Preventing Dog Damage in the Garden

  I had already planted the backyard gardens before we got our first dog back in 2000.  Shortly after getting her, she began to drive me nuts with her incessant digging, trampling of tender plants, laying on others, and eating … Continue reading

Adding More Plants To The Edible Landscape

  I actually didn’t get as many new edible plants and trees this winter or spring as I have in past years, but I still probably got more than I really have room for.  Basically, my small urban backyard is … Continue reading

How to Gently Get A Brooding Hen to Stop Setting

  Bantam Cochins are one of the best breeds of chickens for small urban backyards, mainly because they are generally quiet, curious, very friendly, easy to handle, kids like their small size and docile nature, they don’t fly like other … Continue reading

Spring Update: Kiwis, Berries, Cherries, and More…

    By Southern California gardening standards, we are already half way through Spring, and as usual, the Hanbury edible landscape and ornamental garden continues to evolve.  Every winter and Spring I change out things that under performed or plant … Continue reading

The High Cost of Sub-Urban Homesteading

  Am I imagining it or are edible plants at the nurseries going way up in price due to the increased popularity of backyard food gardening, sustainability, and homesteading? I was running errands this morning, and one of them took … Continue reading

An Uncoventional Organic Method for Killing Root Knot Nematodes

As you may have read in a previous post, root knot nematodes recently became public enemy number one in the Hanbury House vegetable garden.  I was kind of depressed about it for a few days, struggling to decide what the … Continue reading

Spring Garden Gamble: Tomatoes in February

As a seasoned gardener, I should know better than to plant tomatoes at the beginning of February, but H & H Nursery already had tomatoes in, including my favorite cold weather variety, Stupice.  For $1.99, I decided I could take … Continue reading

Gardening Just Got More Difficult…Discovering Root Knot Nematodes

I had wondered why my daughter’s carrot crop was so pitiful this year.  While I was outside this morning, I pulled a few carrots out and discovered the reason, Root Knot Nematodes. I have managed to avoid any infestations of Root … Continue reading

Our Alternate Bearing Mandarin Orange Tree – Feast or Famine

Nestled in our backyard micro orchard is one of my favorite winter fruit trees, mandarin, that we planted in 2000.  At the time we planted it, my toddler son and I were going to two different farmers markets a week … Continue reading

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Black Sooty Mold on Citrus

I had the pleasure of helping harvest, along with a bunch of other volunteers, over 450 lbs of Bearss Limes, Valencia Oranges, and Satsuma Mandarins this morning with SoCal Harvest.  I couldn’t have asked for a lovelier, warmer winter day to be outside volunteering, and the fresh fruit all goes to help feed the needy at the local area food banks.  While finishing up, one of the harvesters mentioned her orange tree at home was covered in what looked like road dust, soot, or black sticky dirt.  Based on her brief description, I told her I thought it sounded like her tree may have sooty mold.  It literally looks like soot on the leaves and top of the fruit, but doesn’t just dust off or rinse off with a light sprinkling of water.  Sooty Mold is a the common name of a variety of fungi that flourish when one or more of the honeydew producing insects, like scale, aphids, psyllids, or white fly have infested a plant. Sooty mold often affects backyard citrus, especially when grown in organically.  Without the use of chemicals, most of  the honeydew insects stop by the garden at some point in time.  Usually the good guys like ladybugs and lacewings keep them in check, but every once in awhile, we get an outbreak of Sooty Mold on our mandarin orange tree, too.

Black sooty mold on mandarin orange tree. It looks like thick dust, soot, or sticky black dirt on citrus like lemons, limes, and grapefruit.

It has been easy to remedy with a simple spraying down with soapy water or a high pressure spray nozzle a few times a week.  Basically, to eliminate the mold, the honeydew producing insects need to get controlled.  Ants can also be part of the problem if they are farming the little scale or aphids insects for their honeydew, and then control of the ants is also necessary.  U.C. Davis ANR recommends additional management methods like horticultural oil, neem oil, or insecticidal soap for dealing with Sooty Mold.  But so far, I haven’t had to resort to buying any products for it.

The fruit from a tree affected by Sooty Mold is fine to eat after washing the mold off with soap and water.

Prevention of sooty mold includes keeping the tree healthy, making sure it isn’t drought stressed, and has just enough fertilizer ( or compost in our case.)  Also, encourage the good bugs like lady bugs and lace wings to stick around your garden to eat the bad bugs.

More in depth information from U.C. Davis ANR IPM on Sooty Mold can be found here.

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