Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Bermudagrass, Tomato Suckers, Cypress Knees, and Walnut Sphinx Moth


Seed turf-type Bermudagrass in trials at LSU. Photo: LSU AgCenter.


Ethel of Jena asked for help with establishing turf, “We are clearing some land, and need to plant grass. The land still has some trees on it, but we just want something planted to keep down the weeds. We may eventually put a rent trailer on the property, so we just want some grass to keep mowed. Any recommendations of what to plant? It will be very hard to irrigate it.”

Centipede is out due to lack of irrigation. Bermudagrass will grow from seed except in shade. St. Augustine seed are sterile, and sodding is expensive.

[AHA] thinks seeding in Bermudagrass may be your best choice. Where it is shady, you could buy some zoysia sod and it will eventually choke out weeds.

69_fig_2_removing_tomato_suckerspngAn illustration of how to identify suckers on a tomato plant. The red circles indicate the location of suckers. Image: Dr. Kiki Fontenot.

Tomato Suckers

Steve called the AgCenter, and he is growing beautiful tomato plants of the Celebrity and Big Beef varieties. However, the fruit is small, about golf ball size, and he wants to know if he can do anything about improving the size.

Dr. Kiki Fontenot, the AgCenter’s vegetable specialist, shared her thoughts in improving the size of tomato fruit, “I would pull all suckers off the tomato plants especially those below the second and even third flower set. This will allow the plant to produce fewer but larger fruit.

Also, what kind of light does he have? To get the biggest best and most fruit you really need 6-8 hours of direct sunlight.

A well-fed, well-watered plant will produce well. So, irrigate and the ground soil should stay moist, not saturated, and once the plant begins blooming. I like to give a little nitrogen each week.

But suckering is probably the best method to improve individual fruit size.”


Baldcypress knees, a natural feature of this wetland tree. Photo:

Cypress Knees

Lenny had a landscape question of interest to any homeowner with baldcypress trees, “I have a very tall tree in my yard that is sending knees throughout my yard. I want to remove them and need to know if this is safe for the tree and will it increase the growth of more knees.

Is there a proper procedure to follow?”

In 2015, Dan Gill, retired AgCenter horticulturist, made a recording for the “Get It Growing” radio program about removing cypress knees. He discusses leaving knees in flower beds as a landscape feature. For lawns, he recommends digging down an inch below ground level around a knee, and then use a pruning saw to cut off the knee. Finally, cover the hole with soil.

An extension agent in Arkansas recommends against using a stump grinder on knees because of damage to the entire root system. Finally, there is no known growth response of knees growing back after removal.


An adult walnut sphinx moth. Photo: Kelley McCollom Egler.

Walnut Sphinx Moth

Kelley sent an image and note through Messenger, “Omg 😳 dude do u know what type of moth this is?????”

This large moth with leaf-like wings is a walnut sphinx moth, and it is native to Louisiana and many other states east of the Rocky Mountains. According to “” website, “Walnut sphinx caterpillars eat the leaves of walnut, butternut, hickory, alder, beech, hazelnut, and hophornbeam trees.” The adult moths do not eat anything because their only task is to mate. After mating, the female lays eggs.

If you want to contact Roots, Shoots, Fruits and Flowers, please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 337-463-7006 or Also, you can be on the “green thumbs” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

6/9/2020 4:23:02 PM
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