Tuesday, November 27, 2012

All-America Selections Announces Four More 2013 Winners

Geranium ‘Pinto™ Premium White to Rose’ F1 - Photo courtesy All-America Selections
On chilly and rainy days like this, gardeners like to sit at the kitchen table and dream about their future spring plantings. That's exactly what I'm doing. Next year's seed catalogs have't arrived yet, but I'm checking out the newest All-America Selections (AAS) winners for 2013. Each winner was trialed beside a few other similar varieties on the market, then analyzed with regard to taste, growth habit, disease resistance, and similar considerations to determine if they are actually better than those already available. Only superior plants are granted the AAS Award. After the 2012 trialing season, two melons, a tomato and a geranium are the latest to receive official AAS recognition.

Melon 'Melemon' F1 - Photo courtesy All-America Selections

Melon ‘Melemon’ F1 received the AAS 2013 Vegetable Award. It yields early and heavily on strong plants. Each fruit is just enough for one person to enjoy. The taste, judged to be superior, is comparable to a honeydew, but with delightful tanginess. The flesh is crisp and sweet. The uniform shape makes it ideal for commercial growers and home gardeners.

Watermelon 'Harvest Moon' F1 - Photo courtesy All-America Selections

Watermelon ‘Harvest Moon’ F1 also received the AAS 2013 Vegetable Award. It's a hybrid, triploid seedless melon similar to the popular heirloom variety, 'Moon and Stars', but the healthy vines are shorter. I ripens early with a higher yield. Fruits are medium-sized with sweet, pinkish-red flesh. The rind is dark green with yellow dots.

Tomato 'Jasper' F1 - Photo courtesy All-America Selections

Tomato, Cherry ‘Jasper’ F1 is the third AAS 2013 Vegetable Award Winner. High yields of sweet fruits of uniform size are produced on vigorous plants. In fact, the vines are so strong they require little or no fertilization. Add to that Jasper's high disease resistance to Late Blight, Fusarium 1 and 2, and Early Blight, and its resistance to weather-related stresses. The fruits stay on the vine well after ripening, and last longer after they've been picked.
Geranium ‘Pinto™ Premium White to Rose’ F1 (see photo above) is a AAS 2013 Bedding Plant Award Winner. Loads of early, long-lasting 5" blooms change color from white to rose. The plants are full and dense with well-branched stems and dark green foliage. Even in the extreme heat of last year's summer, 'Pinto Premium White to Rose' performed extremely well. Gardeners who want a care-free, colorful garden next summer should definitely plant this one.

When your seed catalogs arrive in the next few months, look for Melon 'Melemon' F1, Watermelon 'Harvest Mood' F1, Tomato 'Jasper' F1 and Geranium 'Pinto Premium White to Rose' F1. If you prefer to buy your plants already started at retail, request your favorite garden center to carry them.

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White stuff on the leaves of my sago palm.

Q. I am having lots of problems with the trees in my yard with white stuff on the leaves of my sago palms.  They are not healthy anymore and I am losing them one by one.  Could you please look at the attached photograph and tell me what is wrong?

A. Your sago is infested with sago scale, also known as cycad scale. Forget about insecticidal soaps, topical insecticides and such; they won't do any good. You need to use a systemic insecticide as a soil drench AND foliar spray. Systemic insecticides get into the plant and toxify it, killing or suppressing whatever tries to feed on it. I've used Cygon with good results on various difficult scale insects.

You must know, however, that Cygon is a restricted use pesticide. It's not available to homeowners. You'll need to have a certified commercial pesticide applicator treat your cycads for you.

When you're shopping around for a commercial pesticide applicator, ask to see their credentials. I've known a few who advertised that they were "licensed and insured", when I knew for a fact the only license they had was a driver's permit, and their only insurance was liability on their pickup truck.

There are systemic insecticides on the market approved for use by homeowners. Look for those formulated for trees and ornamental shrubs. I don't know how effective they'd be. Always follow label instructions.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

What is insecticidal soap? Can I make it myself?

Q. What is insecticidal soap? How does it work? Can I make it myself?

A. Insecticidal soaps are environmentally friendly formulations made from mineral or vegetable oils that kill soft-bodied insects either by suffocation or destroying their cells. Insecticidal soaps do not leave toxic residues. They must contact the insects to be effective.

Here's a quick and easy way to make insecticidal soap. Mix one cup of cheap vegetable oil with one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid. Do NOT use soaps formulated for automatic dishwashers because they may contain chemicals that can harm plants. Do NOT use soaps with bleach added. Add two teaspoons of the soap mixture per cup of warm water in a plastic spray bottle. Stir thoroughly. Test a bit of the mixture on a small part of the plant to assure that the mixture won't do damage to the plant. Spray only on cloudy days or before dusk. Hot sunlight combined with insecticidal soap can damage plants.

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