NDSU Extension Service
Q: I purchased Poast
to kill weeds around my strawberry plants during berry growth. I’m
having a difficult time figuring out what mixture to use because the directions
on the package only stress the safety precautions. I also need to purchase
some dacthal W-75, but it is costly. Is there a place that isn’t
so costly or is there a cheaper version? I have one more question. What
is the best fencing to install around the strawberry patch to keep deer
and other animals away? I was told to install the fence at an angle of
70 to 80 degrees with the top of the posts pointing away from the berry
patch. This is supposed to confuse the deer. (e-mail reference)
A: There should
be a label that came with the pesticide. The dealer who sold it to you
could get into a lot of trouble if there was no label with it. Contact
the supplier for a copy of the label or contact the manufacturer. There
should be an 800 number on the package. I’m sorry, but I do not
know of an inexpensive source for dacthal. You are right on the money
as far as the fencing goes. Purchase a solar-powered electric fence
and stagger the spacing to get the deer and the animals close to the
ground. You also will find birds to be a pest. Birds will eat only half
of a ripe berry.
Q: I planted some
bearded irises around my house last year. Only one is blooming. The leaves
have little holes in them. What could be eating the leaves and what can
I do about it? (e-mail reference)
A: Any number of
insects could be feasting on your iris plants! Spray with Orthene because
it has systemic and residual action. That should take care of the insects
that are dining on your plants.
Q: I received a calla
lily as a gift. I have noticed little gnats flying around it. How do I
treat the problem? Where do the gnats come from and how do I keep them
from coming back? Except for the gnats, the plant is healthy. (e-mail
A: Gnats or whatever
pest you have can be “knocked down” with Insecticidal Soap.
You will have to repeat the application several times to eliminate the
population. Be sure to move the plant outdoors for the summer and repot
it with fresh, pasteurized potting soil before bringing inside for the
Q: I planted some
Iris bulbs in late summer last year. We’ve only had one flower so
far. Do they need time to get established or are they hopeless? My neighbor
says that if I take the dead flower off and plant it, the dead flower
will become a bulb. Is that true? I have enjoyed reading the questions
and your answers on the Web. You are amazing! (e-mail reference)
A: Me, amazing?
You have no idea how many people will be laughing at your very nice
compliment. Thank you! The dead part of the flower very likely will
contain iris seed, which in due time will produce new corms (you refer
to them as bulbs) and then flower. As to the flowering of the plants
from last year, assuming they came from a neighbor – they eventually
Q: I have a 21-year-old
blue spruce. The lower limbs have died, so I removed them last summer.
This spring I noticed a growth on the outside of the tree trunk. The growth
was soft and gooey and about the size of a small Frisbee. I started to
remove the growth and found a borehole underneath with a white worm in
it. The worm was fat and about 3/4 inch long. I removed the worm. Does
the growth I removed contain baby worms? Please let me know what I should
do. Thank you. (e-mail reference)
A: I only can guess
that what you saw was the larval stage of the spruce bark beetle because
they tend to attack mature trees. Mature trees tend to be more stressed
than their younger counterparts are. The gooey stuff you removed did
not contain any larvae. It probably was the sap from the feeding larvae.
I would suggest getting in touch with someone who is an International
Society of Arboriculture certified tree-care specialist. The specialist
can inspect the tree and discuss various treatments.
Q: We have a lovely
crabapple tree in our backyard, but it has numerous shoots growing out
of the bottom and elsewhere. Should the shoots be cut off? Is there a
proper way of doing this? (e-mail reference)
A: Remove the water
sprouts and suckers. They are not making a positive contribution to
the vigor of the tree. Cut them off at their point of origin. Excessive
sucker and water sprout growth is a possible indication of tree decline,
so monitor the health of the tree through the growing season. Prune
the tree in late winter or early spring.
Q: I’m having
a bit of a problem with my Madagascar palm. I understood the leaves would
fall off during the winter, so I was looking forward to new growth in
the spring. When March hit, new fronds started growing, but then they
started to shrivel. I’m terribly sad about it. What’s going
on? (e-mail reference)
A: This is an indication
of too much salt, fertilizer, water or poor drainage. Another possibility
is that the plant was moved to an area where heat or cold drafts hit
the foliage directly.
Q: I recently moved
into a new house and want to get rid of the raspberry bushes. I want to
give a few to friends, but I am not sure if they are diseased. How can
I tell if they are diseased or worth transplanting? (e-mail reference)
A: Only a lab analysis
can make that determination. Give away only the youngest, most vigorous
growing shoots. There’s a good chance those plants will be disease-free.
Q: A friend gave me
a huge, well-established rhubarb root, but told me not to cut it this
year. I planted it with steer manure and it seems to be doing well. Should
I heed the advice? (e-mail reference)
A: You don’t
need to. Harvest a third of the stalks and keep on harvesting it as
it grows. Stop around July 4 and allow the plant to grow through the
summer. Harvesting late in the season tends to weaken the plant and
the stalks don’t have the tenderness of the earlier harvests.
Q: I planted some
tulip bulbs last fall. They are not flowering, but I do have green stems.
What is wrong? (e-mail reference)
A: It could be rabbits,
voles, grubs, etc. Take your pick. Allow the leaves to remain and then
die naturally. After that, carefully dig a few up and see if the bulbs
are OK. If they are, reset them and dust the area around them with sulfur
powder. When new growth comes up next spring, spray the plants with
hot pepper spray. Pepper spray is an excellent animal deterrent.
Q: I planted a weeping
willow on the edge of a lake three years ago. The first year it did fine,
but the next year it started losing limbs and leaves. I cut the dead limbs
and used tree spikes to help it. This year, only two branches have leaves.
I don’t see any insects and it does not appear to be diseased. Do
you have any suggestions? (e-mail reference)
A: It could be bacterial
twig blight, crown gall, leaf blight, black canker, cytospora canker,
anthracnose, scab, leaf spots, powdery mildew, rust, tar spot, aphids,
imported willow leaf beetle, basket willow gall, mottled willow borer,
scale or nematodes. In a nutshell, your tree is too far-gone. Sorry!
Q: I look forward
to reading your column each week and really appreciate your timely and
pertinent advice. I have a question about mulching and soil additives.
There are so many different products on the market. I don’t know
enough about mulch or additives to make an educated purchase (which may
explain why the success rate isn’t great)! Can you explain the reason
for the differences and suggest applications? (Buchanan, N.D.)
A: The use of mulch
is based on aesthetic preferences because all the organic mulches have
the same purpose. Basically, the shredded mulches stay in place better
than the nuggets. Nuggets tend to blown away or wash off during slightly
severe wind and rain events. To be effective as a weed barrier, the
amount of mulch needed is in the range of 3 to 4 inches, with 4 inches
being better. The organic matter slowly breaks down, adding nutrients
to the soil and root zone and improves soil tilth. Unmilled sphagnum
peat moss is best suited for use as a soil conditioner because it improves
the structure of heavy clay and sandy soils. It has the added benefit
of being weed-free and tends to lower the pH to more acidic levels with
continued use. I don’t think there is such a thing as adding too
much peat moss to garden soil. With peat moss, the trick is to be thorough
in mixing it into the soil or root zone profile. Thank you for the nice
compliment about the column. It is great having you as a faithful reader!
A note to readers:
In 1983, Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension Service assistant horticulturist,
officially started the "Hortiscope" column. Locally, a few papers
picked it up and 100 percent of the inquiries came from North Dakota residents
through the mail. After Kinzler left the Extension Service, Bob Askew,
another Extension horticulturist, carried it for a little more than a
year until I was hired in June 1985. After a brief “breaking-in
period" of a couple of months, the column was turned over to me officially
in September 1985.
The column still was a simple
question-and-answer column and 100 percent of the questions still came
through the mail from North Dakota residents. The column didn’t
take more than three to four hours a week during the busiest part of the
year. Then the Internet arrived, and "Hortiscope" was given
its own Web site. It was designed and maintained by Dave Rice, NDSU Agriculture
Slowly the site gained in popularity
as more people had access to computers at home and work. The e-mails have
steadily increased over the years. I’m at a point now where it is
physically impossible to keep up, even with more than 40 hours a week
committed to the effort. This not only leads to frustration at not being
able to keep up with all of the questions, but it greatly dilutes my other
responsibilities in Extension, teaching and research.
Consequently, I am making the
1. Since I am employed
by the NDSU Extension Service as a horticulturist, my first responsibilities
are to the state’s taxpayers. Consequently, I am asking all who
make contact with me to identify themselves as North Dakota residents,
if that is the case. I will do my best to answer your questions directly,
personally and as quickly as possible. What the editors of the newspapers
do with the column is their business, but you will get a direct answer
2. For those who
do not identify themselves as North Dakota residents, the questions
will be reviewed. If the questions are relevant to a broad audience,
including North Dakota citizens, I will answer you directly. If your
questions are repetitive or close to others that have been asked, I
suggest that you thoroughly search the Web site for an answer. If you
don't find an answer there, then e-mail me directly, but be patient.
I will do my best to get back to you.
3. Many of the questions
easily could be answered by local experts. In fact, in many cases the
local expert can answer the question better than I can. Contact the
Extension Service in your county first to see if it has a horticulturist.
If not, then go to the land-grant university in your state and contact
the Extension horticulturist. Often, the state Extension Service forester
can respond if your questions are about tree care or problems. If that
still doesn’t work, do a Google search for the International Society
of Arboriculture certified arborist in your area. These well-trained
and educated folks will make an effort to help you.
4. If you write
to me, please be specific with your questions. Give me enough details
so I can make a rational judgment. For example, "What can I do
to revive my arborvitaes?" is a question I cannot answer. Where
are they planted? What are the symptoms? How old are they? Did any recent
environmental event take place that could be the cause of the decline?
What kind of care, if any, is being provided? And more.
NDSU's webmaster has
done a fantastic job of getting things relevant on the Hortiscope Web
site, so please review the Web site first before coming to me with your
questions. I often refer inquiries to particular locations on the Web
for the answers. My Web site is located at www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/contents.htm.
There is a link on the site to go to the horticulturist in your state
if you are not from North Dakota.
Should the volume drop and
I find that I can keep up with the inflow, I certainly will personally
respond to each inquiry. Thank you for your patience and for your interest
in subjects horticultural!
Do you have a gardening
or houseplant question? Write to Hortiscope, Box 5051, NDSU Extension
Service, Fargo, ND 58105 or e-mail to Ron Smith at email@example.com.
Note to e-mail correspondents: please identify your location (city and
state) for most accurate recommendations.
Smith, (701) 231-8161, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor: Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, email@example.com