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By Walter Reeves, For the AJC

Troy Warren #homegarden-all

Q: My serviceberry tree has cedar-quince rust on the fruit. What can I do? Dianne Short, email

A: The small fruit covered in fuzzy orange rods may be ugly, but the disease won’t kill the tree. As you probably know, this disease travels to a nearby cedar tree for a year and then back to your tree during its life cycle. If you want to feel useful, pluck all of the infested fruit off the tree and dispose of it. Rusts are very dependent on weather conditions, so next year there may be none. Then you can congratulate yourself on your work this year!

Q: Are there any environmentally safe mosquito controls?Laura G., email

A: “Safe” is a fraught word. I feel safe lighting my water heater pilot light, but I have a friend who refuses to go near her heater when the pilot goes out.

I do not like systems that mist insecticide automatically during the day. With no human oversight, the mister can operate during rainstorms, on a windy day, while kids are playing nearby, etc. Insecticide fog/mist applied by humans is marginally better, but I have major reservations. No matter how much the company claims the insecticide is “natural,” it is still something that kills insects. The mist will kill mosquitoes, butterflies, honeybees, and any other insect in its way. On a breezy day, the spray can drift onto neighboring properties.

So what do I recommend? For small outdoor spaces, a reciprocating fan works perfectly. Mosquitoes are weak flyers and the fan pushes them away while cooling you. For a hike in the woods, there are several repellents that work well but that do not contain DEET. I like products that contain picaridin. The feel of picaridin spray on my skin is much less oily than DEET. For a picnic out of the reach of electricity, self-heating mosquito repellent devices work nicely if there is not a breeze. These do emit a tiny amount of insecticide, but they are MUCH more effective than essential oils, citronella candles, mosquito coils, or mosquito repellent plants. You can read my resources at bit.ly/GAmosquito.

Q: I had an old farmer tell me that evergreens, such as Leyland cypress, produce small cones which open and let spores into the air which would hurt hard fruits. Have you heard of this?Calvin Cain, email

A: I have never heard this, but I love hearing gardening folk tales. Many evergreen trees have cones that emit dustlike pollen, but the pollen does not cause disease.


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