313 Heirlooms vs. Hybrids. Battling Aphids in Trees.

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Show Notes

What is the definition of an heirloom vegetable, such as an heirloom tomato? It depends who you ask. It’s kind of like the word “natural”: it has no legal definition.  "Heirloom vegetable" could mean: a) a plant that reproduces true from seed; b) it's an old variety; and/or c) it's a traditional family seed, passed down through the generations.
And what exactly is a hybrid tomato of a hybrid vegetable or flower?  Our resident horticulturist, Debbie Flower, will help settle any confusion you might have when it comes to heirlooms versus hybrids. 
And we answer the question, what’s all that sticky stuff on my car windshield? If you're parked under a tree,  it's probably honeydew, a secretion of any number of sucking insects, but more than likely, it's aphids.  How do you control aphids in a tree? Debbie Flower and I have some suggestions.  

It’s all in Episode 313 of Garden Basics -  Heirlooms vs Hybrids. Battling Aphids in Trees 

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. Let’s go!

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U. of Texas Vegetable Nutrition Comparison, 1950-1997

Farmer Fred Rant: Heirloom Vegetables: Are They Better for You?

Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects

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Show Transcript

Ep. 313 TRANSCRIPT Heirlooms vs Hybrids. Aphids.


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 SmartPots.com slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's SmartPots.com/Fred.

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot.


Heirloom vs Hybrid Plants


Farmer Fred

What is the definition of an heirloom vegetable, such as an heirloom tomato? It depends who you ask. It’s kind of like the word “natural”: it has no legal definition. Mississippi State University uses three criteria for answer the question, what is an heirloom tomato?

  1. Production. Heirlooms are open pollinated and are not hybridized. You’ll get a 99.9999% match to the fruit you save seeds from, year after year, if you save the seeds correctly.
  2. Age. They’re old. However, the distinguishing line depends on who you ask. Some say heirlooms must be 25 years old, while some say 50 years old. Still, there are others that say they must be even older to be considered an heirloom. Heirloom varieties were more prevalent before World War II, so for some, only varieties that existed before 1945 are considered heirlooms.
  3. Tradition. Heirloom tomato seeds originally were handed down in families, much like beloved furniture or dishes.

And what exactly is a hybrid tomato of a hybrid vegetable or flower? Golly, if only we had a retired college horticultural professor to help us out here. Oh, wait a minute, we do! That would be Debbie Flower. She’ll help settle any confusion you might have when it comes to heirlooms versus hybrids. And we answer the question, what’s all that sticky stuff on my car windshield? If you’re parked under a tree, it could very well be the secretions of aphids, a sucking insect that can make a mess of cars, windshields, patio furniture, while weakening the health of your trees. They just poke holes and wait for the gusher. Much like an oil drilling rig. So how do you battle aphids in trees? Debbie Flower and I have some suggestions. Also, she points out that aphids don’t suck, really.

It’s all in Episode 313 of Garden Basics -  Heirlooms vs Hybrids. Battling Aphids in Trees


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. Let’s go!


Farmer Fred

It's that time of year when you're looking at seed packets, or you're reading garden catalogs and accruing things to be planted in the summer. And maybe you've come across some unfamiliar terms. You see “heirloom” tomato seeds, you see “hybrid tomato” seeds. Well, what's that all about? Good questions. Let's find out from America's favorite retired college horticultural Professor Debbie Flower. I bet you've had some interesting conversations with students, Debbie, over the years, about this.


Debbie Flower  3:25

Yes, students are very curious about all of these terms. The assumption is that heirloom is better. And I can't make a blanket statement that anything is better than anything else. They're just different. An heirloom variety, or type of tomato or pepper or plant, or flower is something that did well in some specific locality. And because it did so well. The seeds were saved and passed down to the next generation, who also enjoyed those saved seeds and passed them to the next generation. And so they've been saved because they did well. The fruit tasted good. But it started at a specific location. An heirloom for Nova Scotia isn't going to do very well in California. iI isn't necessarily going to taste the same or produce as well.


Farmer Fred  4:18

in the world of tomatoes, the perfect example is the Brandywine tomato, a very popular heirloom tomato. It came from Brandywine, Pennsylvania, where it does fine. Out here in California,  you might get one or two big Brandywine tomatoes and that's about it.


Debbie Flower  4:34

Right. So heirlooms, where they originated, did do very well. And you can save seed from them and you can grow the next generation from that seed and it will be just like the plants you had the year before. Hybrids are plants that are produced with human intervention by doing specific pollination and cross pollination, to get characteristics in the final plant that are desired. So, for tomatoes, it could be that the leaves are big enough to shade the fruit very well. It might be the flavor of the fruit, the color of the fruit, the shape of the fruit, whether it bears a long time, or starts growing very early. Perhaps it's a short season plant, something like that. Those could all be characteristics that are bred for. And the people doing the breeding, have done many, many years of figuring out what the results will be if they pollinate this plant with that plant, and then they take that offspring and pollinate it with something else. And it can be a many year process to come up with this very desirable plant. They're often bred for disease resistance. And so that's a great characteristic to have, if you've got that disease in your garden, in the soil, or in the air, a hybrid that is resistant can save your gardening efforts. Or, the flavors can vary. And if you're reading seed catalogs, you read lots of lovely flowery words about fruit flavor. Three quarters of the hybrids will not come true from seed. If you were to save the seed and plant them again the next year, because they were cross-bred to produce the plant that you bought the seed for, then, when those plants cross - either by with themselves or with other pollen brought in by pollinators -  the offspring are something else. So that's the disadvantage of a hybrid. You cannot save the seed and get the same result. Although you can save the seed and get some kind of interesting stuff. Tomato, you'll get a tomato, it'll just be different.


Farmer Fred  6:31

We should point out, too, that one easy way to spot a packet of hybrid tomato or pepper seeds or whatever seeds, is if there's a string of letters after the name. If there's a V, F, T or an A, that shows various forms of resistance to verticillium, fusarium, nematodes, tobacco mosaic virus or Alternaria.


Debbie Flower  6:56

Right. And those things are bred for. That's part of why the breeding is done.


Farmer Fred  7:00

There seems to be a bone of contention about whether you can save seeds that were not grown in isolation. The old saying is, okay, you got this heirloom, and you want to save the seeds. Well, don't plant any tomato plant within 20 feet of that plant. You have to grow the same one, surround it with the same one in order to protect it.  I've talked with Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms,  and he has created a lot of interesting hybrid tomatoes.  And he claims that he can grow them a lot closer to each other and not have that cross pollination.


Debbie Flower  7:36

How close is he talking? He’s not talking miles?


Farmer Fred  7:39

No, he's not talking miles, he's talking feet. And I can see where people overplant and they don't space their tomato plants correctly. And then there would be a lot of cross pollination. But I think if you have a favorite tomato variety, and you want to save the seeds of that variety, I would give it maybe 10-15- 20 feet away from another variety, just in case. But there are those who plant them a lot closer who say, “when I harvest the seeds, that's what I get”.


Debbie Flower  8:08

Yeah, tomatoes are self pollinating. They're just not necessarily super efficient with being pollinated by themselves. Self pollinating means that the male parts - what we consider the male parts - the parts that have the pollen on them, brush past the female parts, which is called the stigmatic surface. And they brush the pollen onto the stigmatic surface as they're growing. And that only happens when temperatures are in a fairly narrow range above about 60 but  below about 90. So if the flower is growing, the flower parts are growing and the temperature is right, the rate of the growth of the parts inside the flower will allow it to pollinate itself. So in general, tomatoes are self pollinating, but when temperatures get out of whack, insects can become involved and they can either bring the pollen or they can just root around inside that flower and make the pollen hit the stigmatic surface, because of the shape of the flowers. I'm suspicious, but I have no research to back me up, that the pollinators aren't actually moving the pollen from plant to plant. They're just helping the individual flowers produce their own seed.


Farmer Fred  9:18

if the insects aren't doing it, the wind could.


Debbie Flower

The wind could, Yes.


Farmer Fred

And you know, you talk a lot about setting up a fan in a greenhouse to strengthen the plant.  to build up the resistant resistant tissue. That wind also can help in pollination, too. If you're growing tomatoes in a greenhouse, for example, you may need to shake that plant to move that pollen about. And we've talked about that and a fan would be good for that.


Debbie Flower  9:48

Yes, I think there's a lot of self pollinating going on. So there may be the occasion where  pollen comes in from someplace else, but I think primarily tomatoes are self pollinated.


Farmer Fred  9:58

Then there's the question - which are healthier for you, heirlooms or hybrids? Well, that comes back to a money question. Why was it that a tomato was hybridized in the first place? Well, because of agriculture. And what does agriculture want? They want to be first to the market with a particular variety. That way they are going to get the most money. So they're always looking for that particular tomato that can beat the other tomatoes to market.


Debbie Flower  10:22

Yes. And arrive there unblemished,


Farmer Fred  10:25

Exactly. Be able to put up with the rigors of shipping. And that usually means a tougher skin. Or something along those lines.  A lot of heirlooms have very tender skin that can easily get sunburned or even bruised on the vine. Right? There's those concerns. But to hybridize something, I've always been told that well, in order for them to develop a plant that produces fruit sooner, something's got to give elsewhere in the genetic makeup of the plant. And it might be flavor, it might it might be longevity, it might be anything. Resistance to shade, for example, something along those lines.


Debbie Flower  11:06

the amount of seeds inside the size of the seed cavity, very large.


Farmer Fred  11:09

And that was done in a study regarding the nutrients of heirlooms versus hybrids. It wasn't heirlooms versus hybrids, per se. But back in 1950, when the first research was done, judging the nutrients inside a tomato. What were the tomatoes being grown, almost of them were heirlooms. There weren't many hybrids around, they came a decade or so later. And they dutifully wrote down all the nutrients that were in the tomatoes and other vegetables, and the amount of nutrients in the tomatoes. So somebody at the University of Texas decided to replicate that study. But instead of using 1950 grocery store fruit vegetables for their tests, they used, I think, 1999  fruits and vegetable selection from the grocery store. And they found that there were significantly fewer nutrients in the 1999 model versus the 1950 model. Now does that mean because of hybridization? What were they growing in 1999 that you'd find in a grocery store? I guarantee it was hybrids. Now if you did it in a homegrown situation, the results might be different.


Debbie Flower  12:16

Yes, they might. But then, on the other hand, the tomatoes that are on the shelf in the grocery store, probably were not in the garden yesterday. They have been in a long chain of shipping, that takes time, and they can lose some of their nutrition, just in  sitting around.


Farmer Fred  12:33

And that's an aspect of the study that I don't know, because I don't know if back in 1950, how fresh lettuce or tomatoes were when the customers purchased them, versus how fresh were they when they purchased them in the 1990s. Right? There could be a big time difference, which would account for a lack of nutrition ,Right? Or a reduced amount of nutrition anyway, not to say that tomatoes from a supermarket are not nutritious. I'm just saying that the healthiest food you can eat is the food you grow yourself, right? That's my soapbox. I'm done.


Debbie Flower  13:02

I grew one cultivar of tomato that is sold in my local grocery store. And I was curious, I found the seed. It was readily available in a seed catalog and I grew it.


Farmer Fred  13:13

From seed in the store-bought tomato?


Debbie Flower  13:16

I bought the seed packet from a U.S. seed company. And it it grew and it produced tomatoes. They were mediocre. And as soon as the very high heat hit here in California, the plant just dropped dead. And I grew it again a second year. And it did the same thing. So that this tomato was probably  grown in fields near the coast of California, apparently where  the climate is milder, and they don't have those big heat peaks that we have here in the Central Valley. So I'm not growing that again. When you're reading the seed catalog, some will say it's good for production growers. Well, that means that's not you. That's not you, right. And some will say it's good for farmers’ market growers. Well, that's a little closer to you, but it's still not necessarily you. You want to get the ones that you're going to love and that you can't get otherwise. And they're going to be the individual ones that do well in your location. So you're gonna have to check local sources. Knowledgeable sources, like Fred for the Central Valley of California, maybe your local Cooperative Extension office, or your Master Gardener program in your state to find out what they think does best locally.


Farmer Fred  14:25

Yeah, find out which varieties were grown or developed nearest where you live, right. And like that one that croaked in the heat probably was from a much cooler summer climate. Because I think you can grow tomatoes in all 50 states, if I'm not mistaken.  I know they probably grow tomatoes in Hawaii. It gets warm enoughin the interior. But yeah, when it comes to heirlooms versus hybrids, and if you're a first time gardener or an early gardener, stick with hybrids, because they're gonna give you the most success. They're gonna make you feel like super gardener. Heirlooms can be persnickety. Some are like a British sports car. It really looks nifty. It really sounds nifty, but you need to keep a mechanic on retainer. And with an heirloom, sometimes you need a garden mechanic on retainer to take care of that plant to stave off pests and disease and deal with the shade.


Debbie Flower  15:22

Right, for that plant.


Farmer Fred  15:23

if things start going a little cockeyed. If I was a beginning gardener, I would probably grow three hybrids to one heirloom.


Debbie Flower  15:30

And that would be it.  Four plants would be plenty for the first garden.


Farmer Fred  15:33

Yeah. Don't be like Fred, and plant the whole backyard for your very first garden. It was a beautiful jungle though. if you can imagine a first garden.  I just ripped out the lawn. That soil was virgin garden soil.


Debbie Flower  15:48

I did that in Oregon, in Portland. I lived in Portland for seven years. And we bought an old house. In the backyard we had a lot of lawn and I ripped out a whole section and put a garden in, it wasn't raised beds. I didn't have the money for a raised bed. It was raised in the sense that I dug out the aisles and threw them up on the beds. That's how raised it was. And our neighbor's garage was in his backyard. So he had a long driveway that went along our property.  I came home after the 40 hour a workweek. I came home from work and they're all these people are standing in his driveway looking in my backyard. Admiring my garden. Because it was, like you say, a really nice garden. That first soil. That virgin soil, produces well.


Farmer Fred  16:30

Well, guess what? God fooled you. Yeah, I love it.


Debbie Flower  16:35

Next year is gonna be a little different. Right? You got to replenish those nutrients.


Farmer Fred  16:40

And you learned that down the line, after it gets knocked into your head, year after year, you finally figure out oh, I have to feed the soil, right? Yeah, right. That's important. Start small. Start with hybrids, have a few heirlooms. Ask your neighbors what they grow, what they have their success with.


Debbie Flower  16:54

Go to  tomato testings, if there are any in your area, something like that.


Farmer Fred  16:59

Let's see, I think  we've covered everything about tomatoes. Start from seed. I mean, you can start from plants. By the way. Another tip: if you do buy your plants at a nursery, and they're in small containers, and they will be in small containers, unless you're buying them in June, in which case they're going to cost a fortune and be in one or five gallon containers. But in February, March, April, they're going to be in two inch, three inch containers at the most. Move them up. Even  if you think you're going to plant them the next weekend, put them in a one gallon container and make them feel free for awhile.


Debbie Flower  17:31

And they'll grow like mad for you.


Farmer Fred  17:34

Yeah, they will also transplant better in the garden because they’ll be bigger and healthier right? After moving that plant up to a one gallon container and before planting into the ground, do it gradually.  Maybe you've been keeping it in the house on the sunny window. Then you take it outside and plant it in the ground unprotected. Don’t do that. It needs, I guess what you would call, hardening off?


Debbie Flower  17:56

Yes, I would call it hardening off.  And what is that? It's preparing the plant to withstand outdoor conditions. It's preparing a plant that's been grown in a protected area indoors somewhere to withstand outdoor conditions. So what's different outdoors compared to indoors? Well, the light is stronger outdoors. There's more wind movement outdoors. There's a greater extreme of temperatures, day versus night, than there is indoors.


Farmer Fred  18:23

It just occurred to me we've been on a scenic bypass for a while since the original topic. The title of this episode is heirlooms versus hybrids. And somehow we got of onto growing tomatoes.f


Debbie Flower  18:32

Yeah, do you want to switch?


Farmer Fred  18:36

No, we're fine. Okay, you people figure it out among yourselves. You've got access to other podcast episodes here that will explain it all in better order than we can because we're stream of consciousness people. Heirlooms versus hybrids. They're both good.


Debbie Flower  18:50

Yes, they are. Alright, try some of each.


Farmer Fred  18:53

Those are two of the terms you might see on seed packets and in catalogs: heirlooms versus hybrids. Thanks, Debbie.


Debbie Flower  19:00

You're welcome Fred.



Farmer Fred  19:05

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Farmer Fred

We'll like to answer your garden questions here on the Garden Basics podcast. A lot of good ways you can get your questions in. You can give us a call, just dial nine… wait a minute. does anyone dial anymore?


Debbie Flower  22:18

Do they know what it means?


Farmer Fred  22:20

Yes. 916-292-8964 said Grandpa. 916-292-8964. Or you can leave an audio question without making a phone call, by going to Speakpipe. speakpipe.com/garden basics. Or fill out the contact box at Garden Basics with Farmer Fred. Want to write in? Email Fred at farmerfred.com. You can also text us at 916-292-8964. The voice you heard was Debbie Flower, America's favorite retired college horticultural professor. And we get a question from Stockton, California, which is south of Sacramento.


Debbie Flower

Big port city, big farm area. It’s where my son went to college.


Farmer Fred

Did he attend the University of Pacific?


Debbie Flower

Yes he did.


Farmer Fred

Did he become a pharmacist?


Debbie Flower  23:13

No. He's a he was a tech dude. An automation specialist, a robotics engineer.


Farmer Fred  23:19

UOP is a big pharmacy school. All right. Nancy writes in. She says, “Our neighborhood is having a problem with aphids in trees, many of which are crape myrtles.” A beautiful summer blooming tree if there ever was one. Arborists aren’t very fond of anything that's common, and crape myrtles are very common in warm summer areas. And they usually derogatorily refer to them as Crap Myrtles.


Debbie Flower  23:42

But they're becoming more common in colder places, too, as breeding has been done at the National Arboretum for cold tolerant crape myrtles. I see them when I visit my family in New York.


Farmer Fred  23:52

They're blooming probably July and August?


Debbie Flower  23:56

Yeah. Later.


Farmer Fred  23:58

You know, we've talked on this program about horticultural phenology, which is  doing garden chores based on when things are flowering. And one old farmer phenological folklore/science is, plant your last row of corn as the crape myrtle flowers begin to fall off.


Debbie Flower  24:17

Oh, and I think the first planting of corn is when the leaf of an oak is the size of a mouse’s ear.


Farmer Fred  24:23

Or a squirrel’s ear. They don't let me get close enough to check the size of their ear, as I running towards them with a ruler. Nancy goes on to say, “Do you have an opinion about the use of a chemical product.”  I’m not going to name this particular product but it's a systemic and the active ingredient is Imidacloprid, that will be in the tree for up to one year.


Debbie Flower  24:44

Okay, so it's systemic, meaning that you apply it to the plant or the ground depending on what the instructions say. It's absorbed in the plant and then it moves through the vascular system to all parts of the plant. But that takes time.


Farmer Fred  24:57

Yeah, and it has to be done in the correct season, as well. It has to be for it to be absorbed by the tree, the tree has to be actively growing, right? That would indicate spring, right? You wouldn't do it in the middle of winter.


Debbie Flower  25:10

No, you need to do it when the probably when the plant first starts putting on new growth.


Farmer Fred  25:14

There's usually two methods of applying the systemics. One is a method that professional arborists would use, and that's injections. And most of the Imidacloprid available for home use are drenches, where you mix it up in a bucket and and pour it around the tree, the tree root zone, which can go out pretty far.  And it would, depending on the product,the directions would tell you how far to apply it away from the trunk tree. I doubt it's right next to the trunk of the tree.


Debbie Flower  25:43

No. Your feeder roots are in the top four to six inches of the soil and typically near the end of the roots. But there can be some some roots going directly up from the primary roots that are feeder roots.


Farmer Fred  25:55

Yeah, generally the roots will go out as far as the canopy of the tree, and can go lots further. So I would think some of the instructions on some of the products might indicate that you apply it under the “drip line” of the tree, the edge of the foliage. And it's a product that lists control of aphids on crape myrtles. The short answer is, if it was my tree, I'd be blasting water from the garden hose with a nozzle that has a jet spray setup. And just spray it into the tree maybe twice a week until the problem was reduced. Because crape myrtles tend to max out at 20 to 30 feet in height, this might be doable, you'll just get a little wet.


Debbie Flower  26:31

imidacloprid is a pretty strong chemical. It's a favorite of pest control people right now because it's very effective. But it is also extremely harmful to bees. And bees do visit crape myrtle flowers. So if you apply this Imidacloprid product in the spring, it'll take at least a month for the active ingredient to get all the way through the plant. And as the plant grows, it has to move into that. And so by the time it blooms, there may or may not be active ingredient in those flowers, which could harm the bees. So it's a chemical I would shy away from as much as possible. There are other chemicals you can use. But  when I worked at Cooperative Extension, I got a call from a nursery. They had had a huge aphid problem and they applied either pyrethrum or pyrethroid. Pyrethrum is the organic version of an insecticide that's made from plants; and pyrethroid is a synthetic mimic of that chemical. It lasts longer and has a little more reliable concentration. Because it lasts longer, it can be more harmful to the insects. Well, it did get rid of the aphids, but then they had a big thrips problem.


Farmer Fred

Somebody else moved in!


Debbie Flower

Yes, so you can create more problems than you're fixing by using different chemicals to kill your insects. Aphids are pretty easy to control. They're usually controlled very well by what we call beneficial insects, that eat them. And so Fred's idea of spraying the water into the plant is wonderful. Aphids exude what's called honeydew. They feed by puncturing the plant cells with their mouthparts and there's so much pressure in a plant, that plant sap comes flooding out into their mouth parts and they can't digest it. Also some comes out the other end and that's what's called honeydew. It's very sticky. It's very sugar filled, and that attracts ants. It attracts molds, molds grow on the plant and then the leaves can't get sun, so it can't grow. It's a compounding problem. Spraying water  will get rid of all of that. It also physically knocks aphids to the ground and squashes them. They're very soft bodied insects. So that helps control the pest tremendously. It dusts off the plant, which is always a good thing. And the other thing I would do is prune the tree. You can pay someone to do it or do it yourself. They're not huge trees to remove branches, to open the plant up, so air and beneficial insects can fly in, find the aphids, and eat them. I once heard somebody say you should prune a tree so that a bluebird, which is not a very big bird, could fly through the plant with out touching any of the branches or leaves. I think that's a little extreme. But the idea is you want to open spaces in there so that air and insects can fly through and take care of the problem. You want to control any ants that you see, which you also responded to this person, and said because they are attending the aphids, collecting the honeydew, the ants are preventing beneficials from attacking the aphids. You want to attract the beneficials to your garden by planting the right other plants around.


Farmer Fred  29:38

Plant them in a big enough area that they can see it like a neon sign if they happen to be flying over. Usually a three by three foot square of certain varieties of plants. Just having a variety of blooming plants, usually from the Composite family, also known as the Asteraceae family, that sort of a flat flower attracts beneficials. Daisies, for example.


Debbie Flower  30:01

Asteraceaes tend to be daisies. And then there ones from the carrot family, which have flat tops. So are the yarrows.  We're looking at a list, which you can see, at farmer Fred's rent plug.


Farmer Fred  30:21

I'll do that part. The Farmer Fred Rant Blog page has a blog from many years ago, but it's still true. It's called, “Plants that Attract Beneficial Insects”. You can do a search for that. I'll have a link to it in today's show notes, if you prefer. And you want to attract the parasitic mini wasps, because they actually do a good job of controlling a lot of aphids by laying their eggs inside the pest.  That's amazing. But you know, ladybugs go after aphids, too.


Debbie Flower  30:54

So, these wasps are not going to harm humans. They do not sting, right.


Farmer Fred  30:58

And the plants that attract parasitic mini wasps, like you said, Yarrow, Marguerite coriander, cosmos, these are just some of the more common ones on this list. Alyssum is always good to have. Parsley, stonecrop, marigolds, zinnias, and if you want to attract ladybugs to your yard, well, there's those plants as well. A lot of good ones are native plants. In California's case, one of my favorite natives is the Eriogonum. The California buckwheat, which has a long bloom season. It blooms from May through November.


Debbie Flower  31:33

I have a new bloom on mine, yesterday, I noticed


Farmer Fred  31:37

On that Farmer Fred Rant blog page, you can find a lot of good plants to build that Good bug Hotel. Controlling the ants? Would you use some ant bait?


Debbie Flower  31:48

Yes. I would also prune the plants so they are not touching anything, not a fence, not a roof, not a structure, not another plant. Because ants will travel from plant to plant. You can use ant bait, there are ant baits you can purchase that have lures that you can put on the ground. Or you can make your own with sugar:  a tablespoon of sugar a quarter teaspoon of boric acid which is sold as Roach Pruf. Mix them together, add water and put it out there under the plant at soil level. We've talked about this many times before, it will dry out in a day, you'll have to replace it the next day. But the ants will feed on it, they'll come it's a bait. Baits attract the pests, so it will attract the ants there. It'll be full of ants. And then you'll put more out the next day, it'll be full of ants again. But what they're doing is taking this sugar, this sugart that is laced with boric acid, back to their nest, and feeding it to their queen. And when the Queen has had enough, she dies and the rest of the colony falls apart. And then you're done with your ants.


Farmer Fred  32:54

Yeah, and you want to protect the bees too. So that's why you would avoid imidacloprid because the timing of the application of that imidacloprid drench, it's going to take a month, maybe a little bit longer, for it to reach all parts of the tree. And that might include any new flowers that might be in the tree when the bees are going to be there. So you have to time it so that when the flowers are there, the Imidacloprid isn't active.


Debbie Flower  33:19

The other interesting thing about that product is it includes fertilizer. It includes quick release nitrogen fertilizer, and that fertilizer will cause new growth. And guess what aphids love more than anything in the whole wide world? It's new growth. Young leaves. So don't fertilize the plant unless it's showing deficiencies, which would mean it's losing a whole lot of leaves, which it will do in fall. Not all crape myrtles, but most crape myrtles will lose their leaves in fall. If it starts losing a whole lot of old leaves or they turn very yellow, then maybe you need some nitrogen, but it's better to just use some  organic compost or mulch or woodchips under the plant. That's all the nitrogen it needs. You don't need to give it a lot of extra nitrogen, that just causes a flush of new growth and attracts more aphids.


Farmer Fred  34:06

And we should point out, too, and we didn’t: we should identify the pest. Exactly. And you know, Nancy, you said it's aphids, but is it really aphids? Might it be something else?


Debbie Flower  34:18

And if it's aphids, are some of them already parasitized? They will become big and round and tan colored if a wasp has laid eggs into that aphid.


Farmer Fred  34:31

Aphids come in many colors,  a dead one you can tell is consistent,  it's not moving. And what's interesting: if you see a close up photo of a parasitized aphid, those are ones where a beneficial like the parasitic mini wasp has put this  little hole in the backside of the aphid, planted an egg, and that's where the fetus develops and grows. And as it develops, it starts eating the inside of the aphid and then it emerges as a new parasitic mini wasp. If you see activity, if you see Ladybug activity, if you see the parasitic wasp, if you see the dead aphids on the plant, I would avoid the use of imidacloprid because you're going to kill the good guys too.  And bad guys like aphids reproduce a lot quicker than the good guys. It's like, how many generations are there in a year? Or if it's like every 10 days.


Debbie Flower  35:24

Female aphids give birth, as soon as they mature, they don't even need to mate. And they birth lots of babies. Yeah.


Farmer Fred  35:31

So aphids. You know, over the years, I've found that having the good bug hotel, and a good blast of water from a garden hose controls most of the aphids. You just have to learn to endure smaller populations and give the good guys a chance to work at it.


Debbie Flower  35:46

And if you watch your plant regularly, you may see where the aphids first infest, they don't come and infest the entire plant all at once, they start somewhere. And if you control that location by hand, squishing them, spraying them off, or taking off the leaves, sometimes I just cut off the tip of the branch because that's where they're all hanging out. Throw that away, you can sometimes remove the starting population and nip it in the bud so to speak.


Farmer Fred  36:09

You have to look at the underside of the leaves. That's where a lot of the action is happening. Also, have an idea of what the younger stages of the beneficial insects look like. Especially a ladybug. A teenage ladybug, it does not look like a mature Ladybug. It looks like an alligator that's black and orange.


Debbie Flower  36:27

It is the same with a lacewing. There are brown and green lacewings. And their teenage form, which are the eating machines of the insect world, that teenage stage of a lacewing look like a bad guy, like caterpillars or something.


Farmer Fred  36:40

They're sort of a wormy type looking thing. I always am fascinated by the eggs of lacewings. Because you only see them when the sun and the moisture is just right in the garden. And you see these threads hanging down from leaves or branches. And at the end of that little thread will be like a little white egg.


Debbie Flower  37:02

Yeah, it’s like a very thin Q tip. Yeah.


Farmer Fred  37:05

And it's, that's where that's where lacewings come from. So if you see that, it is not a problem. Let them be. Yes. I don't think I'd even spray water at that.


Debbie Flower  37:12

You don't want to knock them off. Yeah.


Farmer Fred  37:15

So I think Nancy, there's a lot less toxic answers to controlling aphids. And if you just work with Mother Nature, you can probably keep them under control. Now, you mentioned, too, about pruning the crape myrtle tree. Another good reason for pruning that crape myrtle tree is due to one of the after effects of a lot of sucking aphids, and that honeydew and that sooty mold. Sooty mold develops as the wind blows and the wind blows in Stockton. And it's blowing dust and dirt. And when that dust and dirt hits a sticky leaf it tends to stick, and develops its own problem called sooty mold. How do you get rid of sooty mold?


Debbie Flower  37:53

Wash it off. Use your water spray.


Farmer Fred  37:55

There you go. All right, Nancy. Hope that's helped with your aphid issue. Good luck with the aphids. Debbie, thanks for your help.


Debbie Flower  38:01

You're welcome Fred.




Farmer Fred  38:07

The Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast has a lot of information posted at each episode in the show notes. Maybe you'd rather read it and listen to it. That's not a problem. We have a complete transcript posted and you can find that link in the show notes or on our new homepage garden basics.net. That's where you can find that link as well as all the previous episodes of the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. There you can leave a message or link up with our social media pages, including our YouTube video page, and at Garden basics.net. Click on the tab at the top of the page to read the garden basics beyond basics newsletter, plus in the show notes there are links to any products or books mentioned during the show, and other helpful links for even more information. Want to leave us a question. Again, check the links at Garden basics.net And when you click on any episode at Garden basic stuff that you're gonna find a link to speak pipe or you can leave us an audio question without making a phone call or go to them directly speakpipe.com/gardenbasics you want to call us we have that number posted at Gardenbasics.net Spoiler alert, it's 916-292-8964 916-292-8964 email sure send it along with your pictures to Fred at farmerfred.comor again go to gardenbasics.net to get that link and if you send us a question be sure to tell us where you're gardening because as I am fond of saying all gardening is local find it all at Gardenbasics.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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