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TIMELY TENDINGS

When croton leaves lose their color and appear blanched or faded, the cause is usually a thrips infestation. This sucking insect removes the juice from the leaves and often causes plants to completely defoliate. Spray affected plants with insecticidal soap, neem oil or paraffin-based horticultural oil.

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Plant palm trees. Palm roots grow when the soil is moist and warm, so summer is best for planting palms. Plant the top of the root ball flush with the surrounding soil. Apply mulch to a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Never allow the soil to dry out during the first several months. Tall palms should be staked.

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Dingy brown moths flying around grassy areas often are an indication that eggs are being laid in your lawn by the sod webworm. In about five to seven days, these eggs will hatch into small green caterpillars that primarily feed at night. Injured grass has notches chewed along the sides of the leaf blades, and the foliage may be stripped in patches. A soap flush is a good way to detect sod webworms. Add 2 tablespoons of dishwashing liquid to a gallon sprinkler can. Fill with water and drench a 4-square-foot area. Observe the area for about 2 minutes. Soap is an irritant that causes the insects to surface. Pesticides labeled for sod webworm control are Bacillus thuringiensis (found in Bt, Dipel, Thuricide) and carbaryl (Sevin). Sod webworms may infest the lawn again within one to three weeks after treatment. Keep a watchful eye and reapply pesticide as required.

Information from Carol Suggs and Theresa Badurek of the Pinellas County Extension Service and from the Hillsborough County Extension Gardening Almanac. Visit the extension websites atpinellascountyextension.org and hillsborough.extension.ufl.edu.

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