207 Ticks. Heat. Nectarines. It Must Be Summer!

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

Tips for beginning and experienced gardeners. New, 30-minute (or less) episodes arrive every Tuesday and Friday. Fred Hoffman has been a U.C. Certifi...

Show Notes

Ticks. They’re bad enough when you’re taking a stroll in the country. They’re worse when they’re near your garden. What can you do to thwart ticks? We have tips.

It’s summer, and both you and your plants are wilting in the heat, especially when it’s approaching triple digit temperatures day after day after day. Here’s what you can do to help your plants.

Nectarines are a tasty home grown fruit, but are beset by a wide variety of problems. America’s Favorite Retired College Horticulture Professor, Debbie Flower, talks about the litany of possible solutions.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go!

Previous episodes, links, product information, and transcripts at the new home site for Garden Basics with Farmer Fred, GardenBasics.net. Transcripts and episode chapters also available at Buzzsprout

Pictured: Ticks
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Tick Management Handbook
Nectarine Problems
Harvest Day, Aug. 6, at the Fair Oaks Horticulture Center

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Show Transcript

GB 207 TRANSCRIPT Thwarting Ticks. Plants vs. Heat. Nectarine Problems

Farmer Fred  0:00

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by smart pots the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. It's made in the USA visit smart pots.com/fred For more information and a special discount, that's smart pots.com/fred Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, well you've come to the right spot.

Farmer Fred

Ticks. They’re bad enough when you’re taking a stroll in the country. They’re worse when they’re near your garden. What can you do to thwart ticks? We have tips. It’s summer, and both you and your plants are wilting in the heat, especially when it’s approaching triple digit temperatures day after day after day. Here’s what you can do to help your plants. Nectarines are a tasty home grown fruit, but are beset by a wide variety of problems. America’s Favorite Retired College Horticulture Professor, Debbie Flower, talks about the litany of possible solutions. We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go!


Farmer Fred

We like to answer your garden questions here on the Garden Basics podcast, you can give us a call at 916292-8964. Or you can text us at that number. You can go to speak pipe.com/garden basics, and just yell at your computer. If your computer has a mic built into it or your smartphone, you won't incur any phone charges. Speakpipe.com/garden basics to leave a question email. Sure, send it to Fred at farmerfred.com or all the regular social media outlets: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and at the Garden Basics.net website as well you can leave a question. And I like to relax when answering these questions. So I bring in Debbie Flower, our favorite…I’m sorry, America's favorite retired college horticultural Professor, lo, all these years, to answer these questions with us too. I'm just here for comic relief. Who's this? We don't know. People, if you're going to text me a message. Give me a name. You can make up a name. I don't care what you want to call yourself. But give me a name.

Debbie Flower  2:25

Let's call them 574.

Farmer Fred  2:27

Okay, we'll call them 574. Good point. Yes, we have your phone number, 574. I'm not gonna give that out. But 574, At least you could have told us what city you're in. And you can't really go by area code.

Debbie Flower  2:40

People move and they keep their phone number. Yeah.

Farmer Fred  2:43

So at least tell us with a certain degree of accuracy where you live. I don't need a street address. I don't even need a street. Give me a city. Give me a county. Give me a part of the state you're in. Whatever. That helps us. All gardening is local.

Debbie Flower

It sure is.

Farmer Fred

Anyway, this question is from somebody, 574, who says, “Greetings. I have a pest question. I am preparing my garden for tomatoes and other edibles, but I'm having a tick problem. How can I manage ticks and not impact the produce? Is there a natural spray or a remedy?” No, goodbye. Oh, maybe you have an idea, Debbie. But the tick… ticks are a tough one.

Debbie Flower  3:24

Ticks are a tough one. And boy, when you're in a tick infested place. They're like everywhere and you get zillions on your body. So the thing you have going for you, 574, Is that you are creating the habitat, you are creating the garden, you need to understand that ticks live on the ground in wet, shady places. So as much as possible, remove those wet, shady places from your vegetable garden. In fact, there was some news from a cooperative extension site. Typically ticks are found in forests, in places that get regular summer rain. I know my sister, who lives in New Jersey, has big piece of property, lots of lawn, and we went out back and went hiking in the forest behind and we came back, covered with ticks. So keep your vegetables, your edibles, away from that tick infested area, which you probably want to do anyway, to get the proper sun for the growth of those plants. Put a layer of something non-growing, about a three foot wide swath of bark mulch would work. Some sort of gravel would work between the edge of that heavily vegetated area, and in my sister's case, it would be the forest behind her house and your lawn that prevents the ticks, hopefully from traveling from the forested area onto the lawn. Then it suggests nine feet of grass, something that you can mow, something that you keep short, before you get to the places that are heavily used by humans. So the patio where you eat dinner, the vegetable garden where you grow your vegetables. So you're now 12 feet now away from any heavily vegetated, moist shady place where ticks love to live.

Farmer Fred  5:07

They live in lawns.

Debbie Flower  5:08

I don't know.

Farmer Fred

I've seen ticks in lawns have you? Yes, they do live in lawns. Yeah. Okay, so I put it in a 12 foot moat.

Debbie Flower

Good idea.

Farmer Fred  5:20

But ya know, especially talking about moist and shady lawns, if you don't keep it cut short, well, that's the thing, you have to keep it short. Yeah. And some varieties of grass just don't take to being cut short.

Debbie Flower  5:33

So that's very true. But in the places where ticks heavily infest are places that are have much more humidity than we have here in California, we keep our grass fairly tall, to preserve the moisture in it to have a good deep root system. And for it to shade itself and for it to shade the soil so that it retains more moisture. In places where like my sister's house in New Jersey, where ticks are a big problem, they mow their lawn quite short.

Farmer Fred  6:00

But even in urban areas, like here, I can take you on a 20 minute walk and you would have ticks on you.

Debbie Flower


Farmer Fred

well, sorry. But you know that there are trails that are going through riparian areas, they're not forest, but just overgrown, shady, moist places.

Debbie Flower  6:17

right. So  the goal here is to separate where you grow the vegetables from those shady, moist places. You don't want a lot of shrubs nearby, you don't want a lot of ornamental trees nearby. Of course, if you're growing raspberries, you're gonna have a whole bunch of shrubs. For instance, raspberries are cane growers. They're kind of a shrubby plant. So you need to be able to eliminate it, but you can be able to reduce the quantity.

Farmer Fred

What about mulch, good or bad?

Debbie Flower

Well, I was surprised when they said to use a three foot swath of bark chips. They don't say how deep I mean, that seems to me to create a shady, moist place.

Farmer Fred  6:54

Yeah, especially in certain seasons like spring where you might have some April and May rain. And that would certainly increase the tick population. But I think Ray was trying to sway us to recommend some products that he could spray.

Debbie Flower  7:10

And they exist. You can get them. But it's really as one who practices IPM, a last ditch effort.

Farmer Fred  7:18

IPM, that's a bowel disorder.

Debbie Flower  7:20

Integrated Pest Management.  So if you do spray, and there are lots of sprays out there that exist, a perimeter spray, so around, whether it's around your whole yard or around your vegetable garden, in the spring, and then again, in late summer, of course, follow all label directions. And when you're out there working in the garden, prepare yourself, protect your body. So that means wear long clothing, long sleeve shirt and pants. And they didn't mention this in the article, but you can purchase clothing that is penetrated with pesticides, so that you're not gonna have to put it on your skin. It's on your clothing. And so that would keep the ticks from coming to you

Farmer Fred

You’re  talking about Deet.

Debbie Flower

Deet is the preferred pesticide. I don't know that is what's used in the clothing. But Deet is the preferred pesticide for keeping ticks away and anything that's exposed, so you want to have long pants, long sleeve shirt in a light color, because ticks are dark, you want to be able to see them. You want to stick your pants legs into your socks, you're trying to prevent ticks from crawling up inside your pants. And you're gonna see them on the white socks. Yes.

Farmer Fred  8:33

yeah, there are a lot of chemicals suggested to control ticks, which I guess are an arachnicide. They're arachnids. Semi, they have eight legs.

Debbie Flower  8:46

I don't know. I don't know if all arachnids have eight legs. Spiders are arachnids, and they often go through a cycle one of their instars of development where they only have six legs. You have a picture right there is that one have eight legs.

Farmer Fred  8:59

Well, let's see. 12345678 Yeah, there's eight legs there on that. critter. A Blood-engorged critter, it looks like.

Debbie Flower  9:10

so insecticides in general aren't going to work. they have to be specific to arachnids.

Farmer Fred  9:15

Yes, yes. So what controls Arachnids? Stuff I don't want to handle. Bifenthrin, Carbaryl. Can  you even get Carbaryl anymore? Not in California. Cyflurathin, Delmethrin, permethrin and pyrethrin.

Debbie Flower  9:33

Pyrethrin is pretty available.

Farmer Fred  9:35

Yeah, it's pretty available.

Debbie Flower

But It's a polluter in water.

Farmer Fred

and what are the restrictions of using that around food crops?

Debbie Flower

Right. So you have to consider that. you have to read and follow all label directions.

Debbie Flower  9:45

The perimeter spray then, it's gonna have to be farther away from the food crops. And a perimeter spray would be on the ground. Remember ticks live on the ground and that's where you're trying to stop them from getting into your bed. I would say use a raised bed,  although raised beds create their own shady moist spots and along the edge of the bed.

Farmer Fred  10:04

But a garden bed would have to be kept clean, then, of the fallen leaves. Yeah, free and things like that. Yes. So a clean garden.

Debbie Flower  10:12

A perimeter spray. Yeah, that is not right next to your food, where the right stuff remove your leaf litter leaf litter, as Fred was saying, remove that out of the garden so it's doesn't provide the conditions that attract ticks. keep deer out. Deer. Yeah, bring them in.

Farmer Fred  10:30

You know who else brings them in? Pets, lizards? Oh, do that. And lizards are a tick magnet. I had no idea. quit kissing lizards.

Debbie Flower  10:38

Well, my cat eats them.

Farmer Fred  10:40

Well then check your cat for ticks. Apparently ticks love lizards

Debbie Flower  10:44

had no idea, that is strange. Yeah.

Farmer Fred  10:48

Where do they get that piece of information you ask ?  Out of a 75 page PDF that you can download from Connecticut from the Connecticut agricultural experimental station called the Tick Management Handbook.

Debbie Flower  11:01

And guess where Lyme disease got its name? What state?

Farmer Fred 11:06


Debbie Flower  11:07

Oh, I was thinking that but it might be Pennsylvania. That part of the country anyway. Okay. Yeah, that would make sense. Yeah. Right next to New Jersey.

Farmer Fred  11:17

the American Lyme disease foundation is in Somers New York. I don't know if that has any relationship or not.

Farmer Fred  11:26

By the way, we're gonna blow 574’s cover here, because I just looked up to see where the 574 area code is. And chances are, he does live there, because it's a brand new area code that went into effect in North Central Indiana.

Debbie Flower  11:41

So another place that has ticks.

Farmer Fred  11:44

Yeah, well, there's lakes up in the north. If it's North Central, so around I think around Notre Dame that area, the University. Yeah, it's interesting. The tick problem. The other thing too about Deet. Can I tell you my Deet story?

Debbie Flower

of course

Farmer Fred

fortunately, it didn't happen to me. It happened to other people on this particular bike voyage. It was a fundraiser for the American Lung Association. we biked from Seattle to Atlantic City.

Debbie Flower

Oh my gosh.

Farmer Fred

And at some point along the way, I can't remember exactly where, there was a tick issue and a mosquito issue. And so you reach for the DEET. And instead of putting it on the skin, people were just spraying it on their lycra clothing. Within hours, their bike biking shorts looked like Swiss cheese.

Debbie Flower

Oh my gosh, yes.

Farmer Fred

So it was an exciting day.

Debbie Flower  12:30

Wow, I know that some people can react very negatively to Deet and have sickness symptoms after Deet. So use it  in a limited way or read and follow all label directions. Yeah, certainly not on your biking lycra. Yes. Lyme is a town in the state of Connecticut. And that's where Lyme disease was discovered, which is one of the diseases that ticks carry.

Farmer Fred  12:54

The other thing too, with ticks, is you got to check yourself for ticks. if you're around ticks, have a tick checking party to take care of them. They can be very small. Yeah. And pull them straight out with fine tipped tweezers.

Debbie Flower  13:10

Right. I had a boyfriend in high school who would burn them with a cigarette.

Farmer Fred  13:15

That's not helpful for a number of reasons.  And to place the clothes in a hot dryer to kill the ticks if there are some still there.

Debbie Flower  13:23

Yeah, you want to kill them.

Farmer Fred  13:25

Yeah. All right. So controlling ticks in a garden. You need that demilitarized zone.

Debbie Flower  13:31

I think that really works. It works for my sister for sure.

Farmer Fred  13:33

Okay. And probably chemical controls, as a last resort.

Debbie Flower  13:38

Last Resort, right. But even if with a demilitarized zone, always check yourself and anything you bring in from that vegetable garden for ticks.

Farmer Fred  13:47

All right. And don't lick any lizards. Debbie Flower, thanks so much for your help on this.

Debbie Flower  13:52

You're welcome Fred.

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Farmer Fred  13:57

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Plants vs. Heat

Farmer Fred  15:51

The searing summer heat has returned to our area with a vengeance several consecutive days of 100 plus readings can sap the strength of area gardeners while wilting or killing under watered plants. So in this week's Things To Do list, we're talking about heat versus your plants.

Are your plants starting to wilt in the afternoon? Wilting is a natural defense mechanism used by many plants during hot afternoons to conserve water.

If you're worried when you see wilting, dig down about six to eight inches and check the soil moisture or use a moisture meter. Add water only if moisture is absent around the root zone of the plant at that depth. However, when you see a wilting tomatovine, a Coleus or fuchsia in the morning, that's when you know your plants probably do need a good, long drink of water. Mornings are the best time for both humans and plants during heat waves to take care of weather-related outdoor garden problems as you enjoy the briefly cool early hours outside.

Keep some of these hot weather garden tips in mind, even during heat waves. lawns and gardens don't need to be watered every day, two or three times a week is plenty. Newly planted annuals and emerging seedlings though, have shallower roots, so new seed beds and young plants may need a daily irrigation. Containerized plants in the sun probably need watering every day during heat waves as well. Raise the containers off the ground with a plant stand or a couple of pieces of wood or bricks. This will help keep the pot cooler by improving air circulation. Another tip for protecting your potted plants in the full sun: If you have bigger, empty pots hanging around, consider putting the smaller potted plant inside that bigger, empty container. Insert mulch between the larger pot and the smaller pot to reduce the heat from the sun even more, or surround the potted plant that's in full sun with other pots or even line them with paper bags on the outside to reflect the heat of the sun. There is a downside of daily watering of potted plants. Fertilizer is being leached out of the soil more quickly. So instead of a once a month feeding regimen. Fertilize plants in pots every two weeks, just be sure to cut the fertilizer dosage in half. During extended heat waves, or if you're going on vacation, consider grouping containerized or hanging plants on the cooler side of the house such as the north or the east side. Mulch can help you out a lot. A four inch layer of bark mulch applied beneath the canopy of trees and shrubs will help conserve water, control weed germination and keep the soil cooler. Just because it's hot, don't love your drought tolerant California native plants to death with too much water. California natives, like Ceanothus or oak trees, especially the Blue Oak, prefer it on the dry side in the summer. A once a month watering is plenty for them this time of year. And again, I can't stress this enough. Don't let the dry surface of the topsoil fool you. Check the soil moisture down at the root zone, six to eight inches deep. If it's only the top few inches that are dry and your established plants look healthy, fight that urge to waterlog those roots. If you're traveling about and one of your stops includes the local nursery or garden center, make it the last stop of the day. A plant that's left in a hot car for as little as 15 minutes may stress it beyond recovery. And you to stay cool, too.

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Farmer Fred  19:35

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Nectarine Problems

Farmer Fred

To help us answer garden questions, Debbie Flower is here, America's favorite retired college horticultural professor. And Debbie, we get this question from Pat. We think, we're guessing, Pat lives in the Sacramento area. We're not sure though, right? Please tell us where you live, folks. Okay. Anyway, Pat says, “I’m attaching pictures of two varieties of white nectarines, one with clear sap-like crystals on nearly all the fruit on one tree. The other is showing cracks on the fruit. There might be bird pecks on them too. But definitely there are cracks. Please diagnose and suggest remedies.” Well, Debbie Flower, when it comes to pests of nectarines, the list fills a page of the culprits.

Debbie Flower  21:26

Yes, there are lots and lots of things that could be doing this, many of them insect type and vertebrate type of pests, but also some diseases are a possibility. So the number one thing that Pat needs to do is figure out what's causing the problem. Yes, got an ID  of the pest . Yes, you got to ID the pest before treating. So some ways of doing that include  go out at night when some things are feeding, when it's cooler or maybe moisture on the plants and see if there's anything on the fruit. Another is to set up some traps for pests that have the potential for damaging the fruit. the pest I'm thinking of specifically is earwigs. They do feed on fruit and they make a nice deep hole with their mouthparts. They're very common, they're very easy to trap. The easiest way I like is to take a small can like a tuna can or a cat food can, sink it so that the rim is right at soil level, put some oil in which they like tuna, fish oil, smelly oil, or you can use vegetable oil with a little bit of soy sauce. And they will come to it  and fall in. it needs to be about at least a half inch deep. So I've also added water sometimes to raise that depth to a half inch and they fall in and drown. It would give you an idea of whether you have them. I would be surprised if you don't. But whether they're feeding on the fruit or not ,that you might see at night.

Farmer Fred  22:53

Yeah, you got to be able to at least trap them or capture them in order to see them. the buried tuna fish or cat food can is one way to do that. There are traps available, sticky traps that you can hang in the tree. And they would at least catch the adult version of the pest, if it is a pest. But it's probably the larvae of the pest that is doing the damage, that's a possibility, too.Those sticky traps are very handy for just seeing who's around your yard. You might be surprised .

Debbie Flower  23:26

Different colors of sticky traps attract different things. Another pest that was listed for these nectarines as a possibility is Western flower thrips and thrips are attracted to blue.

Farmer Fred  23:37

Yeah, yeah, as a former viticulture instructor, you know that pest is a big one in grapes. Yes. And they're difficult to control. Yes. Yeah. All I think all the blue traps will let you know as you have a problem.

Debbie Flower  23:51

right. And then you have to take it from there. When you do, go to the UCANR  website and find out what you’re supposed to do.

Farmer Fred  23:59

Yeah, but it could be thrips. It could be earwigs. A rolled up newspaper, a rolled up damp newspaper, can help you figure out if it's earwigs or not.

Debbie Flower  24:09

They like wet places. they'll go there during the day. Yeah, they they're looking for a moist place to go during the day. And so that's a clue. If earwigs are your problem, then perhaps your tree needs some pruning. Thinning, pruning to open it up to get more air in there. Because the earwigs need to hang around where it's kind of moist. If you do have a very dense tree, that's a possible solution.

Farmer Fred  24:33

There are also stink bugs that could be the culprit. There could be a lygus bug or katydid any number of borers. Boxelder bugs. the list goes on and on. We'll have this link from the University of California Ag and Natural Resources about all the culprits that could be attacking nectarines and peaches, and that includes diseases too. And a lot of the symptoms that were shown in this picture resemble what happens when you Get coryneum blight, also known as shot hole disease, and that too, is a problem due to water.

Debbie Flower  25:08

Yes. moisture, too much moisture in the plant. I have an apricot that gets shot hole. And I need to prune away enough of the vegetative portion so the air can blow through.

Farmer Fred  25:22

And also, not letting a spray from sprinklers get too high in the tree, keep it low or use a drip irrigation system in order to minimize the foliage getting wet. Basically, just like you say,  improving the air circulation.

Debbie Flower  25:36

that can do a lot for for preventing pest problems.

Farmer Fred  25:40

And then there's post season care of the tree as well, which could involve a spraying regimen of copper or something like that during the winter. If you've positively identified it as the fungal disease Coryneum blight, right.

Debbie Flower  25:53

then that would be one of the ways to reduce that infestation.

Farmer Fred

But again, we need to figure out what the pest is.

Debbie Flower

know what the pest is. So in the meantime, if you've got some healthy fruit, and it's not quite ripe, you might want to get some small paper bags,  they do make net bags, for netting fruit. It's done a lot in Japan, they have a thing for their perfect fruit. And you can net each little fruit so you can prevent the pest, not the coryneum blight, but you can prevent the insect type pests from getting to the fruit.

Farmer Fred  26:25

Would you like my fruit bags?  I'll give them to you.

Debbie Flower  26:30

You have some? No I'm not that ambitious.

Farmer Fred  26:31

Okay, I actually did that one year here.  When all my Flavor Supreme pluots disappeared. Oh, and I had a raccoon or something. It's somebody who knows how to work their little claws and is able to open the bag. Like, open the bag, remove the bag and go after the fruit.

Debbie Flower  26:49

Wow. I bet that was a raccoon? Nature's engineer.

Farmer Fred  26:53

Yeah. Somebody who had the time during the night.

Debbie Flower  26:57

Yes, a lot goes on at night. So I would encourage you, Pat, to go out at night. Maybe last thing before you go to bed with a flashlight and see what's going on. You might find things that you had no clue are happening in your yard.

Farmer Fred  27:10

And again, we'll have a couple of links for you about more information about nectarine pests and diseases, as well as environmental disorders. Yes, that might be playing a role in this too, like sunburn, for example, but I will have those links for you. Pat, thank you so much for the question. Debbie Flower, thanks for getting to the bottom of this, sort of.

Debbie Flower  27:28

Getting somewhat down there. Yes. You're welcome.


“Beyond the Garden Basics” Newsletter


Farmer Fred  27:33

You may have listened to our chat with Master Gardener Susan Muckey about how to start a worm bin. She brought up one issue about an intruder to your worm bin, or your compost pile. They’re called soldier flies, and when you first see them milling about in the worm food or your compost pile, you might recoil a bit. Adult soldier flies are rather large, almost an inch long, and they look more like a wasp than a fly.  And don’t confuse soldier flies with the beneficial insect, the soldier beetle. So, what are those soldier flies doing in your worm bin or compost pile?  Are they good or bad? And should you remove them? You might be surprised at the answer. In fact, the entrepreneurial among you might even want to start raising soldier flies, for profit. It’s all about Soldier flies, in the next Beyond the Basics newsletter and podcast.

It’s  the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred, Beyond the Basics newsletter. It’s out Friday, July 1st. Find it via the link in today’s show notes, or visit our website, Garden Basics dot net. There, you can find a link to the newsletter in the tabs on the top of the page. Also, you can listen to any of our previous editions of the podcast, as well as read an enhanced transcript of the podcast episode you are now listening to. That’s at Garden Basics dot net, where you can also link to the Garden Basics newsletter, Beyond the Basics. And it’s free. Look for it on Friday, July 1st. Take a deeper dive into gardening, with the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. Find it at garden basics dot net.

Farmer Fred

Garden Basics With Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday and is brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Garden Basics is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast, visit our website, GardenBasics dot net. That’s where you can find out about the free, Garden Basics newsletter, Beyond the Basics. And thank you so much for listening.

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