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The Greener View: Cicadas, Beans and Tree Water Questions

Jeff Rugg on

Question: My oaks and shade trees look like they are beginning to die. The last six inches to a foot or more of many branches all over the tree have dead leaves. We have not had much rain, but when we do, a lot of these branches fall off. I have started watering; is there anything else I can do?

Answer: This sounds like typical cicada damage and not damage from the dry weather. The female cicada pruned the tree branches for you, even though the trees probably didn't need pruning. They lay eggs in the last few inches of the branch and damage the branch at the same time. The eggs hatch into small grubs that either fall to the ground inside the dead twigs or on their own. They burrow into the soil and feed on tree and shrub roots for one to 17 years depending on what kind of cicada they are. They don't harm the trees enough during this time to require treatment.

If the trees are small enough that you can take a close look at the remaining branches, cut any ragged stubs back to a live bud or branch. Remove any dead twigs still hanging if you want to and do any additional pruning to retain a pretty shape. Fortunately, it is unlikely that there is any permanent damage.

Q: The green bean plants in my garden have stopped growing beans. I thought they were supposed to keep producing all summer. There were good pods in the early summer, but there are none now. What do you think I did wrong?

A: I don't think you did anything wrong. Beans, tomatoes, peppers and a lot of other garden vegetables stop flowering when they get too hot. This summer, a lot of vegetable gardens have endured hot spells. This is normal for many gardeners. As the weather cools off, the beans will probably start flowering again.

Another potential problem is too much or too little water. Garden vegetables like damp soil that is neither too dry nor too wet. Mulch helps even out the extremes. Using drip irrigation or rain barrels with slow water flow also helps.

If the beans had a lot of pods developing and you didn't harvest them all because you didn't need them, the plant may be growing larger beans in the pods and not producing more pods. Unless you need some mature beans for soups or for saving until next season, keep the pods picked to force the plant to grow more pods.


Q: In the spring, we planted several new trees and what seems now to be an overabundance of shrubs. It has been hard to keep them all watered. When can we slow down or stop watering and let the plants grow on their own?

A: Most landscape trees and shrubs like damp soil, just like the vegetables in the previous question. Some trees and shrubs are native to shorelines or swampy areas and will need more water while others are native to upland hilly areas. Ask your nursery how much water is required for the types of trees and shrubs you have.

Again, mulch will help, and using a drip irrigation hose will give the plants the water they need without necessitating you standing around watering them. It can take several years for trees and shrubs to have a large enough root system to be completely left on their own. For the next couple of years, the plants will not need watering unless there is an unusually hot or dry spell.


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