Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

That Black Mold Looks Bad, but It's Not a Problem and Will Weather Off

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

That Black Mold Looks Bad, but It's Not a Problem and Will Weather Off

Article excerpt

Byline: Becky Wern

A lot of plants in my front yard have a layer of black covering the tops of the leaves. It's widespread, not just in one location, probably 30 by 30 feet. Is there some kind of fungus going around?

Spring brings some unusual situations. If your trees had been improperly pruned or suffered an injury that would explain some sap leakage, but no pruning had been done.

However, as leaves first emerge they are very tender and easily pierced by tiny insects. The insects - probably aphids or scale insects - are looking for sugary sap to eat. The tree is growing new leaves and sending plenty of sap up to the new leaves.

The key clue was that your cars are getting the sticky mess on them, too. The sticky stuff landing on the leaves is actually from the insects. While they greedily slurp up the sap, they don't metabolize it very well. They end up excreting a lot of the sappy sugar in their droppings.

That sugary substance is a perfect growing medium for black sooty mold. The mold itself is not a problem and will weather off as the sugary "rain" stops coming down. Fully sized tree leaves are tougher and less attractive to small insects, so that should drop the population of aphids or scale insects.

This is an excellent example of a situation that is best solved by beneficial insects. Spraying pesticides on a mature tree is totally impractical. But lady bugs can slurp up 50 aphids a day, while laying eggs for more lady bugs. Get acquainted with the lady bug larvae, too - they also eat aphids.

I've been growing sugar snap peas and they are really delicious. I've noticed this week they are dying back. Is the season for them over already?

Sugar snap peas are so easy to grow and very rewarding. But they love our cold weather. We plant them from January through March. And they have to be watered and picked to keep the plants growing and producing.

A few hot days coupled with less water will quickly spur them to fill out the peas. As an annual plant, their real goal at work is to grow the seeds for the next generation. Once those begin to develop, the plants begin to shut down. Next year!

I see lavender in the nurseries a lot right now. …

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