It’s been a busy few weeks at the Master Gardener Helpline.
Now that we are in the garden regularly and things are starting to grow, we also find problems with insects, weeds and diseases. The master gardeners can help you identify your problems and find a solution that follows integrated pest management best practices.
n Sticky bedstraw (Galium aparine) is the star of the garden when it comes to weeds. It seems to be appearing everywhere this year, even in beds where it wasn’t last year.
Sticky bedstraw is an annual winter or spring herb. It can germinate in late summer to fall and grow several inches before winter.
In the spring, she’s ready to dive into the weeding action and quickly outgrow the surrounding plants. It can easily grow 3 feet or more in length and devour a plant with its sticky stems and leaves.
Bedstraw often forms dense, tangled mats that spread on the ground or over neighboring plants.
Be on the lookout and pull off these weeds as soon as you see them. It is preparing to distribute its seed crop for the next year.
You may be able to take a rake and gently pry it off the plants so it doesn’t damage them.
Plants begin to wilt as soon as the seeds are set, but they’re still a sticky nuisance. When mature bedstraw is composted, the seeds survive, so discard the plants after flowering.
n We’ve received several questions about plants having small, circular, discolored areas on the leaves or leaves with ruffled edges that look crispy. If you have strawberry plants, you may find that your fruit is misshapen.
These are all signs of two common insects – the clouded plant bug (Lygus lineolaris) and the four-lined plant bug (Poecilocapsus lineatus).
Both belong to the insect order Hemiptera and feed on a wide variety of plants. They feed by inserting their piercing-sucking mouthparts into plant tissue and sucking out the sap.
It is believed that when they feed, they also inject a toxic substance – possibly digestive enzymes – into the plant that breaks down plant tissues.
Adult plant bugs are about 1/4 inch long, oval shaped, bronze to dark brown in color, with white spots behind the head and sometimes along the fore wing. The immature stage or nymph is wingless and they are usually green, while some younger ones can be yellowish.
Older nymphs have black spots on their backs.
Adult four-lined plant beetles are one-fourth to one-third of an inch long. The body is greenish yellow with four black stripes running down the wings, hence the name.
The head is orange-brown and the legs are yellow-green.
Newly hatched nymphs are bright red with black spots on the abdomen and black wing pads. Older nymphs are more reddish-orange with a light stripe on the wing pads.
Both adults and nymphs can damage plants.
When populations are high and damage is severe, spraying with an insecticidal soap may be necessary. Identify which ones you have so you can adopt other IPM practices.
n While weeding, have you found small, white, wingless insects that appear to be coated in a white, powdery wax? You have probably found a colony of root aphids (pemphigus species).
I often find them on dandelion taproots.
If they’re on grass, don’t worry. They go on the compost heap or garbage (depending on the weeds).
However, they can cause problems with desirable plants.
Symptoms include plants wilting during the day; leaf yellowing; and taproots, which are short, floppy, and rubbery with many root hairs. During periods of drought, you may notice that a small circular patch of plant has collapsed.
In a garden environment, they are not usually a big problem.
If you find them in your vegetable garden, remove and destroy infested plants. It is recommended to till the soil before planting and rotate susceptible plants.
Treating aphids with an insecticide is a challenge for homeowners due to the need to soak the soil. Their waxy coating can also protect them from insecticides.
n If you have crab apples, you are probably familiar with apple scab.
A common disease of apples and crab apples, infected trees are currently experiencing leaf drop.
Apple scab is caused by the fungus Venturia inaequalis. It overwinters on fallen diseased leaves, and in spring spores are released.
Affected leaves develop round, olive-green spots that can be up to half an inch in diameter. Fruit can also be infected.
The olive-green spots turn brown over time and then become corky. Fruit can also become deformed and cracked.
Fungicides can be used to protect susceptible trees, but they must be applied before the tree becomes infected.
Hygiene is an important part of preventing this disease. Clean up fallen leaves and fruit.
Prune trees annually to open up the canopy and allow for better air circulation. If you’re adding a crabapple to your landscape, look for scab-resistant varieties. Trying to time sprays every year can be annoying.
n I found this really big bee/wasp. Did I find a murder hornet?
Probably not, but send us a photo or bring it to the office for identification. In all likelihood, what you found was a European hornet queen (Vespa crabro).
The Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia), first spotted in the Pacific Northwest in 2019, has not been found on the East Coast. However, European hornets are well established in the area.
Queens can reach 1.3 inches and are quite intimidating. The head is red and yellow and the thorax (middle region) is red and brown.
The belly has two large brown sections at the waist and a mostly yellow rump with brown teardrop markings.
European hornets build annual nests, usually in hollow trees or possibly in a wall gap. Only fertilized queens survive the winter to start a new colony the following year.
Hornet queens need a safe place to hibernate, and if they do that in your attic, they may find their way into your house in the spring when they wake up.
The best way to keep them out is to seal cracks that can give them entry into your home. Like other hornets, they prey on insects such as grasshoppers, flies, and even wasps.
They have a sweet tooth in the fall and might be found near fallen fruit. They are also known to debark bushes to get at the sap.
Remember, if you have a gardening question, Master Gardener volunteers are at the CCE office in Genesee, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. You can stop by our CCE office at 420 East Main Street, Batavia or call (585) 343-3040, ext. 127
You can also email them any questions or photos to email@example.com. Helpline volunteers will be happy to help you solve your gardening and landscaping problems.