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Agricultural Questions Agricultural Answers

When can I safely plant warm season vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and eggplant?

The last frost-free date for Central Jersey is around May 15.  Listen to the weather reports for any late frosts and protect sensitive plants with caps or covers.  For more information please visit our
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What are the small reddish-brown moths flying about the kitchen? 

It is most likely the Indian Meal Moth. It feeds on all kinds of grains, flour, dried fruits and other dried food items. Animal food is also a source of infestation. Review fact sheet FS454 "Food Infesting Insects in the Home".
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I caught a number of winged insects in my basement. How can I tell if they are ants or termites? 

Flying termites have straight bead-chain antenna, four wings of equal length and the wings are two times body length. Flying ants have elbowed antenna, front wings longer than hind wings and a pinched waste (middle of body).
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I would like to plant Rhododendrons and Azaleas around the foundation of my home. What advise can you give me? 

This is not the best site for Rhododendrons and Azaleas. They require acid soils (pH of 4.5 - 5.5), a moist but well drained soil, and part-shade conditions. Soil around the foundation is more likely to be alkaline and dry. Also, if it is a full sun location, they will be under stress making them more susceptible to disease and insect problems.
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I have a white cottony substance on my Hemlock tree. What is it and how do I control it?  

This is the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, a serious insect pest of Eastern hemlock and Carolina hemlock.  The cottony material is produced by the insect for protection.  It is important not to fertilize trees with severe infestations and avoid hanging bird feeders in these trees.  Birds can transport them to other susceptible trees.  In home landscapes they can be controlled in early spring and fall with 2% dormant oil and in the summer with 1% horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.  There is a new biological control, a small black ladybird beetle introduced from Asia, that shows some promise.  Review fact sheet FS751 "The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid:  Life Cycle, Monitoring, and Pest Management in New Jersey
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How do I get rid of Poison Ivy?

The best way to deal with Poison Ivy is to first properly identify it. In the spring Poison Ivy emerges as small red leaves. Soon it matures into a bright green leaf made up of 3 leaflets. It appears as a low shrub or climbing vine. 
In the spring and early summer you can try to control new poison ivy growth by spraying it with a non-selective herbicide containing glyphosate. These can be found at your local garden center or hardware store. Be sure that Poison Ivy is listed on the label and also be sure to follow the directions given. 
We have found that the best time to spray well-established poison ivy is in August when the vines will absorb the most herbicide down to the roots. This seems to be the best method of killing the ivy permanently. 
Review Fact Sheet 355
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How can I prepare my lawn for drought conditions? 

First we must realize that a dry, dingy colored lawn as a result of drought conditions does not mean that the lawn is dying. Cool season lawn grasses simply go dormant during very stressful hot conditions. If a soil test has not been done in several years, this is a good place to start. By following the soil lab's recommendations in the spring you will know how much lime to add for optimal growing conditions. Also, follow directions when applying any fertilizer, over-fertilizing puts a lot of stress on drought damaged lawns and can lead to bigger problems. Only mow the lawn when necessary and maintain a height of at least 2 inches. Finally, if you choose to water when there are no drought limits, wet the soil to a depth of about 6 inches once a week.  Review Fact Sheet 102 and additional information
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Why do some of my tomatoes have a blackened, leathery bottom?

What you are seeing is Blossom End Rot, the result of a calcium deficiency in the plant during fruit production. You can solve this problem by keeping the plants evenly and sufficiently watered in dry weather. Plants with fruit require around an inch of water a week. Also try to water the plants at the base. A periodic soil test early in the season will tell you if you should add lime, which will also make calcium more available to the tomatoes. 
Review Fact Sheets 009 & 011
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Why do my tomatoes develop cracks in their skin?

This is also due to an uneven watering schedule. Try to keep the soil from drying out by watering regularly (be sure to water in the morning). A good idea would be to give plants one deep watering per week for most soil types; two waterings for sandy soils. You should also mulch the plants to help retain moisture. When choosing seeds or starter plants look for varieties that are labeled as crack resistant.
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How come my fruit tree doesn't produce an abundance of large fruit?

Successful fruit tree yield in the garden is dependent on several factors. First it is important for fruit trees to get a full days' sunlight. They should not be planted as understory trees. Plant them out in the open. It is a good idea to investigate some pruning techniques as well. Apple and Peartrees should have one main leader. Branches with a 45o angle will be the strongest so keep them. Also be sure to prune off "water sprouts" which are vigorous shoots that grow from the topside of a limb. A ten-year-old tree should have 5 to 7 limbs growing from the trunk. When it comes to fertilizing, make sure this is done about 2 weeks before bloom. Do not over-fertilize. This may inhibit fruit set as well as encourage disease. 
Review Fact Sheet 186
Another point to remember during extended drought conditions and especially water restrictions is to water wisely. Frequent light waterings tend to bring a lawn in and out of dormancy over time and this makes for a weaker lawn. It also encourages weed growth, shallow roots and fungal disease. Instead of trying to save a dried out lawn (which will often come back), use the water to save your ornamental trees and shrubs. Also do not use fertilizer or herbicides on your lawn when it is under drought conditions. This can do more damage than the drought itself. Soil test results, in conjunction with the facts presented on FS633 should be enough to provide a good lawn fertilizing strategy. 
Review FS 633
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Where can I find a list of planting zones?

We have a picture of planting zones on our site.
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