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Rhubarb fungus can kill

by KEITH STANGLER

Q. A year ago one of my rhubarb plants dried up way before the other two that I have. I did not think much of it at the time, but this spring the other two came up fine, but the other one didn't come up at all. What do you suppose happened to that one?

A. Your plant probably died from a disease called crown rot. This fungus disease lives in the soil and is more prevalent during period of excessively wet weather that produces waterlogged soils. This particular plant may have had an injury on the root, which allowed the fungus to enter the plant. Apply a soil drench of Captam or copper sulfate to the remaining plants and the surrounding soil to reduce the amount of this pathogen in the soil to protect the remaining two plants.

Q. Some time ago, I read an article about corn gluten meal, a nontoxic byproduct of corn processing. It is suppose to prevent weed seedlings from growing new roots and kills them within a few days and feeds the grass with 10 percent nitrogen. I have never been able to find this product in stores or nurseries. Do you know anything about this product and where I can purchase it?

A. It is available locally, but you will have to look for it. Next April, let your fingers do the walking and call garden centers and discount houses until you find someone who handles it. That is, if you still want it after you read what else I have to write on the matter.

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My experience with this product is that it kills about one-half of the crabgrass seeds the first year of use, about one-half again the next year, etc. So, yes, it does reduce the amount of crabgrass with each year of use. The herbicides Dimension and Team will reduce crabgrass nearly 100 percent the first year of use. In addition, these two products will cost less than corn gluten meal (much less)!

This product (corn gluten) does not "prevent weed seedlings (all) from growing roots," but does prevent some seedlings from growing new roots. The product is pretty environmentally friendly, containing no phosphate or potash. Bottom line -- there is the good news and the bad!

Keith Stangler has 35 years experience as a horticulturist.

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