Ann Wright: That’s a fair question! | TheUnion.com
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Ann Wright: That’s a fair question!

While volunteering at the Master Gardener booth at the Nevada County Fair last week, several fair-goers stopped by with some interesting gardening questions. Here are a few from an afternoon shift, and some of our responses.

1. I have some hot pepper plants that are flowering but have no peppers developing … what’s wrong? And, do I need two pepper plants for pollination?

After asking some questions of our own, it was determined that the plant sounded healthy and vibrant, with lots of flowers, but not producing fruit. Peppers as well as tomatoes are sensitive to temperature fluctuations. High daytime temperatures, as we have been experiencing in our area, could be the reason the fruit is not setting. Dry soil conditions and windy weather may also interfere with fruit set. As for pollination, peppers, tomatoes and eggplants are generally self-pollinating, meaning that grains of pollen from the anther (male part) are transferred to the stigma (female part) of the same flower or from a flower of the same plant. Therefore, only one pepper plant is needed for it to successfully pollinate.



2. How can I get rid of violets in my lawn? I’ve tried spray but it hasn’t worked.

Violets (Viola spp.) are perennial plants that find their way to shady, moist turf grass areas. A few might be tolerated, but violets have long tap roots and seed easily, taking over areas of thinning lawn. Maintaining a healthy, dense lawn will help prevent the weeds from establishing. However, once the weeds are established, there are some integrated pest management practices that may help. First – live with the violets, or if bothersome, hand pull or dig out small areas or scattered plants. Then improve the turf grass to help choke out new weeds. If using a broadleaf herbicide is the chosen strategy, apply herbicides in the fall, and generally, more than one treatment will be required.



3. Is okra a perennial like artichoke?

Okra is a heat-loving annual plant, typically thought of as a southern states crop. But, for okra lovers, the good news is that it grows well in our area, although it does not tolerate cold weather. Okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) is in the malvaceae family which includes mallow, cotton, hibiscus and hollyhock. It hosts large, lovely flowers and is a lovely addition to an edible ornamental garden.

4. Is it OK to use Neem Oil for bugs I’m finding on my organic vegetable plants?

While considered to have a low toxicity rating for people and other mammals, Neem Oil may be moderately toxic to foraging bees. As a naturally occurring pesticide extracted from the seed of the neem tree, Neem Oil should be applied during the late evening, night or early morning when bees are not foraging, and when plants are not blooming. As with any pesticide, including Neem Oil, always read the label and apply according to directions. Consult the UC Davis Integrated Pest Management website for more information (http://ipm.ucanr.edu/TOOLS/PNAI/pnaishow.php?id=53).

5. How should I add kitchen scraps to my compost?

Kitchen scraps can be a great source of nitrogen for compost piles. Collect kitchen waste inside in a sealed container until quite slimy and no longer attractive to rodents, then layer this mucky mess into your compost pile with stockpiled browns, or dig a hole in the hottest part of your compost pile using a pitchfork and bury kitchen waste at least 12 inches deep. Do not compost pig, dog, cat or human feces in your main compost pile because they contain pathogens/viruses/parasites that require prolonged high temperatures to be destroyed.

6. My compost doesn’t seem to be breaking down very quickly. What now?

Composting happens! But the process will be made easier by ensuring there are equal parts of mixed browns and greens, and importantly, add water to the pile. Compost should be about as moist as a well wrung-out sponge. It should be moist to touch but yield no liquid when squeezed. This provides a thin film of moisture on materials for the decomposer organisms while still allowing air into their surroundings. If the pile is too wet, it should be turned and loosened to bring air back into the pile for better drainage and drying. If the pile is too dry, it may be soaked from above with a trickling hose. A more effective method is to turn the pile and rewet the material as it is being turned. Certain materials will shed water or become damp only on their surface.

For more information on composting, join the Master Gardeners of Nevada County for a virtual workshop, today from 9-10 a.m. on Zoom, “Compost is the Gardener’s Best Friend.” Go to the website at http://ncmg.ucanr.org/ for more details and the link to access the Zoom workshop. On Aug. 28, Master Gardeners will present a workshop via Zoom, “Broccoli, Lettuce & Kale – Growing Cool Season Vegetables in the Foothills.”

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener

Master Gardeners of Nevada County are ready to answer home garden questions at the Nevada County Fair last week.
Photo by Lisa Moody, MGNC

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