Blackwelder: Fighting off garden pests

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 20, 2011

SALISBURY — The unusual weather this spring has people asking a multitude of questions about lawns, gardens and insect pests.
Even with the extreme temperature fluctuations, many flowering trees and shrubs look the best they’ve looked in years. Below are a few questions Cooperative Extension has received over the past few weeks that may be of interest.
Q: I’ve noticed patches of these mushrooms in various spots in my lawn. Is this related to soil fertility or is the weather the culprit? Should I use a fungicide?
A: Humid, cool weather, along with some type of organic matter is in the soil, either old roots or a stump from years past. Mushrooms seem to pop up in certain types of mulch. When the weather begins to get hot and dry, the mushroom problem will go away.
Q: My flowers are being destroyed by voles. They are chewing up almost all of my irises and now starting to feed on my shrubs. What can I do to eliminate the pest?
A: Voles can be trapped with apple-baited mousetraps placed under the cover of flowerpots or other overhead cover that blocks out all light. Look for the tunnels or runs under the mulch, and place traps cross-wise to the direction of the runways. Locate traps on a 10-foot by 10-foot grid in the landscape. Continue to check traps at least once a week after the last vole is caught. An alternative control is to use a rodenticide such as Rozol.
Q: My tomatoes were doing well and all of a sudden it looks like somebody took a pocket knife a cut the plant off near the ground. What happened?
A: Your tomato plant has been the victim of a cutworm. The larvae of a moth hide under clods and in cracks in the soil by day and at night cut off young plants near the ground and feed on the foliage. These are usually a problem when the soil has high organic matter from plant debris. Old- timers say put a stick beside the plant and they’ll feed on the stick.
Remove weeds and plant residue to help reduce egg-laying sites and seedling weeds that nourish small cutworms. Till your garden before planting which helps expose and kill overwintering larvae. Wrap some aluminum foil or cardboard collars around transplants. This creates a barrier that physically prevents cutworm larvae from feeding on plants.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970 or online at: