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GARDENING Q & A

Growing the Most Colorful Roses

July 10, 1994|JACK E. CHRISTENSEN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

QUESTION: I've heard that color intensity on roses can be improved by the addition of minerals or other substances. Is this true? How can I improve or intensify the color of my roses?

ANSWER: Although too much nitrogen fertilizer applied in the springtime may reduce the intensity of color in early flowers, our Southern California soils usually contain enough minerals to sport optimal colors in roses under normal conditions. Sometimes, however, adding Epsom salts (one-quarter cup per mature plant) may help; and if leaves become chorotic, applying iron chelate greens up the foliage and increases flower color.

The best flower color can usually be obtained in our area by 1) planting roses where they receive at least six hours of full sunlight per day (the ideal is morning and mid-day sun with filtered late afternoon shade), 2) watering regularly and 3) feeding with a balanced plant food about every six weeks from early February through September.

Do Citrus Trees Really Attract Termites?

Q: A real estate agent advised me not to buy a house with citrus trees planted near it, claiming that citrus trees attract termites. Is this true?

A: Nothing in my own experience or in the literature substantiates this unusual claim; so I asked pest control agents, and they said that citrus trees are no more susceptible to termites than most other wood sources. The fact is that these dreaded pests--particularly the subterranean and dry wood termites in inland areas, and the much larger dampwood or Formosa termites near the coast--are well-established in Southern California, regardless of citrus or any other kinds of trees. So no matter where you choose to buy a house here, be sure to have it checked, and if necessary, treated for termites.

Bugs Eat Strawberries Before They Can Ripen

Q: We planted strawberries this year and have nurtured them well so we could have a good crop. However, it seems like the bugs get to them just before they ripen, and most of them are spoiled. Is there anything we can do to beat the bugs without using poisons?

A: Although surprisingly little is written about this common problem, there are some satisfactory solutions to your dilemma.

You seem to be getting a good fruit set; so the basic problem is to find a way to keep the fruit off the soil and away from the reach of the bugs--usually pill bugs, sow bugs, earwigs and slugs.

Commercial growers plant strawberries in raised rows covered by black plastic and water by flooding the furrows. Thus the developing fruit rests on the side of the slippery plastic, and the pests are unable to reach it.

At home you may also want to use this technique. Or you could place sturdy cardboard rolls (or bricks or rocks, etc.) under the sides of the plants to prop the berries up off the soil. Or mulch with coarse bark or rough gravel. It works best if the berries can simply hang in the air. However, just keeping the berries up off the soil will significantly increase your viable harvest. (This rule-of-thumb applies to other crops, such as tomatoes, squashes, melons and anything which might develop at ground level.)

Flying, Black-Spotted Bug Eats Plant Greens

Q: I have a major problem with bugs eating the greens on my vegetable plants and pumpkins, primarily a flying green bug with black spots on its back (cucumber beetle?). Nothing I've tried has worked. Do you have a remedy?

A: You are correct in identifying this black-spotted green bug as a cucumber beetle. The recommended remedy is an application of Ortho Sevin Garden Dust to the foliage. This will eliminate beetle and caterpillar problems quite effectively, and it is relatively safe for humans. As always, please be sure to follow label instructions.

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