Q. My live oak tree foliage is covered with fluffy growth that looks like a fungus. The tree is only a few years old and 10 feet tall. Any idea what the fungus might be and how it should be treated?
A. From the way you describe it, I believe it is probably mealy bugs, a form of aphids that suck the plant juices while protected by that calcium coating that looks like fungus. Mealy bugs are most common on tropical hibiscus. On a small plant you can do a fair job of controlling the mealy bugs by spraying them off with water pressure or hand removing them. Acephate and other systemic insecticides work sometimes when sprayed on the plant.
Q. When is the best time to begin our winter bird feeding program? We take a break over the summer to reduce the rodent dependence on the seeds, but do not want to miss out on the action over the winter.
A. November 1 is a reasonable time. Most winter residents will be here by then. If you want to influence the migrating birds on where they will settle in for the winter, October 1 may not be too early. In addition to the seed, provide water and suet. Suet brings in the insect eaters.
Q. What can we plant in the winter vegetable garden now?
A. Plant broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale, Chinese cabbage and Swiss chard transplants. Use seed for radish, lettuce, beets, turnips, rutabagas, and English peas. Wait until November to plant spinach and until December to plant onion transplants.