Q.Every summer my cucumbers succumb to cucumber beetles and that dreadful disease they spread. I refuse to use any sprays. Are there any resistant varieties I could try?
A.County Fair and Saladin are two pickling cucumbers with good resistance to bacterial wilt disease. The disease is spread by cucumber beetles feeding on the plant, and it causes the vines wilt and die in less than a week. The varieties Marketmore 80, Gemini, Ashley and H-19 Little Leaf have low levels of cucurbitacin, the bitter chemical compound that attracts cucumber beetles to the plant. Try any of the above.
Q.The azaleas in front of my house look ratty. The leaves are small, pale and have little speckles all over them. The underside of the leaves have little black spots. Is this a disease? What can I do about it?
A.You're describing symptoms of azalea lacebug feeding. Azalea lacebugs are small, black pests that suck plant juices from leaf undersides, leaving little black fecal spots ("tar spots") in their wake. Plants are more susceptible to this common pest if they are grown on sunny, dry sites.
Control light-to-moderate infestations with sprays of horticultural oil at the 2 percent summer rate, applied to the leaves. Severe infestations can be controlled with the insecticide Orthene.
Q.My husband built me some window boxes for my birthday, and I need to know what types of plants will do best this summer. The boxes are on a side of our house that receives strong morning sun.
A.Many kinds of plants will grow beautifully in your window boxes, including trailing petunias, ivy geraniums, Swan River daisies, vinca vine, alyssum, verbena and snow-on-the-mountain.
You could also plant a lovely herb box with sage, thyme, rosemary, parsley, oregano and chives.
Use a lightweight potting mix and keep your boxes well-fertilized and well-watered. Check out books on container gardening.
Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507 or visit its Web site at http://www.agnr.umd.edu/hgic.
THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST
* Plant tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, squash, muskmelon and watermelon.
* Spot-treat broadleaf weeds such as dandelion and chickweed with a herbicide. By not spraying the entire lawn, you cut down on the use of chemicals and save money as well.
* Thin fruits on apple and pear trees so that they are spaced 5-6 inches apart.
Pub Date: 5/10/98