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Homepage / Special Features  / Gardening 101  / Ask the Experts – July 2017

Ask the Experts – July 2017

By Kelly Young

My Bermuda grass lawn is dying in patches. The dead patches are getting as much water as the green, healthy areas. I don’t have dogs or any other pets. What could it be?

You ruled out two very likely culprits: inefficient irrigation and dog urine. You might want to check for pearl scale, also known as ground pearls (Margarodes meridionalis), an insect that gets its common name from the pearly, waxy covering it secretes. Dig up soil and roots in the area where the dead patches meet the green lawn and look for small, round pearls that are white, tan, or yellow clinging to the roots. Some people say pearl scale looks like slow-release fertilizer pellets. Unfortunately, that waxy coating makes available insecticides ineffective against pearl scale. Your best bet is to entirely remove the affected sod, along with several inches of surrounding healthy turf and roots.

I planted a ‘Barbara Karst’ bougainvillea last October in my backyard. It bloomed for a few weeks after transplanting but is now only putting on green leaves. It is growing very quickly and otherwise seems healthy, but it isn’t showing the brilliant colors that made me want it in the first place. Any ideas?

Bougainvillea are among the most reliable and colorful shrubs for the hot Arizona desert. These prickly beauties perform well with minimal irrigation and are sometimes said to thrive on neglect. When given lots of water, they will grow vigorously without blooming. Cut back on the water by letting more days pass between irrigations. This should encourage production of those brightly colored leaves that surround the tiny, white flowers. Depending on your soil type and exposure, water your plant only once every two weeks or so during the summer months.

Our grandchildren planted watermelon seeds in March. We finally found two big melons hiding under the vines. The kids are eager to pick them, but I want to be sure they are ripe first. How can we tell when watermelons are ready to be harvested?

How fortunate that your grandchildren get to taste freshly picked (and hopefully ripe) watermelon that they planted themselves! Periodically check the color on the spot that rests on the ground; it will change from white to yellow as the fruit ripens. Mature fruits will lose their glossy appearance and become duller in color. Another ripeness indicator is the sound the melon makes when you knock on it. A ripe fruit sounds hollow, while an immature fruit has a more metallic or “tinny” sound. Finally, harvest-ready watermelons will easily separate from the vine. If the stem is still green and a simple twist and pull doesn’t do the job, give the fruit a few more days to ripen.

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