Is this crab grass?

Q Client stopped in with sample asking if this is crab grass. How does he treat it? Thank you!

A It is rather hard to identify the grass from the image, which doesn’t show many of the major distinguishing characteristics of crabgrass. It does look like an annual grass that does not have rhizomes, which fits. The leaf blades of crabgrass are much wider than typical lawn grasses, usually lighter green in color and the plant is usually found along the edge of gardens and flower beds and also growing in lawns, particularly if the lawn is not very vigorous, soil is compacted or if it is being mowed too short. The seed head is finely textured but spreads out from a single point, kind of like a turkey foot, See the attached pictures for some views of how crabgrass usually looks.

Hydrangea bushes

Q I have 2 hydrangea bushes that I’ve had about 3 years. This year they are blooming but the plant looks terrible. The leaves are all yellow with brown around the edges. Is there something lacking in the soil. We live in an area very short of rain but I have been watering them off and on. What do I need to do?

A I believe you have answered the question already when you mention that your area is short of rain. Hydrangeas need quite a bit of water to look their best. When they are water stressed, the edges of the leaves and tissue in between the leaf veins will be where the water stress will show up first. Be sure you are watering them thoroughly and probably every few days during hot, dry weather. Apply enough water so that the area extending out from the base of the plant as far as the plants are tall gets saturated. You might want to consider using a soaker hose that you can place around the plant in a couple circles, starting about a foot from the base and then another foot out from that to apply the water efficiently.

Plant ID

Q A Master Gardener would like to have this identified. It’s growing in rock mulch and is not being watered or tended and is doing well despite near drought conditions.

A This is prostrate vervain (Verbena bracteata), a fairly common annual plant that is often found growing in flower beds, in poor sites, like the rock mulch you mentioned or in other dry or gravely sites. Some people find it attractive so let it grow, but it can become quite weedy after a few years, so I would suggest you pull it out or use cultivation when possible to keep it in check.

What is eating holes in my tomatoes?

Q I have been finding quite a few tomatoes in my garden that have these large holes in them. What is doing this and what should I do about it?

A I suspect that these holes are being caused by slugs, especially if the majority of the fruit are low-hanging fruit, near the ground. Slugs hide in plant debris or mulch during the day and only come out to feed at night. So, if these plants are heavily mulched that could make the problem worse. Look for slime trails on the plant and also on the fruit during the day, or consider going out at night to see if you can see the slugs actually feeding on the plants.

The best way to get rid of slugs is to reduce their nighttime habitat. If there is lots of much, try pulling that back away from the plants. Remove any lower leaves that might be close to the ground, which can also be a hiding place for the slugs. If you happen to see any slugs, you can use some thin gloves to pick up the slugs and drop them into a container of soapy water to kill them. Apply water around the plants then you can create a slug trap by placing some old boards or even cardboard over the soil near the plants. Let it there overnight, then in the morning pick it up and remove any slugs that might have moved under there to hide from the sun. Slug baits can also be used, look for iron phosphate as the active ingredient and follow the instructions on the label.

Tomato hornworms are another possibility but then you would also see quite a bit of feeding on the leaves. As the hornworms can grow to about 4” in length, they can eat quite a bit of tissue in a short period of time. In addition, there are usually several of the feeding on the plants at one time. Unlike the slugs, they are active during the day. So, look for eaten leaves, often to the point where just the stems remain. Their frass (droppings) should be pretty easy to see too. However, usually tomato hornworm feeding can look more ragged than the holes in the fruit sample. Hand picking is usually the easiest way to get rid of these large caterpillars. Grasshoppers can also cause damage similar to this. Of course you will see them hopping around on the plants and surrounding areas of the garden.

Pruned pine

Q The city decided to take it into their own hands and remove 6-8” of my Mugo Pine 10 days ago.... a crude removal at best.... will this damage my Pine or is there anything I can do to help it stay alive? Thank you.

A Where they removed all of this year’s new growth and there are just brown branch stubs left, those stubs will not regrow. So there will likely be some areas of the shrub that will be kind of ugly and bare. You could prune those stubs back to a larger branch to improve the appearance somewhat. But other parts of the plant where there is still this year’s shoots on the ends of the branches, should continue to grow again next year. If there are a few green shoots remaining with the buds still attached on the ends, those shoots may grow enough to at least partially cover up the bare areas.

Dragonflies

Q We awoke to massive amounts of large, pretty green dragonflies this morning after a storm last night. They were on the deck, driveway, and lawn. Some are drying off and flying away now. Wondering if you may know where they came from? Maybe they migrate? I attached a few photos.

A There was a hatch of them from some body of water near you apparently. The larval stages of this insect live in the water. They often will group together as adults, particularly when they begin looking for a mate. Be happy, they are excellent flying predators and can eat lots of mosquitos and other critters.

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