Every year, around Labor Day, we start receiving calls of damage to many of our evergreen trees. There are numerous small, two inch long brown to gray football shaped bags on the plants, devouring the needles. These are called bagworms. Feeding damage is heavy enough on some plants; spruces, junipers and arborvitae in particular, to have a significant impact on the overall health of the infested plants. Portions of these plants are thinning and/or turning brown and approaching the point of not being able to recover from the damage. In some cases, the bagworms are still very small with their bags being less than 1/2″ long.
The good news is young bagworms can be effectively controlled using a biological insecticide that will not hurt beneficial insects. The efficacy of these biological insecticides declines once bags reach 3/4″, so a standard insecticide will need to be used after bags exceed this length. However, if the bag gets too big and the worm has too much protection from the bag, no insecticide will work. If possible and if the infestation is not too bad, you can simply pick them off and drop them in a bucket of soapy water (picture source: University of Kentucky ENTFACT 440).
This is the time of year we receive inquiries about blossom-end rot on zucchini and tomatoes, especially in a wet year like this. This disorder affects tomato, pepper, squash, and eggplant and occurs when soil moisture is uneven. It is easily recognized by the flat, leathery, discolored area on the blossom end of the fruit. Blossom-end rot occurs when there is a calcium deficiency in the blossom-end of the fruit. If demand for calcium exceeds the supply during rapid fruit development, deprived tissues break down, leaving the leathery-looking blossom end to the fruit. It may be due to lack of calcium in the soil; however, this is not usually the case. The real culprit is usually drastic changes in weather (cool to hot) or uneven or extreme soil moisture fluctuations. When these situations are prevalent during fruit development, calcium uptake is limited or non-existent and blossom end rot can occur. What is a gardener to do? Avoid wide fluctuations in soil moisture. Calcium sprays for the fruit are sometimes recommended, but are of little value due to poor absorption and movement of the calcium to the fruit. Long term solution is to make sure the pH is at acceptable levels by adding lime to the soil (this fall will be an excellent time to apply lime). Soil test kits are available at Extension offices to help determine your garden nutrient needs.