To do this week
* Check cole crops (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale) for cabbage worms. Apply either B.t. or the bacterial fermentation product, spinosad, to the plants for control.
* Collect grass clippings that clumped during mowing and apply these as mulch around roses, but after the clippings have dried. Otherwise, leave clippings on the lawn since they supply essential nutrients for grass plants after decomposing. If the clippings are piled, best to remove them anyway since they may smother the grass beneath.
* Check roses for rose slugs. These small, smooth or bristly critters like to feed on the upper surface of leaves and skeletonize the leaves. Though no threat to the survival of rose plants, they can affect the aesthetic quality of the plants. Apply neem, insecticidal soap, or horticultural oil (read and follow label directions) if control is deemed necessary.
* Plant climbing hydrangea against stone walls or other coarse structures that need the softening effect provided by vines. Climbing hydrangea is a great vine for this area. It is hardy and free of any serious pest problems. Look around for specimens of climbing hydrangea in area landscapes as they are just now coming into bloom.
* Plant cup-and-saucer vine (Cobaea) if impatient to wait a year or two for climbing hydrangea to bloom. Though a perennial vine, cup-and-saucer vine is not hardy in this climate and is treated as an annual. It may take till mid-July to bloom but then puts on a great show of interesting blossoms with purple bell-shaped flowers – the cup – subtended by a flat layer of sepals – the saucer. Plant it in full sun on a fence or trellis.
The most frequent questions that I get these days are in regard to the large number of ant hills that people are finding in their lawns and gardens.
“Why are there so many this year?” I don’t know. Perhaps it is simply related to natural population cycles.
“Are these ants harmful?” There are two types of mound-building ants common to this region, the Allegheny Mound Ant and the Black Field Ant. The former is capable of killing plants by injecting formic acid into the plants. The latter can smother plants to death by mounding soil up and around plant stems. Both ants are capable of biting humans, especially when the ants are disturbed. However, these ants are somewhat beneficial in that they prey on other insects including those we consider pests.
“How can I get rid of them?” Like an iceberg, the top of an ant hill is only part of the structure. In the ground beneath, a mound is a complex network of tunnels. A common approach for control is to apply a dust type pesticide (preferably a low-impact material) to the mound area. Ants walking through the dust will pick it up and carry it to the depths of the ant colony. A second and less effective method is to scrape off the mound repeatedly. This may encourage the ants to move onto friendlier environs. Beware that these ants take offense at such disturbance and will retaliate aggressively and will bite.
“Why is your neighbor running down the road like a wild banshee?” I think he just attempted the second of the control measures that I recommended.