Byline: BECKY WERN
Q: My grapefruit tree has two branches that are shooting straight up. Can these be pruned out?
These are called water sprouts. They are often a response to improper pruning, water stress or disease. It would be advantageous to consider what might have been the cause and fix the problem.
Citrus can be pruned but should not be pruned hard. That kind of stress actually stimulates water sprouts.
Q: Something is eating my Mom's citrus, making a hole and eating out the inside. What would do this?
This damage is caused by roof rats. These large rodents live in trees and attics and often go unnoticed until citrus starts to ripen. They can be found in all neighborhoods.
Ideally, the neighborhood rat snakes or king snakes would be keeping the population under control. But we have this blind spot about snakes, and so we have largely eliminated a predator of rats. Cats and dogs aren't very effective against roof rats, which often travel on roofs and in trees without going down to the ground.
You can use traps. Roof rats are very cautious creatures and easily spooked. If you use a trap, place it along a wall or fence; these are the primary areas the rats run along on the ground.
If you choose to use a poison bait, you are required to use a bait enclosure device. This will protect areas squirrels, birds and pets from being poisoned. Pest control operators may have these. The parafinized baits work very well.
If you use a parafinized bait, watch for the dead rat body. You don't want an area cat or dog to become poisoned by the rat corpse.
If possible, it is wise to harvest citrus when it becomes ripe. That will prevent rats and raccoons from feeding on the fruit.
Q: I've had a terrible time with whiteflies on my gardenias. Do I need to spray them through the winter? Or will the insects die over the winter?
All outdoor insects are living in slow motion right now. Insects are cold blooded, which means they need warm temperatures to be able to move, eat and breed. While it is cooler, we don't see much insect damage, so we don't usually need any pesticides.
To survive the colder weather, insects have adapted to have one or more of their life cycles (egg, larva, adult) be less cold sensitive. Often they burrow into the ground, under bark, etc.
When spring comes, you may have another population boom as the new plant growth, full of nutritious sap, pushes out. …