Violent Storm Tests Cable System

Back in May of 2007 a client from Schwenksville came to me with a dilemma: she has a big Norway maple near the street in front of her house that was very much alive, but in very fragile condition because of extensive decay from old injuries.  The best thing to do, I told her, would be to cut down the tree, because it was a hazard – if it broke, which it eventually would, it was likely to land in the street, pulling down high voltage wires and possibly hurting someone driving by.

She did not want to remove the tree because it provided a screen from the road, plus it would be an expensive job.  She wanted an alternative solution to reduce the risk.  A typical cable system would not be a long-term repair,  the tree was way too far gone for that.  But I offered a compromise plan of installing a non-static cable – a special very strong hollowbraid Dacron rope with big eye splices connecting it to the main trunk and the perilous leader over the street.  This would protect the weak branch to a degree but, more importantly, keep it from crashing into the street if it did break.

Well, yesterday it broke.  There was no way it could withstand the extremely violent winds from the thunderstorm that came through yesterday afternoon.  But the cable held, and the big heavy branch remained suspended above the street.  We had the mess cleaned up by 8:00 this morning, to the relief of the concerned client.


Another “Emerald Ash Borer” Scare

I was called to the clients’ home because her beloved huge white ash was not looking healthy- lots of dead wood- and had been receiving a hammering from wood peckers.  When I checked the tree, besides the woodpecker holes, I observed many exit holes in the bark that had been produced by boring insects.  Some were the typical oval shape of the ash-lilac borer, but some had that dreaded “D” shape that could possibly indicate EMERALD ASH BORER.

Sure looks similar to E.A.B!

I looked closer, picking away at some of the dead bark and poking into the borer holes.  Eventually I found, to my relief (and the tree owner, Anna’s!), the wing cover of an adult ash- lilac borer in one of the “D” shaped holes.  False Alarm!! Not EAB!


The client REALLY wanted to save the tree, but I didn’t want to waster her money on an expensive pruning job if it were doomed anyway because of Emerald Ash Borer.  So my men climbed the tree and checked the dead branches, also, for signs of E.A.B. infestation.  All clear.  We went ahead with the pruning.  The tree is not in the greatest health but it’s now a lot safer without all those dead branches above the driveway and patio.  And it looks nicer too, don’t you think?




Update on Tomato Late Blight

It looks like I might not lose my remaining tomato plants.  Last Saturday – 1 week ago today – I removed and burned all of the plants that showed severe symptoms.  But most of the plants had some part that looked infected, and instead of destroying them I pruned out the bad parts.  I have been spraying with Daconil, and a week ago I started also using Agrifos – a fungicide containing potassium salts of phosphorous acid.  This is a material that can possibly be used by organic gardeners.  I have used Agrifos experimentally, along with a material to enable it to penetrate the bark, on trees, and just learned it’s registered for food crops also.  In the past week I have seen no spread of the late blight disease in  my garden.

Oh, and by the way, I got my first ripe tomatoes this week.  The earliest in the summer I can ever remember.  They are on the Rutgers’ Mortons that are advertised to be an early ripener.  I guess they are!

Cedar Apple Rust

A client in Collegeville asked me to look at her apple trees, which appeared unhealthy as the leaves were turning color and dropping off.

Viewed up close, the leaves display the orange colored lesions typical of cedar apple rust.


Nearby, at the property line, is an Eastern red cedar tree that is completely infested with cedar apple rust galls.

This is an interesting disease because it has a two year life cycle – spores (aeciospores) released in summer from the fungal fruiting bodies on the apple leaves travel through the air and when they land on Eastern red cedar or another susceptible juniper infect that host and produce galls that, in the spring, produce spores (basidiospores) that, in turn, infect leaves of nearby apple trees.  To see the fruiting galls on juniper in spring (an incredible sight!) scroll to the April 21 entry in this column.

I also noticed evidence of a canker fungus disease (possibly Botrosphaeria) and fireblight, a disease caused by a bacteria – Erwinia amylovora – both causing injury and death of branches.

If my client can convince her neighbor to remove the cedar tree (it is not a nice tree, either location or health-wise_ her apple trees will probably have much less leaf-spot problems in future years.

This winter we will do maintenance pruning on the apple trees, including removing the dead wood.  This should reduce the problem with the Botrosphaeria and Erwinia diseases.

More on Tomato Late Blight

What Should the Home Gardener Do?

So up to now the only advice I have heard has been, basically, :  if you have late blight there is nothing you can do to save your plants – rip them all out and carefully dispose of them to prevent the spread of the pathogen.  But today, I found some more in-depth advice on the Penn State Master Gardeners blog.  Check these 2 very interesting articles:

* Late Blight – What Should the Home Gardener Do? – Rescuing Plants

* Late Blight – What Should the Home Gardener Do? – Destroying Plants

You need to click Permalink at the bottom of the articles to see the comments.

Also, here are 2 good articles that explain a little about who and what are responsible for this problem.

* Greenhouse Grower – Disease Costs Bonnie Plants $1 M in Recall

* Garden Detective – Alert – Late Blight Disease… and Update – Late Blight Disease


!! UPDATE !!


Recently I sent samples of my unhealthy tomato plants to the Plant Disease Clinic at Penn State.  They called me right back and confirmed that my plants had late blight.  If you grow tomatoes PLEASE READ my previous articleabout late blight, and please examine your plants.  This is an extremely serious situation.  And if you do have it, it affects not only you but your neighbors and any local tomato farmers!



A couple of weeks ago I bought a tomato plant at Home Depot and planted it in a barrel on my deck.  Shortly after planting it, it developed severe disease symptoms, so I pulled it out and tossed it in the weeds.

Then last Monday (6/29) I got an email message from Rutgers University Ag. Station, warning that the Northeastern U.S. has a disease problem that is different from other years.

The disease is late blight (Phytopthora infestans).  This is the disease that caused the Irish potato famine.  It kills infected tomato, potato and other related species of plants VERY QUICKLY and is also EXTREMELY CONTAGIOUS.  The cool wet weather we’ve experienced is the ideal condition for late blight development.

But what’s really different about this year is that late blight has never been seen this early in the season over a large region.  And worst of all, infected plants have been distributed from Ohio to Maine through large retail stores that sell a big volume of plants all originating from the same supplier (Bonnie Plants, of Georgia, according to sources I located on the internet).

So yesterday, I stopped at the same Home Depot and tried to warn the person in charge of the plant department.  She said “what do you want from me?”  I was only trying to be helpful, but that wasn’t at all appreciated.  I guess there’s a lot of money at stake for these big companies, but I do not agree with their apparent unwillingness to face up to the problem.  Then I went home and examined the tomato plants in my garden, about 80 plants, mostly heirlooms I grew from seed.  Five of the Rutgers Ramapos were infected with late blight and I yanked them (and disposed of the properly this time!)

So the message is monitor your tomato plants VIGILANTLY to watch for late blight symptoms, especially is you got some of them at what the Rutgers and Penn State alerts refer to as “the Big Box Stores.”  The wet leaf lesions and dark colored lesions on the stems are quite obvious to the naked eye.

infected leaf and stem on Ramapo tomato in my garden

infected leaf and stem on Ramapo tomato in my garden

If you find infected plants, remove them immediately, don’t compost them-bag them and get rid of them to reduce the chance of spreading the innoculum.  For more info go to