Prevent bacterial wilt by keeping beetles away

Backyard Q&A

In The Garden

July 18, 2004|By Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali | Jon Traunfeld and Ellen Nibali,Special to the Sun

I am having trouble growing cucumbers. Every year they look great until about July, then they wilt and die. I water every day.

Bacterial wilt is a common disease of cucumbers that causes sudden wilting and death of the plants. This is a disease transmitted by spotted and striped cucumber beetles. The bacteria overwinter inside the cucumber beetle. The beetles transmit the bacteria to plants while feeding. Infection is fatal. When the stem of an infected plant is cut, sap will string out in fine strands. Remove infected plants from the garden.

Prevent the disease by preventing cucumber beetle feeding. At planting time, cover plants with floating row covers (available at some garden centers and through mail-order companies.) The covers prevent cucumber beetles from landing on the plants and transmitting the disease. Be sure to remove covers when plants bloom to allow for pollination. Or control beetles with an organic insecticide like neem or rotenone.

"County Fair" is a variety of cucumber with resistance to bacterial wilt disease.

I purchased two silver mound perennials last summer. This summer there is a big bare spot in the middle of each one. How do I get it to grow in the middle?

Artemisia schmidtiana generally do open up in the center in midsummer. This is a good time to cut them back. It can be done in stages, so that you do not have a gap in your perennial garden. Cut half the plant down to the new growth coming out at the base and pull the remaining foliage over the pruning cuts. Then, after new growth is produced in the pruned section, cut back the remaining part of the plant.

Jon Traunfeld, regional specialist, and Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, work at the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information and answers to plant and pest questions. Call its hot line at 800-342-2507 (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-1 p.m.) or e-mail questions to www. hgic.umd.edu. (You can also download or order publications and diagnose plant problems online.)

Checklist

1. Looking for an inexpensive organic weed killer? Try spraying weeds with distilled white vinegar (5% acetic acid).

2. Harvest backyard fruits before they are "dead ripe" to avoid insect and wildlife damage.

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