Q. Why is my home-canned salsa runny?
A. It's probably the tomatoes you used. Slicing tomatoes usually results in more liquid in the salsa. You can thicken the salsa after opening by adding cornstarch or tomato sauce.
Q. Should I be concerned about aphids in my alfalfa?
A. Aphids are soft-bodied insects that remove plant sap from stems and leaves. Heavy infestations can reduce plant vigor and cause leaves to wilt, curl or become mottled. Some aphids can vector disease or plant toxins while feeding and cause plants to decrease productivity. You need to scout your fields and be able to identify what kind of aphid you have. A good aphid summary with pictures is at http://tinyurl.com/alfalfa-aphids.
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Pea aphids are the most common in the Columbia Basin and can be found in alfalfa the entire summer, but reproduction is slowed when temperatures exceed 90 degrees. Colonies prefer to feed on stems and newly expanding leaves. Pea aphids may turn leaves yellow and stunt overall plant growth when present in moderate numbers (50 to 100 a stem).
There are options to consider before using insecticides. The use of resistant cultivars and harvesting will often minimize aphids to tolerable levels.
Planting alfalfa varieties resistant to the blue alfalfa and pea aphid is the most effective means of controlling aphids in alfalfa. Also, there are natural enemies to aphids, including lady beetles, parasitic wasps and lacewing larvae.
Treat for aphids when the following conditions exist:
-- The pea aphid population approaches 100 per sweep, and plants are less than 1 foot in height (that blue alfalfa aphid may cause damage at levels lower than 100 aphids per sweep).
-- The field is about two weeks from cutting or is under water stress, as evidenced by wilting plants.
-- Predators and parasites are not controlling the aphids.
Treat for spotted alfalfa aphid when:
-- They average 10 or more per stem and honeydew is noticeable.
-- Seedling stands are most susceptible and can be seriously damaged, even by relatively few aphids.
For a list of pesticides and for more information on controlling aphids, go to http://tinyurl.com/nf54wvs.
Q. Will grapes ripen further after they are picked?
A. Not really. It is best to pick grapes at the sweetness you desire. Sometimes you may think they taste sweeter as the grapes become more dehydrated after being picked.
-- Questions should be called in to the WSU Extension offices in Kennewick at 735-3551 or Pasco at 545-3511.