Garden News: Possible answer to fig problems

For the second year in a row, Chris Carlton confirmed the presence of spotted wing drosophila flies on the figs in his Baton Rouge yard.

Unlike most other drosophila fruit flies or vinegar flies, spotted wing drosophila are able to pierce the skins and lay their eggs in soft-skinned fruits like figs and blueberries, says the director of the Louisiana State Arthropod Museum.

Instead of having firm, ripe figs, the insect attacks and turns the figs mushy as soon as they start to ripen. Then they’ll either fall on the ground or remain on the trees and start “dripping.”

“This has been a bumper year for figs, and people may be happy to let the flies and birds have them at this point,” Carlton says.

But if you see these tiny — 2 to 3 millimeters long — flies or your figs are going soft and mushy as soon as they are getting ripe, the drosophila is the likely culprit.

The key is to be aware of the potential problem and pick your fruits early before flies come in larger numbers in the second or third generation later in the season.

If you have them now, you’ll likely have them next year, too, Carlton says.

There’s nothing you can do, but at least you’ll know what the problem is.

You asked

I recently saw beautiful nasturtiums in Michigan. Any chance they would grow in Louisiana? — Belinda

Yes, nasturtiums will grow beautifully here as long as you plant them at the right time. The challenge is that nasturtiums are damaged or killed by hard freezes, so we cannot grow them over winter. And nasturtiums languish in the intense heat of summer, so we cannot grow them now.

We can, however, grow nasturtiums during our two mild spring and fall seasons.

You can plant seeds in the ground where you want them to grow or plant transplants in late March or early April for spring and early summer bloom or in September or early October for fall blooms until the first hard freezes kill them. — Dan Gill, LSU AgCenter horticulturist.

Got a gardening question? Write to GardenNews@agcenter.lsu.edu.