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Gardening Q&A

Ask the Master Gardeners: August 2012

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Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or

July 27, 2012 | 1,361 views | Post a comment

Q: I have yellow orange leaves on my crepe myrtle. Is something wrong?

A: From the description it seems to be Cercospora leaf spot which is a fungus and can result in heavy autumn leaf loss. It starts as round brown spots about inch across on the leaf surface. The spots eventually enlarge, turning the leaves bright red or yellow, which then fall off. The spots start near the base of the plant and spreads through the canopy to the younger growth. The leaves then fall prematurely and serve as a source of inoculum for spreading the pathogen and further disease development. Because of this, you should rake and destroy the fallen leaves.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System recommends choosing fungus-resistant cultivars, spacing the plants widely, and applying fungicide at 1 to 2 week intervals after spotting appears. Of course if you already have a particular cultivar, you are left with the spraying. The use of fungicides to control this disease has not been very effective because they would have to be applied repeatedly throughout the growing season. Getting adequate coverage on larger crape myrtles is also a problem. Clemson University Extension Service suggests you thin the interior branches to promote air flow because good air circulation helps the foliage to dry quickly. Even though we aren't getting much rain, the weekly watering from the sprinkler is getting the foliage wet. I had this problem last summer also, but the turning color and the leaf drop sort of blended into fall when the leaves were going to drop anyway.

Q: When do I know if pears are ripe?

A: I am assuming you have an Oriental hybrid (Orient, Kieffer, Warren, and Garber) since when I bought mine at a local nursery, that was the choice. Oriental hybrid pears do not ripen well on the tree. You can pick them when they turn from hard to firm (think "softball" hardness) and when the color has changed slightly from green to yellow (according to my Master Gardener handbook). Harvest maturity in Texas happens in August and September. Ripen the pears in the coolest part of your house in a well ventilated area. Then refrigerate the fruit until you finish eating it. Aggie-horticulture suggests you first refrigerate unripe pears as near 32 degrees F as possible and then ripen as desired. I had to pick my pears too early because the mockingbirds had started pecking on each pear and I was losing them so I am not sure whether they will ever ripen. I did eat one, but it didn't have its full sugar and was crunchy like an apple.

Q: When do I start pruning my rose bushes for fall?

A: Doug Welsh says prune roses in mid August, but don't prune as heavily as you did in February--maybe just 25 percent. After pruning, you should fertilize with nitrogen. After some water and mulch, you are ready for fall blooms.

Clara Mae Marcotte is a Texas Master Gardener with the Texas AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, on the second floor of the Texas AgriLife Extension building, 210 East Live Oak in Seguin.
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