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

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

Crowing Hen…How to Get Her to Stop

A hen can crow like a rooster.  I am not making this up and it isn’t an old wives tale.  It doesn’t happen in a regular flock with a rooster present, but in small backyard flocks with just female chickens, … Continue reading


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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Good Grapes for Less than Ideal Climate: Jupiter

Coastal Southern California, sunset zone 22, is generally not considered a good grape growing climate.  Nevertheless, we have had success with a few grape varieties over the last decade and a half.  Between my friend across the street and I, … Continue reading

Making Carpenter Bee Houses

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am upset about dead bees, Valley Carpenter Bees to be specific.  Since it appears other folks might want them dead and gone or at least off their property, I want to offer … Continue reading

Valley Carpenter Bees: A Local Mass Die Off

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been dismayed to find more than a half dozen dead female Valley Carpenter Bees, Xylocopa varipuncta, in both the backyard and the front yard.  I don’t think the dog is responsible … Continue reading

My worst Gardening Mistake…

Although I am pretty adept at gardening, I have to admit that I have made more than my fair share of dumb gardening mistakes. After 15 years at Hanbury House, that list of mistakes has grown pretty long. If someone … Continue reading

The New Gray Water Diverter

Now that our wet season is pretty much over, it is time to switch back to gray watering in the in the back yard garden. For a little over 5 years we have been using some of the water from … Continue reading

Joint Custody

My two broody hens stared at each other in their separate nests for the last 4 weeks, on fake eggs and then on the fertile Cochin eggs I bought on ebay.  I had been thinking about the possibility of letting … Continue reading