Leaves and twigs take a stroll around the shrubs

BACKYARD Q&A

June 13, 1999

Q. Maybe I'm going crazy, but it seems as if little bits of leaves and twigs are walking around my evergreen shrubs. I do have a bagworm problem. Are these walking things that look like plant debris related to the bagworm bags?

A. Yes, they are. The bagworm larvae that hatched this spring from last year's bags are actively feeding now. They're using the new silken bags -- covered with plant debris -- for protection.

For minor infestation, handpick and destroy the bags. Apply the microbial insecticide B.t. (Bacillus thuringiensis) between June 15 and July 15 if the infestation is severe.

Q. I'm having trouble getting my compost pile hot. I'm trying to make fast compost, mostly with leaves from last fall. I don't think I have enough green materials high in nitrogen. What should I do?

A. Let's start with some compost basics: Your pile needs to be at least 1 cubic yard in size. The materials should be shredded (nothing woody) and kept moist but not wringing wet.

To get the pile cooking you need 50 percent leaves, by volume, and 50 percent grass clippings (your best nitrogen source).

Even if you recycle your clippings, there's bound to be someone in your area who puts bagged clippings out on the curb. Find these clippings and appropriate them.

If you are short on clippings, find another nitrogen source, such as aged farm manure, finished yard compost or a granular fertilizer. Mix everything together, watch the steam rise, and turn the pile once it cools down. Let the compost age for another two months before using.

THIS WEEK'S CHECKLIST

1. Avoid using Japanese beetle traps; they often attract additional beetles to your yard.

2. Leave snakes alone! They are active now because it is mating season. Keep in mind that they are beneficial creatures.

3. Mow 'em high and let 'em lie. Practice "grasscycling" by letting your clippings decompose naturally on top of your lawn. This does not lead to thatch buildup.

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 www.agnr.umd.edu/users/hgic.

Pub Date: 06/13/99

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