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September/October 2008
Grow-It-All: Gardener's Q&A

Expert Gardening Advice from Horticulturist Deborah Smith Fiola, Landscape IPM Enterprises, LLC

• • •

Q: Can you tell me if there is anything I can do to keep those stink bugs out of my house this year? Last year they were everywhere! — P. N., Fairplay

A: The Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) overwinters inside homes. Unfortunately, local populations are increasing as the pest becomes more established. They don’t reproduce nor feed over the winter, and will not bite people or pets. The best time to control the BMSB is before they enter your home. Repair/replace damaged screens on doors and windows. Seal cracks around windows, doors, siding and other openings with silicone caulk. Pay close attention around utility pipes, underneath/behind baseboards, and around exhaust fans or lights in ceilings. Merely removing window air conditioners prevents scores of BMSBs from entering! If necessary, an exterior perimeter insecticide application might offer some relief. A licensed pest control operator can apply a synthetic pyrethroid in the fall just prior to bug congregation. Unfortunately, because sunlight breaks down the insecticides, the residual effect might not kill the insects beyond 3-4 days. Once the BMSBs have entered the house, use a vacuum cleaner on small populations. Aerosol-type pyrethrum foggers will eradicate BMSBs congregating on ceilings and walls in living areas, and insecticidal dusts will kill bugs in wall voids — yet neither treatment will  prevent additional bugs from appearing later.

Q: Considering the price of tomatoes, what’s the best way to keep getting tomatoes as long as possible into the winter? — T. I., Boonsboro

A: The first frost will kill your tomato plants, unfortunately. Some folks try to extend the season by covering their plants with floating row covers, cloches or other methods, but once night temperatures drop to the low 70s, new fruits rarely form. Rather than pushing your environmental limits, consider instead picking the green tomatoes and ripening them yourself. Pick the green tomatoes in early October, prior to the first frost. Select those at the “breaker stage” — green, but with a lighter blush on the bottom. Wrap in newspaper and keep in a dark, dry location with the stem side up. Check weekly, as green tomatoes usually take 3-4 weeks to ripen. To speed up ripening, place green tomatoes in a paper bag with a ripe apple.

Q: My lawn looked terrible this year. The ’07 drought thinned it out and the weeds took over, especially dandelions. Do I have to wait until spring to kill them with Weedone? —S. K., Mapleville

A: Dandelion is a perennial broadleaf weed that self-seeds in late spring. Fall is actually the best control timing, since the immature plants are very susceptible to herbicides.  From mid-September through October, herbicides absorbed by the weed foliage readily translocate to the roots for total dandelion obliteration that is superior to spring applications. 2,4-D does an excellent job of controlling dandelions. However, if combined with another product (combination herbicide), many more broadleaf weed species are controlled. For example, 2,4-D+MCPP/MCPA herbicide controls dandelions, plantain and white clover. Read the label, and don't spray when winds exceed 5 mph. Don’t mow the area a few days before or after treatment. Remember, most weeds are “opportunists” that invade weakened lawns. Next spring, overseed to regain a dense stand of grass. Fertilize, water and mow high to give the turfgrass the competitive advantage over weeds.

Deborah Smith Fiola is a professional horticulture consultant who lives in Keedysville. A former university professor and extension agent, she has a B.S. in horticulture and an M.S. in Entomology/ Pest Management.

E-mail your gardening questions to Debby Smith Fiola at GrowItAll@hagerstownmagazine.com
(Be sure to include Gardening Q&A in the subject line.) or fax to 301-432-1907.

Disclaimer: The advice in this column is provided only as a guide, given with the understanding that no endorsement nor discrimination is intended for products mentioned, nor is criticism meant for products not mentioned. The author assumes no liability resulting from the use of these recommendations. Anyone using products mentioned assumes full responsibility for their use in accordance with current direction of the manufacturer.

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