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All Past Questions and Answers Library | June 2008



This month's questions concern:

Snail Control
Getting Rid Of Daisies In Lawn
How To Take Clematic Cuttings
Getting Rid of Pumpkin Beetles
How to Harvest Rhubarb
Is It Too Late For Dahlia Tubers

Please scroll down to read the answers.


Question #1:  Snail Control

Question:  I live in the north of England and it can be very wet at times. We are being overrun by snails, any tips as to how to deal with them? Thank you.

 Alan Robson, Blyth, Northumberland, England

Question:  Are there any natural products that I can use on my plants instead of using slug pellets. I heard they can kill hedgehogs.

 Susan Kenny, Tallaght, Dublin, Irelend

 

ANSWER:  Hi Alan and Susan! I hope you don't mind my grouping your questions together. It's easier to answer that way!

We have the most comprehensive guide on how to deal with snails and slugs. It has over 12 organic solutions, so I know you will both love it.

Read it here: How To Kill Snails and Slugs The Definitive Guide



Question #2:  Getting Rid Of Daisies In Lawn

Question:  I have a very good lawn which I apply weed & feed to every year but I still get patches of daisies growing. How do I get rid of them without making patches in the lawn?

 Bill Patterson, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, UK

 

ANSWER:  Hi Bill! Well unfortunately, sooner or later, if you get rid of the daisies (Bellis perennis), you are going to make some patches.

The good news however, is that you can make the patches go away. Here is what I would do.

First of all, daisies are common in short-cut lawns, so let the grass to grow slightly longer, and they will not like the competition.

Then, depending upon how large an area you are working with, you can either hand weed to remove them with the roots and the runners, or spot spray them with an organic broadleaf weed killer. The problem with organic weed killers is that most of them will only burn back the top foliage and they won't kill the root.

I don't like to recommend chemicals, but you can always try to spot spray with a systemic (when herbicides are absorbed by plant organs and translocated throughout the weed), spray like Weed B Gon. That will kill the entire plant down to the root.

When the daisies are gone, then simply patch your lawn either with seed or small pieces of sod. It is fast to do and the patches will fill in in just a couple of weeks.

I have already done a detailed article on patch repair and you can read it at: Grow a Green, Lush Lawn - Part 2

Weeds in the lawn are the constant nemesis of us all. Just decide how firm a hand you want to take and then follow through. 90 percent of weed control really is about diligence and persistence, and I know you can do it.



Question #3:  How To Take Clematic Cuttings

Question:  Please would you let me know how to take a clematis cutting?

 Barry White, Brighton and Hove, UK

 

ANSWER:  Hi Barry! Clematis are great plants to grow from cuttings because they are pretty easy to do.

Here is what you do:

1. The best time to take cuttings is from June through August and you want to use cuttings with 1-2 nodes of firm new growth. The reason to wait until the growth is firm, is to insure that the buds will be mature enough to grow. Test by bending to see if a shoot will snap or bend. If it snaps, it is mature enough and that is where you need to make your bottom cut.

2. Clematis is one of the few plants that will root anywhere along the stem, but take 2 node cuttings after they have finished blooming.

3. Remove the bottom set of leaves and dip in rooting hormone powder, 0.3% IBA (Rooting hormone).

4. Stick the cuttings in well drained potting soil mixed with perlite, and make sure you can cover the pot or tray in a clear plastic bag. Mist them once in a while if there is no condensation showing inside the bag.

5. Keep them in a light place, but out of direct sun. Individual pots are handy to use, because sometimes if you try to pot the cuttings up too soon after rooting, they can die.

6. It will take around 28-75 days to root.

That's it. Pretty easy!




Question #4:  Getting Rid of Pumpkin Beetles

Question:  I have tried to plant pumpkins for several years. Every year, the pumpkin beetles come and just destroy the fruits and the vine itself. I have stopped planting them. But if there is a solution, I would like to plant again. I wonder how the farmers have no problem with pumpkin beetles/squash borers.

 Manny Lele, Garland, TX, USA

 

ANSWER:  Hi Manny! Well, if you're having problems, the farmers are probably having problems too. The difference is that they take 24 hour a day, 7 day a week care of their plants, and they probably are using some pretty hefty chemicals to keep their plants safe, because the plants represent their income and livelihood.

Now you did mention a couple of different pests that could be your problem, but there are also a couple of other pests that you didn't mention, that could be your problem. Gardening is like that isn't?

One of your problems could be that pumpkin patches have recently begun to be stricken with a bacterial wilt that is carried by the striped cucumber beetle. The bacterial wilt on pumpkins is becoming more widespread as the beetles are becoming more numerous.

Until a few years ago, pumpkins were resistant, unlike melons and cucumbers, and growers are often confused when the disease is identified in their patches because pumpkins were not affected until recently.

Striped or spotted cucumber beetles feed on the ripening fruits ruining them and spreading the bacterial wilt.

Another problem pest could be the squash vine borer. The body and wings of adult moths are colored with red and black scales, and they resemble wasps. Moths lay eggs at the base of vines, and larvae tunnel within the vines, causing them to wilt.

Lastly, the insect most often identified as the scourge of squash and pumpkin production is the squash bug. Squash bugs overwinter as adults and move into squash and pumpkin plantings in June and July. Adults lay reddish-brown to bronze eggs in small groups on leaves, and those eggs hatch in 7 to 10 days.

The key to controlling squash bugs is to detect their presence early and take action immediately. Scout for egg masses, apply insecticides for squash bug control as soon as nymphs hatch and begin feeding.

OK, so how do we control the above pests?

For squash bugs: Natural pyrethrins will give some control, but making applications when nymphs are very small is key to any success. Natural pyrethrins do not persist on foliage for more than several hours after application, so more than one application will be necessary.

For cucumber beetles and squash vine borer: Some control from applications of rotenone.

Prevention:

Plant resistant cucumber, squash, and melon cultivars.

Rotate grden crops with cover crops.

Remove and destroy crop debris to get rid of overwintering sites.

Cover plants with floating row covers.

Heavy mulching can deter cucumber beetles from laying eggs in the ground near plant stems and may hinder feeding by larvae migrating to fruits

Companion plant with oregano, radish, tansy, and nasturtium

Control:

Spot treat with botanical insecticides such as Bon-neem, an insecticidal soap with neem tree oil

Use sticky traps to monitor populations and slow feeding adults

Apply insect parasitic nematodes to soil weekly to control larvae.

Unfortunately this isn't going to be an easy problem to solve. The only other thing I can think of would be to build a small greenhouse-like structure to keep your plants pumpkins safe, but I don't know how much extra work that would be for you.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes.



Question #5:  How to Harvest Rhubarb

Question:  When you harvest rhubarb do you clear cut or select cut? I've been told by my Mom that the rhubarb leaves are very good for weed control, T or F? She use to just leave her leaves on top of cleared cut patch, not sure what to do. I have 2 patches and they look like they need to be cut. Thanks Rosemarie.

  Rosemarie Dennis, Lake Cowichan, B.C., Canada

 

ANSWER:  Hi Rosemarie! This is a good question because everyone seems to handle rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) in their own way.

I have always selectively harvested, and I never "cut" or "clear cut" rhubarb off the plant.

Rhubarb stalks vary somewhat in length, depending on the cultivar, but I generally allow the stalks to get 10 to 15 inches (25 to 35 cm) long before harvest.

To remove the stalks, I never cut them with a knife because cutting leaves behind a stub that will decay, and I don't want to accidentally injure any new stalks that are just beginning. Instead I grasp the stalk near the base and pull down and slightly to one side, and then trim off the leaves.

As for your question about the leaves being used for weed control I've heard they can kill chickweed, but I have never done it myself. I think if your mom has been doing it and successfully, why not try it and see?

Rhubarb stalks do contain a high concentration of oxalic acid which is toxic if eaten, but laying them on ground for weed control isn't a problem and would pose no health risk.

If the leaves end up helping with the weeds, let me know, I always like to learn too!



Question #6:  Is It Too Late For Dahlia Tubers

Question:  My friend just gave me dahlia tubers and some flowering perennial seeds. Is it still okay to plant them? It's almost the first week of June and it's starting to get warmer here. Thanks!

 Marissa Ciubal, Washington D.C., USA

 

ANSWER:  Hi Marissa! Well it is getting a little late, but I would go for it.

Generally dahlias are planted in the spring as soon as the soil starts to warm up, usually around March or April. Same with your perennial seeds. The worst that will happen is that you will have nice plants and not a very long flowering time before the frost starts in the fall.

Depending upon what kind of perennials she gave you, those will die back during the winter and come back in the spring.

The dahlias however, don't like frozen conditions and in your area I would probably dig them up and store them over winter. When the first frost arrives, cut back the stems to a few inches (centimeters) off the ground and dig up the tubers. Hang them upside down in a frost-free place for a few days, to help dry them out.

Then store them in trays of dry compost for the winter. In mild areas, you can risk leaving them in the ground, although you might want to cover them with a layer of mulch for extra cold protection.

I say plant them out and enjoy them while you can!




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Gardening-tip:



Stressed Plants

When a plant gets stressed either from lack of water, not enough nutrients, or being choked by weeds, they actually emit a different kind of chemical.

That chemical alerts bugs that here is an easy target.

One of the best ways to prevent an attack from insects to begin with, is to keep your plants as healthy, and as weed free as possible.


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