Friday, July 15, 2016


Soursop, related to the cherimoya, is a mid-sized tree reaching about 25 feet tall. It is best propagated from seed which will germinate in 15-30 days. The fruit, which can weigh up to 10 or 15 lbs, is often used in making sherbets and other drinks.

The tree grows rapidly and begins to bear in 3 to 5 years. Unfortunately, a normal crop for young trees is only 12 to 24 fruit per tree. When producing fruit, this tree is particular about its environment.  It has been observed in tropical countries that soursop trees grown in very humid areas often grow well but bear only a few fruit, usually of poor quality. Most of their flowers and young fruit fall because of a fungus called anthracnose, which does exists in Hawai`i.  In Puerto Rico, the tree is said to prefer an altitude between 800 and 1,000 ft with moderate humidity.

Drought stress is another reason for fruit drop. Mulching is recommended to avoid drying of the shallow, fibrous root system during hot, dry weather. Dry conditions, rainy conditions and high humidity all contribute to poor production. In some areas of the world hand pollination is recommended. There may not be ample insects around to pollinate, and therefore, fruit production would be low.

Now for some humorous folklore: in Materia Medica of British Guiana, the cure for intoxication is “break soursop leaves in water, squeeze a couple of limes therein, get a drunken man and rub his head well with the leaves and water and give him a little of the water to drink and he gets as sober as a judge in no time."  

Monday, July 4, 2016

Treehoppers - Strange Bugs

Strange bugs are observed feeding on the stems of pepper  and other plants. Some are dark, and the others are green. These bugs are actually different stages of the same critter, the solanaceous treehopper.  Because the back of the adults comes to a point much like the keel of a boat, they are also called the keeled treehopper.  The spiny, dark looking bugs are the immature stage; they are fairly easy to control with a soap spray. The adults are green and are much harder to control.   

These treehoppers are common on peppers and poha berries or gooseberries (same family- Solanaceae). Tomatoes can also be attacked. They don’t seem to do a lot of damage, but of course, they are draining the plants of some nutrients. Vigorously growing plants are seldom attacked in their prime, but are vulnerable towards the end of the season. Biological control of these insects is poor except for some egg predators. 

The best and safest control measure seems to be a strong spray of water from the garden hose. This will wash them off the plant. The immature will not return; some of the adults may work their way back to the plant. Check out  for some strange looking pictures of the solanaceous tree hopper (Antianthe expansa).

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Gym or the Garden?

What activity is good for your heart and blood flow, can provide strength for the body, increase flexibility, relieve stress and as a byproduct, produce nutritious food?  Why it’s gardening, of course.
Gardening uses all of the major muscle groups. It provides those physical exercises that are listed for the prevention of heart disease, obesity, adult-onset diabetes and high blood pressure. It also provides the strength training important in the prevention of osteoporosis.  A University of Arkansas study on the risk for osteoporosis, found that besides lifting weights, gardening maintained a healthy bone mass.  

Even gazing upon the garden can be beneficial to those recovering from illness.  In a study in Uppsala, Sweden, 160 postoperative heart patients were asked to look at a landscape, an abstract artwork, or no picture. Those who looked at the landscape had lower anxiety, required less pain medicine and spent a day less in the hospital than the control group patients.

Gardeners themselves mention other benefits such as the satisfaction of producing their own produce and flowers, being outdoors, learning about horticulture and using gardening as an outlet for artistic expression. Many gardeners also found a sense of common purpose with their friends when working in community gardens.