Edible Landscaping - February 2011 Q & A

By Charlie Nardozzi

Question: Last year I grew zucchini and had beautiful plants and flowers, but very few fruits. What happened?

Answer: Zucchini, like many vegetables in the cucurbit family, produce separate male and female flowers. In order to get fruits you need bees to pollinate the flowers. If the weather is cloudy and rainy or you don't have many native bees flying around, the flowers won't get pollinated and the undeveloped fruits will just drop off.

If you don't have enough bee activity in your area, you can become the bee. In the morning identify the male flowers (straight stem behind the flower) and female flower (small zucchini behind the flower). Take a cotton swab and swirl it inside the male flower to collect the yellow pollen. Then swirl it inside an open female flower. Voila, you've pollinated the flower.

Another method is to grow parthenocarpic zucchini varieties that set fruit without pollination. 'Parthenon' and 'Caveli' are two examples of parthenocarpic varieties.

Question: Every year I get a nice crop of apples on my trees, but many are destroyed by a small worm in the fruit. I think it's the apple maggot. What should I do to prevent damage this year?

Answer: Apple maggots can be a big problem on apple fruits, and commercial orchardists have been contending with them for many years. There are some organic apple maggot controls that don’t require lots of spraying. The apple maggot adult fly is active in summer when apples are forming. They lay eggs on developing fruit. The eggs hatch in 3 to 7 days into small larvae that tunnel into the fruit. Their tunneling causes disease to enter, ruining your fruit.

To control apple maggots, you first need to identify them properly. Hang red apple traps coated with Tanglefoot and yellow lures with an attractant for the fly in your apple trees in late June. The traps will provide some control of the maggots, if you hang one per dwarf tree, 2 to 4 traps per medium-sized tree, and 6 traps on a standard-sized trees. However, you may still need to spray. Apply kaolin clay one week after the first maggot adult is caught in the trap and make repeat applications every two weeks. Kaolin clay is a natural material that coats the foliage and apples, making it difficult for the adult fly to successfully lay eggs. The clay disrupts the life cycle of a number of other apple pests such as codling moth. It's safe to use right up to harvest. It washes off the apples easily and doesn't affect their flavor.

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