Garden Guy 092420

Q:  We had a bad leafhopper breakout this summer.  Those little grasshoppers were on several different plants in our garden.  Any ideas to handle these pesky bugs?

There are hundreds of varieties of leafhoppers, each with its plant of choice.  Depending on species, they may be green, brown, or yellow and often have colorful markings.  Both adults and nymphs feed by puncturing the undersides of leaves and sucking out plant juices. Their toxic saliva causes spotting (white specks), yellowing, leaf curling, stunting and distortion of plants. They are also responsible for transmitting the organisms causing virus diseases in plants. Common host plants include beans, corn, lettuce, pumpkin, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, potato, onions, roses and many others.

There are several actions you can take to reduce the size of the infestations:  

**Remove garden debris at the end of the growing season to reduce over-wintering sites for the leafhoppers.  The autumn cleaning of your garden is a good idea for the reduction of most pests.  

**Floating row covers and shade cloth can be used as physical barriers to keep the leafhoppers far from their next lunch. 

**Hang sticky traps or double-sided tape around infested plants. Shake the plants to dislodge the adult leafhoppers. When they fly away, many will get stuck in the sticky traps.

**Spray plants on and under their leaves with strong blasts of water from a hose to knock young nymphs off the leaves

**Finally, many organic insecticides can control leafhoppers.   Thorough coverage of both upper and lower infested leaves is necessary for effective control.  Look at insecticidal soaps, All-Seasons Oils and other sprays that contain pyrethrins or Neem.   

Q:  This was our first year growing tomatoes. Due to Covid-19, we bought everything from Amazon.  The canvas containers, the plastic supports, and the soil.  The soil was expensive.  Can we save the soil for next year and if so, what do we store it in?  We plan on purchasing tomato plants from our local farm again next year.

Growing tomatoes in containers is a great option for anyone who doesn’t have a place for an in-ground garden or simply enjoys the look and convenience of having tomatoes on the porch or patio. I grow most of my determinate tomatoes in containers because they can handle the confined spaces of a five-gallon container.  Determinate tomatoes grow to a certain height and stop, thus tending to be smaller and more appropriate for container growing. They also flower and fruit within a relatively short time, and all of the tomatoes can be harvested within four to six weeks 

Many gardeners will tell you not to reuse potting soil from one year to another because of the possible accumulation of blight spores in the soil.  However, if you are growing tomatoes in containers, you have a reduced chance of having the problem.  After fifteen years of such container growing, I have not experienced an issue with soil-borne diseases.  

If you are not leaving the potting soil in the containers (and with canvas containers, I certainly hope not), store it where it will not get wet and leach-out nutrients.  A cardboard box or leaf bag stored in the garage will do nicely, as would a heavy-duty plastic bag stored indoors or out.  

Next May, bring out the old potting soil, incorporate some new compost and bit of bone meal and plant your new tomatoes.  Finally, add some slow-release fertilizer to the top of the soil.  As you water, this fertilizer will melt and feed the tomatoes all season long.  Have a BLT for me next summer!

Do you have a topic to suggest or questions concerning your vegetables, perennials, landscaping, etc?  If so, send them to the Woodinville Weekly’s Master Gardener, ‘The Garden Guy, at gardenguy4u@gmail.com.    

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