Friday, July 13, 2012

Woodchuck Woes...update

Yes, they are still here, and they're not too camera shy.

Earwigs (aka Pincer Bugs and SleeSlacks)

Have you ever uncovered earwigs after moving something in your garden like a bag of mulch, composted manure or potting soil?

When I was little, my sister and I would find them crawling around the foundation of my parents' house. Afraid of the large forcep-like pincers at their tail end, we called them pincer-bugs. (My husband's family called them "sleeslacks".) Intimidating as they may be, the pincers won’t hurt you. They only use their pinchers when eating and mating.

Despite their creepy appearance, earwigs have a taste for aphids, mites, nematodes, snails and slugs that qualifies them as a beneficial insect. On the other hand, they are ominivores who will also enjoy munching on many of the plants in your garden. Some of their favorite snacks are herbs, lettuce, strawberries, potatoes, corn silk tassels, and flowers like butterfly bush, hollyhocks, dahlias, marigolds, roses, and zinnias. They can also be a pest of fruits like berries and apricots and

Like other uninvited creatures in our gardens, in small numbers they're tolerable. Once they begin noticibly damaging your fruit, tunnel into flower buds and eat your seedlings and foliage, even leaving their droppings in your lettuce patch, they become pests. When that happens, a little patience and knowledge can solve your problems.

Night owls...
Earwigs eat at night and escape the heat of the day by sneaking into damp, cozy places (under potted plants, between leaves, under mulch, etc.). With a nearby food supply, earwigs think a red carpet was rolled out for them. Usually the damage is minor, unless their populations are hgh. They are unusual among insects in that the female fusses over her eggs and nymphs, and uses her pincers to protect them. Adults overwinter in the soil. Earwig damage mimics damage from caterpillars and slugs; be sure you've identified the real culprits by looking for feeding earwigs on your plants after dark.

Eearwigs live throughout North America. The European earwig (Forficula auricularia) is most problematic in the north, while the ringlegged earwig (Euborellia annulipes) lives in the South. Some even have wings, although you won't see them fly.  Earwigs overwinter as adults under garden debris, stones, and boards as well as in soil. They lay clusters of round, white eggs in the soil in late winter. The babies, aka larvae, hatch in spring and are just smaller versions of the adults.

Predator or Prey...
The earwig's only insect predator in North America is the tachinid fly. Planting alyssum, calendula, dill, and fennel attracts tachinid flies.
Roll Up The Red Carpet...
  • Mulch does so well at retaining moisture, it provides great daytime hiding spots for earwigs. and pull mulch slightly away from plants and foundations You only have to do this temporarily, until the earwigs move on.
  • Near foundations switch your mulch to dry gravel, stone dust or crushed rock.
  • Space plants like peas and beans further apart to avoid an earwig infestation by reducing dark, damp spaces.
  • Sprinkle bay leaves on top of the soil to deter Earwigs from entering your house and container plants.
  • Earwigs are attracted to lights, so eliminate or reduce lighting around foundations.
  • An even coating of petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline) on the stems of flowers like dahlias will keep earwigs out. at the base of woody plants.
  • Diatomaceous earth is often cited as a great way to deal with slugs and earwigs. It is a fine, powdery dust made up of tiny shards that are painful for the pests to cross.
    • Sprinkle a 2-inch-wide circle of diatomaceous earth only around garden beds, at the base of plants, and anywhere you've caught them hanging out during the day.
    • Repeat applications after heavy rains.
    • Breathing the dust is not good for your lungs.
    • Wet the plants or ground first to reduce some of the dust. Wearing a mask is a good idea.
    • Be sure to read and follow all package directions and cautions EXACTLY.

Earwig traps can be made from many common household items. Set your traps where you've seen earwigs and near victimized plants before dark. In the morning, dump the contents of your traps into a bucket of soapy water or dispose of the trap and its victims in a tightly tied plastic bag.
1. Roll-up newspapers or cardboard filled with straw and taped shut at one end.
2. Roll up and dampen  a few newspaper(s) and secure them with an elastic.
3. Water and Oil Traps Vary, but should be sunk into the ground so that the rim is level with the soil.
a. Fill small tuna or cat food cans with 1/4 inch of oil (preferably fish oil). Adding some soy sauce or rotting fruit helps to attract earwigs.
b. Plastic lids punched with small holes filled with some water and a layer of oil and a drop of dish soap is another type of trap.
4. Lengths of old hose, or small boxes with holes cut in the sides and baited with oatmeal have been known to attract and trap earwigs. 

Place a light-colored cloth beneath an infested plant and shake or tap the branches. The earwigs should fall onto the cloth and can be disposed of in soapy water.

"The Garden Stomp" is also known as the pick-squish-stomp method. Put on your favorite dance music (optional) and footwear and stomp on them as they skitter across the patio or sidewalk. You won't get great numbers this way, but it's satisfying and burns some calories. This method is equally effective on Japanese Beetles.

Since earwigs have beneficial qualities, the above methods are meant to reduce their population and limit their damage to your garden. With the exception of the Diatomacious earth (which my Daddy swore by), the above methods are safer than chemical treatments and empower you as Master of your own Garden.

Good luck, everyone.

Article Compiled by Renee Brannigan
Sources include:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"From an aunt, long ago:
"Death has come for me many times
but finds me always in my lovely garden
and leaves me there,
I think, as an excuse to return."
~Robert Brault, Writer, CT


We have descended into the garden

and caught three hundred slugs.

How I love the mixture of the beautiful

and the squalid in gardening.

It makes it so lifelike.

~Evelyn Underhill

Writer, December 6, 1875-June 15, 1941

July in your garden...

In the heat of July days, little happens in most gardens. There’s still time for more planting on a cool July morning or evening. Just because the weather is HOT, doesn’t mean you can’t plant. July is the perfect time to plant another crop of warm season veggies for a late fall harvest. Perennials, like Iris, that finished blooming for the year, can be divided. Raspberry and Blackberry canes that are done producing can also be trimmed back.

  • Dead flowers should be trimmed off plants, unless you are trying to collect seeds from those plants.
  • If they are leggy (lean and lanky) may be cut back by one-third safely. The snip often encourages new growth or fresh blooms.
WATERING is THE biggest garden chore during hot, dry summers. Native plants will need less water than flowering annuals and hanging planters.

A quick look at HOW you hydrate your plants may save you some time and water:
  • First, MULCH HEAVILY to reduce evaporation and help to conserve moisture. If you haven't already, this is a great time to apply a thick layer of mulch on flower beds and around trees and shrubs 2-3 inches around the base of plants. It reduces weeds, conserves moisture, and prevents disease. Great stuff! Lawn clippings are great mulch in your vegetable garden.
  • Give them a LONG DRINK, rather than several light drinks a week (they encourage root growth near the top of the soil where it dries out quickly). A long, thorough watering will soak the top several inches of soil. Your plants will stretch their roots deeper to reach the moist soil and become stronger and hardier as a result.
  • Sprinklers, soaker hoses and drip systems are ideal since you can set them and work nearby.
• WATER key during hot weather, especially if you plant another crop of warm-season VEGETABLES, like heat-tolerant and bolt-resistant lettuce, greens, beans, beets, carrots, chard, now for fall harvest. Plan to water newly planted seeds and seedlings more than once a day. Heavily mulch plants to keep the soil moist and cool.

• Deeply water HERBS like Basil, Mint and other water-loving herbs. Herbs like rosemary, lavender, sage, thyme and aloe like it dry, so don't over-water them.

•FRUIT TREES & VINES should be watered heavily within the root zone (under the leaf canopy) when you find the soil is dry at 3 to 4 inches deep. Be sure to support limbs that have a heavy fruit load.

• HARVEST your ripe fruit and vegetables as soon as they are ready. IF they fall to the ground and rot, they will attract insects and cause disease.

•NATIVE PLANTS - Allow natives to go into summer dormancy. Many established natives need little or no water during summer months but most are happier being watered once or twice a month. Spray the landscape by hose, it mimics a summer storm and washes the leaves. Mulch around plants with shredded bark or gravel.

•Please remember our friends, TomatoHornworms. If you choose to hand-pick them from your tomato and pepper leaves, but try to choose a plant they can have to themselves, perhaps near the manure or compost pile. Remember, they become Hummingbird Moths!

Please take care of yourselves while tending your plants. TIPS for YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY: 
  • As the weather gets warmer, schedule your gardening for early morning and late afternoon when the air is cooler and the sun not so intense.
  • Sun block will protect your skin for hours.
  • Drink one glass of cool water each hour you spend working outdoors.
  • Eliminate any puddles of stagnant water where Mosquitoes can breed.

Article Compiled by Renee C. Brannigan

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The 2012 Summer Programs

This series is a joint effort of the URI Master Gardener Association and the RI Wild Plant Society:
Propagation on July 17, 2012, Tuesday at 10:30 AM

Designing for Habitat in Small Places on September 18, 2012, Tuesday at 10:30 AM

A Rhody Native presentation on November 20, 2012, Tuesday at 10:30 AM

Members and public are invited at no charge. Master Gardeners receive Education credits for attending. If interested in attending, please call Joyce Crook at 268-1590, X402; or email her North Kingstown Beechwood Center, A Center for Life Enrichment. Click for more info.

* * *
What's that insect and what's it doing with that plant? insectplant talk july 2012
Step into the diversity and specificity of plant and insect interactions as presented in Doug Tallamy's riveting book, "Bringing Nature Home".
Short lecture by Lisa Tewksbury, research associate at URI, followed by a field experience to observe closely how plants and insects depend on one another.   East Farm at URI in Kingstown.  Tuesday July 24, 2012 .
Click for More info.

Free Programs at the:
Roger Williams Park Botanical Center Botanical Center
All workshops are FREE, start at 10am and are held outside in the Roger Williams Park Community Garden or in the Botanical Center if it rains.

July 14: Creating Nectaries: Attracting & Keeping Beneficial Insects: plants and cultural practices that create habitats for beneficial insects including native species and honey bees. The importance of beneficial insects as pollinators and predators will be discussed.
*This workshop will be hosted in the Botanical Center Blockhouse Classroom.
July 21: Gardening Tools: Learn how to clean and sharpen your garden tools to keep them in shape all season long.
Find more about "What Grows on in Rhode Island" here.