use before I leave in May this year? Barbara Pecan
A: Crabgrass, Digitaria spp., is a summer annual, but not so easy to control because it continues to sprout throughout its entire growing season, from late winter through summer. In fact, if the appropriate temperature and amount of light are available, crabgrass will germinate after every irrigation or rainfall. So if you make applications, according to label directions, of pre-emergent herbicides such as Pre-M, Pendulum, Surflan or Weed-Impede in February and May before you leave, their effectiveness will diminish before you return in October. Do you trust a neighbor to make an application in August? Or perhaps hire a professional company to take care of weeds in your absence, so you'll come home to weed-free beds.