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July 24, 2014

Gardening: Spotting disease affects cucumber family

Q. Please help me identify this cucumber problem. It has also started on my cantaloupe but not near as bad. When I inspected the leaf, there were neither bugs nor any egg sacks on the underside.

-- S. R. of Belleville

A. This is the time of the year when various diseases start showing up in dead spots on the edges of leaves in the vegetable and flower gardens. Your photo shows circular water spots, sometimes up to half an inche in diameter. They are found on older leaves first. These spots eventually enlarge into dry blotches and eventually the leaves fall off. This problem will then spread to the smaller leaves.

The disease is Alternaria cucumerina, which hits the entire cucumber family. The disease begins when air temperatures hit 60 degrees, and it becomes worse when the temperature reaches 80 to 90 degrees.

Your main control is by spraying a fungicide with the active ingredients of maneb, chlorothalonil or anilazine. You will need to repeat this spray every seven to 10 days.

Weak plants suffering from low fertility are most affected by this disease. The spores of this disease easily survive the winter in garden soil. You need to clear out all plant debris and infected fruit as soon as you notice the plant tissue being affected. Especially make sure no seeds remain, even if you have to dig them up or remove them with gloved hands.

Q. When is the best time of the year to move hydrangea plants? My plants are still small enough to be moved to a shadier area.

-- E. S. of Columbia

A. You could move your hydrangeas in the fall or the spring. But not knowing what our winter weather will be like, spring probably would be better because cold weather shock could cause dieback and ruin success.

Q. I want to slip some of my roses in the fall, stick them in the ground and put a glass jar over them until spring. Years ago when I did this, I had a powder that I would put them in before placing them into the soil. Seems to me it was hormone powder. Where can I get this?

-- E. S. of Columbia

A. Slips for roses are taken from a rose stem that has just bloomed. Cut them just below the sixth set of leaves. This has been determined to be the ideal point because the stem breaks but does not bend. If the stem bends, it is too tough. If it crushes, it is too green.

Then you just remove the two bottom sets of leaves and cut off the two top sets of leaves. The bottom of the stem is dipped into rooting hormone powder. This can be obtained from a nursery or just a garden center with the name of Hormex or Rootone on the package or small jar. This slip is then placed in a small hole made by a pencil in the soil. Be careful not to remove the rooting hormone, then firm up the soil and water just once.

A mason jar is placed over each cutting and firmed into the soil as well. Future watering should not be necessary as condensation inside the jar should take care of it.

If you want to try taking some slips now in July and August, they can be started but you would have to shade the jar with burlap or shade cloth so the jar would not heat up in the afternoon sun.

Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Lifestyle Editor Pat Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427. Or email to pkuhl@bnd.com

Do it now

VEGETABLES: Keep harvesting vegetables as they ripen to encourage more fruit development. If you allow the seed to mature, production will slow.

WATER: Check the moisture in the soil because we have not had rain in most areas for quite some time.

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