Roots, Shoots, Fruits & Flowers: Orange Garden, Wasp Galls, Pumpkin Problem & Compost Caution


Soil with an orange crust on top. Photo: Keith Hawkins, LSU AgCenter.

Orange Garden

Roger disked his pea patch, and then some rain fell on his tilled garden plot. He saw that his soil had turned orange and wanted to know why.

Roger brought in a soil sample, and AHA took a picture of this specimen for comment by AgCenter Specialists. Dr. Kiki Fontenot, a Vegetable Specialist, made these comments, “Yes this soil very much has an orange color to it. And I’m not exactly sure how to explain it since it looked a normal soil color until it was disked and after a few rains.”

She also shared a clue about why the soil has this orange crust, “I would think if he were watering with well water or maybe had an iron layer of soil not too far under the top soil this might happen, But I don’t know how to explain it.”

Dr. Rasel Parvej, a Soil Fertility Specialist, commented on his theory and how to test this theory, “Very Interesting! Does the [gardener] have any soil test results? I think your guess is right [about iron]. This soil may have excess amount of Iron, [and a] soil test will confirm that. Also, there may be a sub-soil Iron layer that got exposed after disking and rain water resulted in increasing Iron availability in soil solution, my guess. Does the producer still have some original intact soils? If so, we can take a deep sample (12-inch) and find out is there any distinct layer.” Currently, there appears to be a lot of iron content in Roger’s garden. In general, most plants in our suffer from iron deficiency, and there are no complaints about iron surpluses.


Pumpkin patch. Photo: Kevin Hudson, MS Extension Service.

Pumpkin Problem

Peggy writes to RSFF about fall gardening, “I have some friends who have beautiful pumpkin vines and blooms. After the blooms fully open, they fall off. [Do you have any] Ideas and suggestions?

The AgCenter has a publication, “Vegetable Gardening Tips: Squash and Pumpkins”, and there is a narrative on pollination, “Members of the cucurbit family [including pumpkins, watermelons, etc.] produce separate male and female flowers on the same plant. Pollen must be transferred from the male to the female flower to obtain fruit set and development. Pollen is transferred by bees, primarily honey bees. This is of concern to the home gardener for several reasons. Plantings made in late spring and summer produce male flowers first, but female flowers soon follow and set fruit. Since bees are necessary for pollination, it is best to apply pesticides early in the evening when bee activity is very low. Also try and plant flowers and herbs (allowed to go to seed) around the garden to attract pollinators.” This publication is a free, downloadable document from


Oak leaves with galls by wasps. Photo: Keith Hawkins, LSU AgCenter.

Compost Caution

A couple of ladies came by the AgCenter office with oak leaves, and those leaves had strange growths on them.

These are galls caused by cynipid gall wasps. The wasp caused the plant to form a gall, and it becomes a brood chamber for its larvae. These galls are a cosmetic nuisance, but the trees are largely unaffected by these galls.


An image of a predatory tapeworm in a compost bin. Photo: Crissy Brazill.

Wasp Galls

Crissy shared a negative experience with composting, “In case you have interest in the invasive arrowhead [or hammerhead] ‘worm’. I have been finding them frequently in my yard in Lafayette, LA since around March 2020. Most recently they have hunted down my red wiggler compost bin and today found one INSIDE the compost bin. Ugh!!!

The first time I discovered one in my flower bed at night and it was almost 2 feet long. No exaggeration. I had never seen a worm/slug like that before, and so began my research to figure out what it was. When I find them, I do pour salt on them.

[I am] Just passing the info on that they are becoming a more common sight around here unfortunately. If only the solider fly larvae would kill them and protect my [red wiggler] worms. [This is] wishful thinking.”

Here are the main talking points about this worm, especially if you use composting for gardening:

  1. ** When handling live flatworms please use gloves and hands should be washed in hot soapy water, and rinsed in alcohol or a standard hand disinfectant.** If a gardener owner finds an hammerhead worm (HW), then care is needed to avoid contact because the secretions of HW contain a neurotoxin. defines a neurotoxin as “Any substance that is capable of causing damage to nerves or nerve tissue.”
  2. HWs are predators of earthworms, and earthworms are important for healthy soil ecology.
  3. DON’T CUT THESE WORMS!! If you cut them up and think that you are killing them, then you are wrong. You would be making of them and creating a bigger problem.
  4. If you find one these predatory worms, follow Crissy’s practice of applying salt. The response by HW is like applying salt to garden slugs.

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.

“Before you buy or use an insecticide product, first read the label, and strictly follow label recommendations. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

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

8/20/2020 1:30:21 PM
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