Healthy flowers on the a hybrid daylily 'Siloam Ribbon candy'

Water just the essentials every day

On watering, daylilies and tiny strawberries from Harrison's own gardening columnist

Watering has become a ‘way of life’ for us. Those who garden are watering 1-2 times a day and those who don’t have a garden, are glad they don’t! Municipal water restrictions are in place which means little or no watering for the “non-essentials”. Use your own judgement. Dead-heading of annuals and perennials is another task that should be done for the next couple of months. Once seed has ‘set’ or allowed to ripen, the plant has done its work and then begins to decline.

The vegetable garden is in full production. Potatoes that we planted in large containers with last fall’s garden waste have been producing for a several weeks. Without the usual garden soil, the spuds are clean and only need a rinse before preparation for the table. The majority of our raspberry fruit is infected with the small white larva of the Spotted Wing Drosophila Fruit Fly. It is very sad to see the canes loaded with damaged red fruit. Picking berries as soon as they are ripe in June is the only way to get a harvest. Destroying the infected fruit to interrupt the life cycle is recommended, but with a large patch like ours, that is impossible. The fly infests most ripe backyard fruit, blueberries, strawberries, etc. Commercial growers can purchase products approved for control of the fly, some are accepted for organic crops.

Questions and answers

My daylily plants have several distorted flower buds. Instead of the normal long shape, the buds are rounded and petals are thick and puckered. Are the plants short on water?

The Hemerocallis (Daylily) Gall Midge has laid eggs in the tiny buds and the larvae have caused the buds to be deformed. They grow inside the bud, drop to the ground and pupate for the winter. There is only one generation per year and some daylily varieties are more preferred than others. The Stella D’Oro variety does not seem to be affected. To decrease the number of deformed buds next year, start monitoring when buds first appear in the spring. Destroy distorted buds by putting them in a plastic bag and into the garbage. Inform the nearby neighbors to destroy theirs also. There are no registered chemical control products.

The berries on our strawberry plants are small, seedy and distorted. Am I doing something wrong?

This condition is called “cat-facing” and is caused by the Lygus species, Western Tarnished Plant Bug. They overwinter as adults in leaf litter or similar protected places and emerge in spring to feed on weeds, mate and then move on to the new growth on our dear garden plants. Eggs are then inserted into the strawberry plant. The newly hatched nymphs feed on the berries as they are forming causing the deformed fruit.  The adult insect is greenish or reddish brown with a white or yellow green triangle on a shield-like back. Controlling the Plant Bug is difficult for the home gardener. Interestingly, California strawberry growers will use vacuums to reduce the numbers, but that technique will also remove beneficial insects that could be natural biological controls. Any insecticidal control will also affect bees needed to pollinate the strawberry flowers.

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