Wash or peel apples to remove fungus

September 19, 2012|By Ellen Nibali, For The Baltimore Sun

My apples looked good until recently. Now they have tiny black spots and gray blotches that look like mildew but are dry. Are they ruined?

Rains last month created conditions for two fungi: flyspeck and sooty blotch. Both of these fungi can be washed off. Soak and scrub off or just peel the apples. Fortunately, they don't affect eating quality.

The leaves of my rhododendron are getting rough and brown patches. Is this a fungus I should spray?

This time of year, those symptoms would be caused by the snowy tree cricket. You haven't seen them because they feed at night from August to early October on azaleas and rhododendrons. Unless you're seeing extensive damage, we don't recommend control.

Plant of the week

Bearded iris, Fall-blooming bearded iris

Iris germanica

Who knew that rainbows had beards? The Greek word "iris" means rainbow, and irises come in more colors than a rainbow. The beard, a fuzzy appendage on the lower petal, may serve to attract bees or direct them to pollen to assure pollination. Bearded irises are richly fragrant and their large flower heads make a big statement in the spring, but now there are fall blooming ones that bring the same attributes to your garden.

Irises need full sunlight and well-amended, well-drained soil. The best time to plant them is late summer/early autumn. (Transplanting can begin after spring flowering.) Plant shallowly so that the top of the rhizome is at or just above soil surface, with the roots spread evenly below. Water thoroughly and provide the equivalent of an inch of water per week during periods of drought. Established irises are drought-resistant.

When flowers fade, remove the entire flower stalk. In autumn, remove any dead foliage and cut healthy foliage back to 4 or 5 inches. Once the ground has frozen, you can apply about an inch of mulch to prevent the ground from heaving and exposing the entire rhizome. In spring, remove mulch and spread no more than a thin layer of compost for fertility, ensuring that rhizomes are still visible. — Lewis Shell

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