1. Archive


Q: I had a bed of amaryllis blooming happily, but this year, after the frost, I started pulling weeds and noticed that many bulbs looked droopy and had brown leaves, and some were dead. When I dug them up, I saw what looked like white inchworms had infested the bed and eaten away the bulbs. I would estimate the worms to be about 2/3 to 3/4 of an inch in length, and about the thickness of an uncooked angel hair pasta. I couldn't tell if they were segmented or not - I had no wish to get closer to them than eye's length. I pulled out some of the remaining healthy bulbs, but I am unsure how to stop the depredation without killing everything in that area. What can I do?

Carolyn Gold, Clearwater

A: Based on everything we've talked about, I believe the problem is fungus gnats. Drench soil with Orthene biweekly for 3 applications and reduce irrigation if possible.

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Sad cucumbers, tomatoes

Q: I was wondering why my cucumber plants bloom and get cucumbers, but then they don't develop any further. They just dry up and fall off. Also, the tomatoes bloom but tomatoes aren't setting on.

Nancy Biesecker, Clearwater

A: There are probably two reasons for your fruit failure. Late May to early June is late in the season for fruit to set. The plants are winding down as the days get hotter; they just aren't too interested in reproduction! The other plausible answer is a lack of pollination. Have you been using any insecticides that could harm bees? Try rubbing flower faces on your tomato blossoms against one another as they open in the morning to mechanically transfer pollen; cucumbers are a little more difficult because of separate male and female flowers. The female flowers have a tiny cucumber (ovary) under the flower; the male does not. With scissors, cut two to three male flowers in the early morning, remove the petals and dab the yellow pollen on the face (stigma) of the female. If your engineered pollination is successful, you'll havefruit in no time.

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Get those grasshoppers before they grow up

Q: For the second year now, I'm infested with small half-inch to 1-inch-long green grasshoppers that are defoliating my pepper, tomato, basil and even my young orange tree. I can shake the basil and they fly or fall out, but it seems hopeless. I bought some spray Natria insecticidal soap, but it really seems to have been a waste of money. Any help will be appreciated.

Greg Paszko, Holmes Beach

A: To salvage your crops this year you may have to use Sevin or products containing pyrethrins such as Ortho Max. Make sure you actually spray the critters for best results. Fortunately, these grasshoppers commonly go through a two- to four-year major hatching period then lie low for the next two to four years. For any control to be effective, you have to get them young.

Get your arsenal in order for next year. Garlic oil sprays provide a good barrier; cilantro planted randomly is another deterrent; and the triple whammy is a protozoa called Nosema locustae that, when ingested, only harms grasshoppers and begins killing off the population. Products such as Semaspore contain the protozoa as a bait. Mark your calendar and get these products out next year just as the grasshoppers hatch. Timing is everything!

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NEED HELP? Enter Greg "Dr. Hort" Charles, who for more than 30 years educated gardeners through the Pinellas Technical Education Centers. He answers questions about landscape and garden pests. E-mail your questions to or to (put Dr. Hort in the subject line). Mail questions to HomeLink, Features Department, St. Petersburg Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Describe your problem in full, and include your name, city and contact information. If possible, include a photo. We will print his advice on Saturdays in HomeLink.