What’s Eating My Lemons & Hydrangeas Stop Blooming

Question:

 This past year some bug or animal has been feeding on my lemons. It is an extraordinary sight to see the lemons still attached to the tree with some or no white pith, exposed to the air, and there is lots of debris on the ground under the canopy. Have you ever heard of such a thing happening?

Answer:

  • Yes, this is an increasingly common occurrence with lemons, along with other types of edibles. Later this summer, tomatoes will be victimized.
  • It’s highly unlikely for a bug or insect is the cause of the problem. Their mouthparts are not large enough to due to this type of damage. I
  • t’s more likely that the culprit is a nocturnal rodent or larger animal. Raccoons, possums, or maybe squirrels come to mind; however, my number one suspect is roof-rats.
  • Roof Rats are a different species from a sewer rat. They can nest in structures such as an attic or crawl spaces but are more likely to nest outdoors in dense, thick, shrubby ground covers. Ivy, Cotoneasters, Junipers, and Ceanothus are excellent hiding places for roof rats as they protect them from predators such as feral cats.
  • They’re very mobile so that they may be nesting elsewhere. The lemons are not a stable part of the diet, but instead, they used as a water source. Personally, I live next to a creek, so I’m not bothered by these kinds of animals as I live next to a creek.
  • Unfortunately, there isn’t one ideal solution. Netting the lemon tree/bush isn’t viable because of its size and year-round maturity of its fruit. Poison Baits are not advisable unless there is some bait station to protect the domestic animal, aka dogs, and cats from it. You might trim the foliage back so the access from some type of structure is reduced along with trimming up the lower branches. Adopting a hungry cat to roam at night is not a bad idea; otherwise, you’ll need to contact a commercial exterminator for a second opinion.

Question:

For the past two years, my Hydrangea plants have not bloomed. Is there something special I need to do for this plant in order for it to flower? Also, why do the leaves turn brown, get brittle, and curl?

Answer:

  • Hydrangeas fail to bloom primarily because they are pruned too severely either in the winter or early spring.
    • The old flower stalks and spent flowers are pruned as close to the ground as possible. The old flowers can be removed anytime after the flower fades. The rest of the plant is lightly pruned for shape. Here you would remove maybe a foot or two of the growth. The next flowering cycle comes off these stems.
  • Hydrangea leaves get brittle, brown and curl from water stress and sunburn. Those plants exposed to morning sun can burn on those very hot days. Mulching the plants helps with some additional watering when the temperatures soar into the high 90’s and above.
  • The good news is that the plants do recover. I’d pick off the worst of the leaves and let the new growth cover over the rest.