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Sweet Gum Ball and Other Tree Fruit Prevention, Gardening, and Controlling Ants
By John Fulton

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[March 27, 2016]  Sweet Gum Ball and Other Tree Fruit Prevention - One of the main things to discuss today is the removal of nuisance fruit.

You may be thinking about those apples or peaches, but really the nuisance fruit category includes things that are much more a nuisance like sweet gum balls, maple seeds, and crabapples.

There are several products available to eliminate nuisance fruit. The most common is ethephon, and it is used as a foliar spray to reduce or eliminate undesirable fruit or seeds. Some of the trade names include Florel and Ethrel. The product is effective at eliminating much of the fruit without affecting leaf growth and color, and it does not harm other plants that get some spray drift on them. It also does not affect the actual flowering of the treated trees.

With ethephon, the key is in the timing. The application must be made during flowering, but before the fruit set in. For most flowering trees there is a 10-14 day window of opportunity. Sweet gums are a little tricky since there are no showy flowers involved, so effective sprays should occur just as new leaves begin to emerge. Sprays should leave leaves wet, but not to the point of dripping. Good coverage of the tree is needed, so keep in mind the size of the tree when you are weighing this option. There are injectable products available, but must be applied by a professional. The injectable products have not been as effective as the sprays.

This product is a growth regulator that naturally occurs. Its natural production is stimulated by stress, so make sure you arenít treating a tree that is under stress from drought, high temperatures, diseases, or other environmental stresses. Treating stressed trees can cause severe injury to the plant such as leaf loss or scorching.

Gardening

With our area being split between Zone 5b and 6a according to the USDA hardiness map, letís look at some of the vegetable gardening dates. Very hardy vegetables should be planted March 10 to 25th in Zone 6, and March 25 to April 10 in Zone 5b. These would include many of the greens (collards, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, and spinach), new asparagus crowns, onions, peas, potatoes, radishes, rhubarb plants, and turnips.

Frost tolerant vegetables have a recommended planting date range from March 25 to April 10 in Zone 6, and from April 10 to 25th in Zone 5b. These would include transplants of broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, head lettuce, leeks, and onion slips. Add to that list the direct seeded beets, carrots, parsley, parsnips, and salsify, and that will take us to the tender vegetables. Tender vegetables are planted after danger of frost, so that will give us a little bit of time.

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Of course, the basics apply just as much as the calendar dates. Donít work soil when it is too wet, plant at the proper depth and spacing, and follow good watering practices (meaning once a week watering deeply rather than frequent misting). Good practices, and good weather, should provide an abundance of fresh items as we go through the growing season.



Controlling Ants

If ants are your problem, use of bait stations or baseboard sprays may help solve your problems. Many of the bait station programs will require a good week to ten days to be effective. If you want to speed along control, or just like to see the dead insects with a revenge motive, you can combine the baseboard sprays with the bait stations after a couple of weeks of just the bait stations. Remember that damage done by ants, even carpenter ants, is not structurally damaging to your home in the manner of termites. They simply make a nesting hole in wood rather than digest it.

[By JOHN FULTON, COUNTY EXTENSION DIRECTOR SERVING LOGAN, MENARD, AND SANGAMON COUNTIES]

 

 

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