Keep those weevils away from chestnuts

Garden Q&A

March 29, 1998

Almost every Chinese chestnut I harvested last fall was riddled with little white worms. What are they and how can I prevent the problem this year?

Chestnut weevils are the problem. Female weevils lay their eggs in August and September on the spiny burrs that cover the chestnuts. The grubs hatch out and tunnel into the nuts.

Control method No. 1: Adult weevils crawl, they don't fly. So you can trap them by wrapping your tree trunk with an 8- to 12-inch cardboard or burlap strip covered with Tanglefoot or petroleum jelly. Scrape off the trapped weevils daily.

Control method No. 2: Adult weevils drop to the ground when disturbed. Spread a white sheet under your tree and tap or shake the branches. Have a helper pick up the fallen weevils and drop them into a pail of soapy water.

Be sure to pick up and dispose of all the fallen nuts and burrs at season's end to prevent weevils from over-wintering under your tree.

I recently moved into an older home, and I and want to have my soil tested. What should I have it tested for? Should I be concerned about lead?

Request a University of Maryland soil-test kit from your county/city Cooperative Extension office, or by calling the toll-free telephone number listed below.

Th basic test checks soil pH, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. The report you get back will indicate the level of these nutrients and how much fertilizer and lime you need to apply to your soil for the plants you are growing.

You also should have your soil tested for lead. The University of Massachusetts offers an inexpensive ($8) test. Write to Soil and Plant Tissue Testing, West Experiment Station, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass. 01003, or call 413-545-2311.

If you just want more information, request Home and Garden Mimeo No. 18, "Lead in Garden Soils."

My husband thinks the red maple tree in our front yard is getting too big and wants to give it a "haircut." Is this a good idea?

The proposed "haircut," known as topping a tree, is not a good idea. It will ruin the tree's natural shape, open it up to insect and disease problems, and shorten the tree's life. Dozens of succulent new shoots will emerge right below each pruning cut, creating an unmanageable eyesore. Take a look at trees under power lines that have been topped if you need more convincing.

Instead of topping, your husband should prune out the dead and dying branches and cut back those that are overhanging your house.

Garden tips are provided by the Home and Garden Information Center of the Cooperative Extension Service of the University of Maryland. For additional information on these questions, or if you have questions of your own, call the center's hot line at 800-342-2507 or visit its Web site at http: //www.agnr.umd.edu/hgic.

Checklist

* Sow seeds for annual flowers, such as dianthus, cleome, cosmos, gaillardia and poppies.

* Clean out nest boxes for songbirds or install new ones.

* Plant fruit trees, brambles, strawberry plants and grapevines as soon as the ground can be worked.

Pub Date: 3/29/98

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