Saturday, October 18, 2003

Choose plants bred to resist disease

Gardening Q & A

Tim Morehouse

This is the second year in a row my tomato plants have wilted and died. The plants barely produce a crop before the lower leaves wilt. Symptoms move upward until the entire plant succumbs. What's wrong?

Your tomatoes are afflicted with fusarium or verticillium wilt. These are fungal diseases that attack tomatoes. Both of these soil-borne diseases gain entry through wounds in the roots and, once infected, a plant dies. The best defense is to plant varieties that have "VF" after their name in the catalog, signifying that they are resistant to both diseases. Safe varieties include: Big Beef, Celebrity, OG 50, Pilgrim and Quick Pick.

I've been looking at strawberry varieties and have run across the term "day neutral." What does it mean?

Plants that can grow, mature and flower or produce fruit regardless of day length are referred to as "day neutral." There are several well-known cultivars: Aptos, Brighton and Heckler. Of the three, Aptos has the best reputation. Tribute and Tristar are two cultivars resistant to mildew and verticillium wilt. All of these ever-bearing strawberries are recommended for the home garden.

This summer, something bored into my sunflowers and blackened the insides of the stems. What caused this? Can I prevent it?

Often the larvae of the fly Strauzia longipennis feed inside sunflower stems and leave behind a core of black pitch. Control the adult flies by spraying or dusting with rotenone, malathion or diazinon. Begin applications when flower buds start to open. Repeat weekly for a total of three sprayings.

Do energy-efficient, high-pressured sodium streetlights have a bad effect on nearby trees?

They might. This depends on the plant's sensitivity to night lighting. Growth produced under these conditions often is more susceptible to winter injury.

Metal-halide and mercury streetlights (which are less energy-

efficient) give off less radiation and therefore have less effect on adjacent plants.

Contact Tim Morehouse by Web site:; mail: c/o The Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202. (If writing, enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.)

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