Devonviolet

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I need help with my sick elderberry bushes.

Several years ago we planted four elderberry bushes in 30 gallon half barrels. The plan was to dig holes and plant them in the ground. One thing led to another and they stayed in the barrels way too long. By that time we needed to dig some really big holes, which delayed planting even longer. But then, last year, we had someone on the property using a backhoe, so we paid him a few extra dollars to dig four more holes, and we finally got the elderberries into the ground. In each hole, we added a generous amount of our own compost to the soil, as well as some peat moss and mixed in AZOMITE (Volcanic ash with micro-minerals) and then watered with diluted fish emulsion fertilizer. We finished with a top dressing of hay mulch. After that they seemed to thrive. Last Fall, I pruned away the top third along with any dead branches and this Spring they put on some nice new growth.

Yesterday, I noticed that they were getting flowers, but they seemed weirdly stunted. So, I took a closer look, and on all four plants, the top third of the plant, has curled leaves, and the flowers are indeed stunted - with no apparent reason for it. I looked closely at the tops and bottoms of the curled leaves and flowers, and didn’t see any bugs or tiny mites. The 5th photo shows the back side of a set of leaves. The curled leaves do look kind of fuzzy like there could be mites there, but when I rubbed it, nothing came off like you would expect mites to do. The end of one branch did appear to have spider webs on it. But none of the other branches had similar webs.

We are a chemical free farm, so I would like to find a non-pesticide solution to this issue, which appears to be caused by some kind of pest. But, for the life of me, I can’t figure out what it could be! Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


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This was the only bug I found on all four bushes.

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This photo shows the underside/back side of a set of leaves.

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flowerbug

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about where are you at? have you had a recent hard frost? have there been any dry spells or hot spells?

to me what is suspicious is how much organic material you've put in with those plants. i'd not use that much in planting a tree unless it were notably something that really liked that much like a blueberry bush.
 

Devonviolet

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about where are you at? have you had a recent hard frost? have there been any dry spells or hot spells?

to me what is suspicious is how much organic material you've put in with those plants. i'd not use that much in planting a tree unless it were notably something that really liked that much like a blueberry bush.
We are in the NE corner of East Texas - Zone 8a. No dry spells and the hottest it has gotten is the mid 90s for a couple days, and then down into the 80s.

I’m not sure it would be the plant material that we used. We have clay soil, so it NEEDS plant material, to help it hold moisture. We used our own aged compost, mixed in with the clay and supplemented with clean, new peat moss. We have used the same mix to start lots of other plants on our property (including when we put the plants in the 30 gallon barrels) and have never had this problem. We also used clean, new hay from a farm that does not apply chemicals to produce the hay. Again, we have used the same hay to mulch other plantings and never had this happen before.

With regard to what I think you are hinting at, about the plant material and blueberries - leading to acidic soil. Clay soil has a pH between 8 and 10 and the AZOMITE is similar to lime, and it would temper some of the added acidity as well. So, I don’t think the soil is to acidic.
 

baymule

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I got spider mites in my little greenhouse in Livingston, and the tomatoes leaves curled up just like that. I dissolved some 20 mule team borax in boiling water and a little Dawn dishwashing liquid, then sprayed the tomato plants. It worked!
 

Devonviolet

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I got spider mites in my little greenhouse in Livingston, and the tomatoes leaves curled up just like that. I dissolved some 20 mule team borax in boiling water and a little Dawn dishwashing liquid, then sprayed the tomato plants. It worked!
I will definitely give that a try. We use 1 cup borax in 2 gallons boiling water to kill fire ants. You DO have to sneak up on the nest, so you don’t scare the queen deep into the ground. When you pour the boiling water on, it goes down the tunnels and kills the queen. The nest can’t survive without a queen so it falls apart. We have killed quite a few fire ant nests that way. My husband loves to do that because the ants bring their eggs to the surface. He gets all giddy because he gets to hard boil ant eggs! :lol:

We also do that when we get fire ants in flower pots it works like a charm! Of course you have to take the plant out of the pot, or the boiling water will kill it. We usually start from scratch at that point.
 
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ducks4you

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IF you would put your location with your Avatar we could answer you questions Better.
Can't help if we cannot ascertain that this was weather related. Sorry.
"The American Black Elderberry is deemed hardy in zones 3-8. "
Growing outside of the plants' Happy Zone isn't wise. Plus you have created a possible drought problem leaving them in pots too long. Only so many times it can recover and still be happy,
I don't even TRY to grow Crepe Myrtle, but I've seen it tried locally.
 

Devonviolet

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IF you would put your location with your Avatar we could answer you questions Better.
Can't help if we cannot ascertain that this was weather related. Sorry.
"The American Black Elderberry is deemed hardy in zones 3-8. "
Growing outside of the plants' Happy Zone isn't wise. Plus you have created a possible drought problem leaving them in pots too long. Only so many times it can recover and still be happy,
I don't even TRY to grow Crepe Myrtle, but I've seen it tried locally.
Thanks for the heads up on my location. I went in and added that to my profile.

Elderberries grow wild all around us. You are correct that our plants occasionally experienced drought. Although, we did make a concerted effort to keep them watered with at least 1” per week. We are in our 70’s and experienced health challenges (hubby had a quadruple bipass and I had a lung infection) in the midst of raising first dairy goats and now meat goats, chickens, guineas and ducks, while trying to raise a large vegetable/herb garden. I am confident that the elderberries survived that, since when we planted them in the ground early last year, they immediately put on new growth with multiple shoots around each plant. They were beautiful specimen plants & this Spring they tripled in size. :weee

Last evening, DH sprayed them well with dissolved Borax, so I am hopeful that this will resolve our problem. We may wait a week and spray them again. We are due to do a burn pile. So, I may just prune off the part with the curled leaves and put them on the pile when it is ablaze, to kill off those buggers for sure!!!
 
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Devonviolet

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We had six trees cut down in early April, to make sunlight for our raised bed Potage‘ garden. That left us with a 10 foot highburn pile, with the branches cut off the tops of the trees. After having rain earlier this week it was a perfect time to burn the pile. So, DH cut the top third off of the elderberry bushes, threw them on the burn pile and lit it. That was the end of most of the spider mites! He then sprayed the bottom 2/3 of each bush with borax solution, to kill any remaining spider mites. Hopefully that will solve our problem.
We also have chiggers, around the elderberries. UGH!!! :thThey don’t really bother DH, but they just LOVE to bite me!!! I now have about 12 chigger bites on my legs. :barnieSo I stayed away while he worked on the bushes and burn pile.

I know that conventional wisdom says spread sulfur powder on the ground, with chiggers. However, I suggested he spray the remaining borax solution on the ground around the elderberry bushes. I am hoping that will eliminate the chiggers. The way I see it, nothing ventured nothing gained! :fl
 
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