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Dr. Hort: Avocado ailments and backyard pest control

What is cause of holes in avocado tree leaves?

Q: I have an avocado tree that is around 5 years old. Last year, it produced 30 large and delicious pieces of fruit. This year it has small holes in the leaves. I see no bug on the tree or on either side of the leaf. Do you have any idea what it could be? Terry Philpott

A: Usually when holes are found in the leaves of avocado, Persea americana, in late spring, either grasshoppers or June beetles feed on the leaves before they unfurl. They take a bite here and a bite there. Then, as the leaf unfurls, irregular holes appear throughout the leaf. Holes in leaves, however, would have nothing to do with fruit set.

Hungry critters targeting backyard bushes

Q: I transplanted some of my holly bushes from the front of my home to the back. Something is eating the leaves off the lower stems of these bushes, but only those in the back of my home and not those in the front. We do have rabbits, squirrels and gopher turtles in our community. What could be eating these plants, and what do you suggest I use to keep this from happening? Linda Meyran, Spring Hill

A: I will assume that your holly bushes are the dwarf yaupon (Ilex vomitoria). The only insects that chew on dwarf yaupon are bag worms. If you pull the branches apart and see 1/2- to 1 1/2-inch cone-shaped bags made from crushed leaves, you have found the home for the bag worm caterpillar, which stays at home during the day and feeds at night. So remove bags during the day and discard in your garbage.

However, I think that some of your wild critters are doing the damage! You can try one of many deterrents found online, but the best product I have found is an electric eye sprinkler called the ScareCrow automatic sprinkler, also found online.

It hooks up to your garden hose, and if the photo cell detects anything moving the sprinkler comes on and scares the critter away. It works great for dogs, cats, deer, rabbits (probably your problem) and squirrels. Just remember where you place it. Otherwise, a casual stroll through your yard could leave you soaked.

Primitive sago plant is a cycad, not a palm

Q: I have received two growths from sago palms, right where they come out of the ground. What is the best way to plant these bulbs with green shoots coming out of them? John Renshaw, Hudson

A: The Sago species are actually not palms at all. They are members of the Cycadaceae or cycad family and are some of the most primitive plants on earth, dating back to dinosaur days.

The outgrowths that you refer to are called "pups" and can be removed with a sharp shovel or machete. Once removed, cut all of the leaves off and plant in either straight builders' sand or a cactus potting mix in an appropriately sized growing container. The smaller the pup, the faster it will root. Rooting should take six to eight weeks during the warm months. No fertilizer is needed until after rooting.

Need help? Dr. Hort (Greg Charles) answers questions about garden problems. Email him at drhort@tampabay.rr.com or mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, Tampa Bay Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe problem in full, and include your name, city of residence and contact information. If possible, include a good-quality photo. Fuzzy ones won't do. Photos cannot be returned.

Dr. Hort: Avocado ailments and backyard pest control 07/07/12 [Last modified: Saturday, July 7, 2012 5:31am]
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