Spray drift, dry weather, mites are a problem

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By Dennis Morgeson

Last week was probably the busiest week I have had in extension.  I went out to numerous gardens and looked at hundreds of tomato plants, all of which had what appeared to be 2-4D damage.  Now I know some damage can come from neighbors and even the homeowners spraying for broadleaf weeds, (last week’s article) but there is little doubt where the spray damage came from when it is within a rocks throw of a newly planted corn field!  Homeowners have called wanting something done or said but this isn’t an Extension issue.  It is actually a neighbor to neighbor issue that sadly can end up as a legal issue in court.
For my part I just want everyone to understand the problem not just home owners but farmers and farm stores and anyone that sprays herbicides.  Anytime a person or entity sprays a chemical such as a herbicide they are liable for whatever that chemical does.  With the wet weather in May corn planting has gotten behind and most farmers have been in a hurry to plant since the prices are high and most of us can understand from a financial standpoint, but if you spray you need to be courteous of your neighbor’s gardens and vineyards.  Don’t spray on a windy day, don’t spray real close to the property lines if you can help it and give your neighbors a heads up.  If there had been small fields of tobacco out like say 15 years ago and as much corn had been planted with applications of 2-4D we would have had a catastrophe!  Most homeowners aren’t going to sue over a couple twisted tomato plants or a few twisted branches on a maple tree but if spray damage spreads to another economically important crop such as a vineyard there is going to be a problem!  Most of the time spray drift is not as widespread as this year and most of the time it isn’t drifting onto a commercially important cash crop but if it does I just want the sprayer to know they are liable and could end up in court.  Let’s all be neighborly and think before we spray.
It is hard to believe that we could get 20 inches of rain in 30 days, have a light frost Derby week, and then have two straight weeks of mid 90 degree weather for the beginning of June, but we did!  It has gotten dry fast and the ground has huge cracks in it from the huge fluctuation in moisture and temperature.  Now, with all that has happened there are a lot of plants that are showing drought stress especially newly planted trees and shrubs.  You need to water these plants at least one inch per week during the growing season especially the first year.
I planted a few apple trees in March and noticed last week that there were yellow leaves on a few of them upon walking down to take a look at what was actually drought stress I looked at the base of the trees and all of them had cracks in the soil around them an inch wide leaving direct hot air penetration to the root systems.  I kid you not I let the water hose run around one of them and it took five minutes for the cracks to fill up with water!  I also have already watered newly planted blueberries a few times, they are shallow rooted, young plants, and they do not like hot dry weather.  If I hadn’t watered them I am sure I would have lost them by now.
In the vegetable garden all is still well but we do need some rain!  I planted…well the girls and I planted pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, and spaghetti squash last week and instead of watering after planting we just poured a cup or two were each seed was and covered it.  They germinated in three days!  I planted some corn last week as well without added water and don’t have much germination yet so moisture is definitely becoming the limiting factor in the vegetable garden as well.
Most ornamental plants aren’t showing much drought stress yet if they had a couple years under their belts already but there has been a spider mite explosion it seems.  I have been to several landscapes lately and spruces of all kinds are getting hit hard!  The two spotted spider mites this time of year are the pest and they love hot dry weather.  Mites are very difficult to control and absolutely impossible to eradicate.  The best sprays are miticides and they are expensive.  Two of the best are floramite and avid.  Other insecticides are labeled for mites but give very little control….malathion and orthene just to name a few.  The new Bayer Advanced soil drench that is systemic and sevin actually make mites worse.  These poisons don’t kill them but makes them stressed which in turn causes them to lay more eggs thus increasing the damage!
There have been some signs of early blight on tomatoes so if you are planting in the same general location as last year you should play close attention to make sure you can get a jump on it early.  Pull any leaves that are showing blight symptoms such as spotting and yellowing and discard them.  Make sure to have a good layer of mulch around each plant to prevent soil splash and spray with a fungicide such as daconil (chlorothalonil), maneb, or mancozeb.  Be sure to cover all plant surfaces to kill as many spores as possible.
While we are on tomatoes there have been some of you that are concerned that the tomato blooms have been falling off and not getting pollinated.  This is due to the high heat for the most part.  When the daily temperatures get above 90 with night time lows above 70 pollination is reduced in tomatoes.  Now that we have had a couple of cooler days you should noticed more small fruits forming.