Tomato Hornworms & Soil for Roses

Q. Where do tomato worms come from? I check my plants daily but so far I haven’t seen any.

A. The Tomato Hornworm is the larvae stage of the Hawk, Moth. It’s also known as the Sphinx or Hummingbird Moth. It over-winters in the soil as dark-brown pupae that emerge as an adult moth in the late spring. The female moth lays smooth, single, green egg(s) on the underside of the tomato leaf and her life span is about a week. Tomato Hornworms are voracious eaters, munching entire leaves, small stems, and even parts of immature fruits. They do get quite large and the horn-like structure on their posterior is where the name ‘Hornworm’ originates. After three to four weeks of feeding, they will drop to the ground and enter the soil where they change into a two-inch long pupa. Depending on the weather, there may be from one to four generations per year. While they’re most commonly associated with tomatoes, hornworms are also common pests of eggplants, peppers, and potatoes. Most likely, you’ll notice the damage before you notice the hornworms, because their color helps them blend in so well with the plant foliage. You can also look for their black droppings on the foliage and around the base of the plant. Since you haven’t seen any as yet, suggests that they may not be a problem this year. The Hornworm season runs through September and checking the plants weekly is sufficient

Q. I have several roses that are not looking their best. I was told that I could revive them by putting new topsoil down. I’d like add new soil but, do I have to remove the old soil completely first?

A. I wouldn’t recommend significantly raising the soil level to revive them as roses are very resilient plants. Instead, they should bounce back with the addition of nutrients and water. It would be okay to cover up some exposed roots but you don’t want to bury the bud union. The bud union is the location where a desired variety is budded on to a rootstock. This is a large knot near the soil line. Modern garden roses such as Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, and Floribundas are not growing on their own roots; hence, its important not to raise the soil level significantly. The additional soil should be cultivated around the plants. The soil microbes will then break down the organic matter and supply additional nutrients to the plant(s). Also, don’t be concerned with the surface roots, as you’ll find plenty. Roses are heavy feeders along with needing lots of moisture. Dr. Earth Rose Food is suggested as it contains the basic nutrients plus additional microbes. Monthly applications are recommended and always water your plants the day before or at least four hour before feeding and immediately afterwards. Roses are watered at least three times a week during the summer and more often when the temperatures are over ninety degrees. You should see a marked difference in your roses within six weeks.

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is www.dirtgardener.com and you can send questions by email at dirtgarden@aol.com or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523 and on Facebook at Facebook.com/Buzz.Bertolero