Gardening columnist Tim Daly answers questions from readers.

Question: I have a few eggplants were growing in my vegetable garden that was planted in May. They have many small holes in the leaves. What is causing them, and what can I do to prevent these holes from appearing?

— Norma, Norcross

Answer: Norma, your eggplants are being attacked by flea beetles. They are named as such since the insects can jump like fleas. They are problematic on eggplants but also attack tomatoes and peppers. To reduce their impact, apply an insecticide labeled to control flea beetles such as Sevin on vegetables according to label directions.

Q: My tomatoes have developed rotten areas on the bottom of the fruit. The area is black and soft. What type of disease is causing this malady? Are there chemicals I can use for control?

— Sean, Buford

A: Sean, your tomatoes are suffering from a condition known as blossom end rot. A lack of calcium in the plant is the cause. The element plays a vital role in the developing fruit, and a shortage of it disrupts the tomato’s ability to form. Although the soil can have plentiful calcium, the plant is unable to absorb sufficient amounts, and the leading cause is the fluctuation of moisture levels in the soil. The soil becomes very dry; then water is applied, and then it dries out again. The best course of action is to ensure the soil stays evenly moist. An application of a 2- to 4-inch layers of an organic fine texture mulch, such as pine straw, pine bark or cypress mulch, will help keep adequate amounts of water in the soil.

Q: I have a St. Augustinegrass lawn. Recently I have noticed some brown dying areas that are irregular in shape. Is a fungus causing the unsightly appearance, or is it a lack of water? What can be done to correct the problem?

— Dan, Grayson

A: Dan, St. Augustinegrass is attractive and tolerant of shady conditions. However, our cold winters can cause harm to the grass. In your situation, the source of the dead spots is most likely chinch bugs, which can be quite problematic on St. Augustinegrass. They are very small, roughly 1/8 inch long, and have a silver to black coloration. To determine if these insects are the cause, get a tin can, such as ones that soup comes in, and cut both the top and bottom off it. Press it into the ground slightly and fill two-thirds of it with water. If chinch bugs are present, they will float on the top of the water. For control, apply a lawn insecticide labeled for the control of these insects. Please follow all label directions and safety precautions when using pesticides.

Taking care of your home landscape can be challenging at times. Making sure you have the right plant in the right place, pest control concerns, soil fertility proper watering, and host of other matters can be confusing. On Monday, Aug. 5, from noon to 1 p.m., UGA Extension Gwinnett Agent Timothy Daly will home lawn and garden questions. The program will be held in the second-floor conference room of the Gwinnett County Government Annex Building, located at 750 S. Perry St., Lawrenceville. To register, contact the Extension office at 678-377-4011 or

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Timothy Daly is an Agricultural and Natural Resource Extension Agent with UGA Extension Gwinnett. He can be contacted at 678-377-4011 or

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