Monday | December 11, 2017
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GARDEN GUY: Working out the bugs in a late corn crop

Last year, I decided to plant a late crop of corn. I harvested it in October, and there were two or three worms in the tops of many ears. My earlier crops never had this problem. I’m a little hesitant to plant another late crop this year. Any suggestions? — R.T.

Your corn was infested with the corn earworm. It is one of the most destructive insect pests of corn in the world. But CTAHR plant breeders developed Hawaii-bred corn varieties that are more resistant to the earworm because of their thicker and tighter husks. This limits the number of larvae that can gain entry to the ear so growers can simply cut off the tips of the ears to remove any damage that might have occurred.

Most of the eggs of the corn earworm are laid on the young silks soon after the silks have emerged. Young larvae crawl down the silk to feed on the kernels, soft cobs and the silk itself. Luckily, they also eat each other, keeping populations low.

Corn planted early in the year is not as seriously affected as is late corn because population densities increase as the season progresses. Early plantings will have minimal damage; later in the year, one, two or more worms might appear in the tops of each ear of corn.

To help control the pest, destroy the crop residue between plantings or haul it off to the compost bin. This eliminates places that would harbor the pest.

Hello Mr. Sakovich, I have three blue jade vines that are doing wonderfully; a couple of years after planting them, they bloomed profusely, but I’m having terrible luck with the four red jade vines I planted. One died almost immediately, one did very well for a couple of years (but didn’t bloom), grew very high and leafy, then suddenly lost almost all of its leaves. It’s hanging on but languishing. The third one grew about six months then died, a forth did reasonably well for two years (also no bloom) then died, but the root sent out another tendril that died after a few months. They were all planted in different places in the garden, and had their demise at different times. I live in a wet part of HPP. Any thoughts about what I could do? Or should I content myself with the spectacular blue ones? — L.C., Hawaiian Paradise Park

Admittedly, you have had some bad luck, but don’t give up.

The two jade vines are in the same family, but different genera. I have not read any accounts where one is more difficult to grow than the other. I have the red (it’s actually more orange in color) and the blue jade vines, and both are doing well. Although growing these vines in less than ideal conditions, such as “a wet part of HPP,” can bring out subtle differences between them, under normal growing conditions they should both do well.

Having four plants growing in four different locales and all dying, plus the three blue vines growing well, is truly a puzzle.

Short of digging up roots and examining them for disease, along with analyzing the soil for deficiencies and excesses, I would look to the fact you live in a wet area. A well-drained soil is the key factor when growing plants under this condition. We cannot see what’s under the soil. Is there a higher percentage of clay in certain areas of your garden? Is there something a foot below the soil surface that impedes the flow of water? Are there low areas and high areas?

Unfortunately, I cannot give you an absolute answer but I would continue planting a few more vines. Maybe there are some readers who have had a similar experience with jade vines.


Mark your calendar for 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11. I will be teaching a gardening class at the University of Hawaii at Hilo campus titled “General Care of Backyard Citrus and Avocado.”

Call the College of Continuing Education and Community Service at 974-7664 to reserve a seat.

Hilo resident Nick Sakovich is a professor emeritus of the University of California. He has worked in the field of agriculture for 30 years. Email your questions to Sakovich at askthegarden You also can visit his website at


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