Stinkbug attack on tomatoes causes skin-deep damage

Backyard Q&A

August 16, 1998

Q. My tomato plants have been producing a heavy crop, but I see yellow spots and blotches on many fruits. Am I lacking a certain nutrient in the soil?

A.Stinkbugs are the culprits. Two species of these shield-shaped "true bugs," the brown stinkbug and the Southern green stinkbug, feed on tomatoes and peppers. Fruits develop white or yellow spots at the bugs' feeding sites. These spots feel rough or bumpy. They are only skin-deep, however, and can be cut out without affecting fruit quality.

For the record, stinkbugs are active in the daytime and emit a strong odor when squashed.

Q. I planted two kinds of winter squash and don't know when to harvest them or how to store them for the fall. They're the size of a softball now and light green in color.

A.Sounds as if you have a "buttercup"-type winter squash cultivar. The fruits mature 90-100 days after planting. Your fruits will double or triple in size and will turn a deep orange or green color.

Harvest the fruits when the rind hardens and cannot be easily pierced with your thumbnail. Cut the fruits off the vine, leaving a piece of stem attached to each fruit. Store in a dry indoor location at 50-60 degrees.

Q. My lawn is a mess. Bare spots, lots of weeds and a little brown grass. Can I buy grass seed and just spread it around now to thicken my lawn?

A.The first step is to spot-treat the weeds with a broadleaf herbicide. Mow your lawn twice before broadcasting a turf-type tall fescue cultivar at the rate of 4 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet of area. Overseeding can be done from late August through mid-October. Be sure to fertilize your turf this fall and add lime if necessary.

If you're not sure of your lawn's makeup, get a soil test before trying to make improvements. Base your lawn treatment on the results of the test. Carefully follow directions on the labels of the products you use to treat your lawn. Water the seeded area regularly if rainfall is lacking.

This week's checklist

If tomato vines threaten to overgrow their stakes or cages, head them back with loping shears. This will not diminish your harvest.

Add water to your backyard pond if the water level has dropped.

Kill poison ivy by spraying it with a nonselective herbicide.

Pub Date: 8/16/98

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