Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bees, Mulch and Beans Popular Topics of Calls to Master Gardener Hotline

Trained volunteers working the University of Missouri Extension Master Gardener hotline in Greene County receive about 50 calls per week during the summer from homeowners and gardeners seeking informed advice.

Recently, many callers to the hotline were concerned about bees, using oak leaves for mulch and fighting off rust on beans. But there were plenty of gardeners with other concerns too.

The following are some of the most popular questions and answers from the past week.

Q: What are the best strawberry varieties to use?

A: See MU Guide sheet G6135 at for the pros and cons of different varieties. Everbearing varieties like Ozarks Beauty are very popular and easy to grow.

Q: I have bees that have built inside the wall of our barn. What can I do?

A: Some Master Gardener chapters have bee keepers that will volunteer to come and remove honey bee hives. However, if your bees are building inside the wall of your barn they are most likely carpenter bees. MU Extension has a guide sheet on getting rid of carpenter bees at

Q: I have lots of oak trees in my yard. Is it okay to mulch my tomato plants with leaves from my oak tree?

A: Yes, actually it is okay. An old myth exists that oak leaves are too acidic for most plants. Acid content is not a major concern with mulches. Remember, mulch is used on top of the soil and pH is measured in the soil. Although oak leaves do contain tannins, the tannins do not affect the growth of the mulched plants. You can also use organic mulch like sawdust, wood chips, compost mulch, straw or newspapers. In some studies tomatoes have shown benefits of improved yields, enhanced ripening, lowered incidence of early blight and improved quality of the fruit with red mulches.

Q: My “hens and chickens” are not growing even though I water them daily.

A: Don’t water Hens and Chickens daily, they prefer dry conditions. In fact, lots of plant problems right now relate to all the rain and moisture we have had.

Q: Should I clip the faded blooms off my climbing rose?

A: Yes, clipping off faded blooms will encourage more blooms. Every time rose blooms are cut off, plants are partially pruned. If plants are new or weak, cut the flower stems short to leave as much foliage on the plant as possible. Even after plants are well established, never cut stems longer than needed. Allow at least two leaves to remain on each stem.

Q: The beans in my garden have rust. What can I use to get rid of it?

A: First, it is best to use resistant pole bean varieties. The grower should consult seed catalogs for current information on resistant varieties. It is also important to destroy residues after harvest. You can control rust by spraying or dusting plants when rust appears and repeat at seven-day intervals. Use chlorothalonil, (Bravo 500, 720 [lima, blackeye and drybeans only] or 90 DG 2-2 1/2 lb./A), wettable sulfur, sulfur dust, Thiolux 3 lb./A, Maneb 80 or Maneb plus Zinc F4 (dry beans only). Do not apply sulfur dust if temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

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