If spring is dry, expect to see gypsy moths

Garden Q&A

January 26, 2008|By Ellen Nibali and David Clement

Are gypsy moths coming back? I didn't see any on my oaks last year.

Gypsy moths never leave entirely, but their numbers were knocked down for years by a beneficial fungal disease, plus aerial spray programs. The fungus is not effective in dry weather, and last year we had a dry spring. Many parts of Maryland were hit hard with gypsy moth defoliation.

If we have a dry spring this year, expect a huge increase in gypsy moths. To prepare, scout your property this winter for their tan felt-like 1 1/2 -inch egg masses. These flat ovals are attached to tree trunks, house siding, woodpiles, lawn furniture or any structure outdoors. Scrape off and destroy. Do not inhale the tiny hairs, which can be irritating.

Neighborhood cats use my outdoor garden as a litter box. Do you have suggestions for keeping them away?

Cats reputedly don't like the smell of citrus. Many people report that spraying citronella oil, cleaners made with orange oil, or spreading citrus peels on mulch can deter cats. Citronella oil is also available in granules. There are also commercial cat repellants in hardware stores or garden centers. You could purchase a gadget which emits a jet of water when an animal comes near it. This will scare the cats away. Other suggestions include placing chicken wire on top of the bed, as cats do not like to walk on it, or securing bird netting just above the ground.

Checklist

Prune out fire blight damage on apple and pear trees during the coldest periods in December or January. This will lessen the chance of spreading this bacterial infection.

Keep herb plants inside your house in full, direct sunlight or give them 14 hours of fluorescent lighting each day.

Ellen Nibali, horticulture consultant, works at Maryland Cooperative Extension's Home and Garden Information Center, and David Clement is the regional specialist. The center offers Maryland residents free gardening information. Call the center's "hotline" at 800-342-2507 or e-mail plant and pest questions through the Send a Question feature at hgic.umd.edu.

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