Blueberry plants can suffer from fungal mummy berry

Backyard Q&A

June 28, 1998

Q.I've always had good luck with my blueberry plants, but early this spring some of the new shoots wilted and turned brown. Now I'm noticing that the berries are shriveling up and dropping before they've had a chance to ripen. What could be the problem?

A.You're describing the classic symptoms of mummy berry, a common fungal disease that affects blueberry foliage and fruit. Next year's crop will also be infected unless you pick all of the shriveled fruits off the plants and off the ground and dispose of them.

Also, prune out and dispose of the blighted shoots. And turn the soil 1 inch deep around your plants next spring before bud break. This will help disrupt the production of fungal spores. You can also protect new shoots next spring by using a registered fungicide.

Q.Help! My tomato plants are already over the top of their cages. They are too close together, and I'm running out of room in my tiny garden. Can I cut them back without hurting them?

A.You can safely prune out the tops at any height you desire. Pruning will simply encourage side-branching. Remove the ground suckers as well - those shoots growing from the base of the main stem. This will improve air circulation around the plants and give you fruits that come earlier and larger than normal. You can plant the suckers you remove to get a late tomato crop.

Q.I moved into a house this year with lots of asters and chrysanthemums. I've been told to remove the flowers now so the plants will bloom better in the fall. Is this good advice?

A.Yes, it is. You should pinch out the flower buds before they bloom up. Do this now through mid-July. This will encourage bushy growth and heavy flowering in late summer and early fall.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507 or visit its Web site at www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.

This Week's Checklist

* Be patient with your squash and cucumber plants. Most varieties first produce male flowers. The female flowers (those with small fruits attached to the base of the bloom) will follow.

* Don't apply horticultural soap or oil sprays on humid days when temperatures are over 85 degrees. They don't evaporate well on such days and can damage plants.

* Apply the microbial insecticide B.t. to evergreens infested with bagworm larvae. You'll see the small "bags" crawling around feeding on trees and shrubs.

Pub Date: 6/28/98

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