Gardentalk – Your best defense for currant worms and rhododendron root weevils

Zucchini sprouts
Zucchini sprouts grow in KTOO’s Agricultural Test Station and Garden of Science (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

The gardener’s battle against pests is never ending.

In this episode of Gardentalk, Master Gardener Ed Buyarski has some advice for dealing with a few of this spring’s pesky bugs.

Listener Mary writes: “What insect control measures are recommended to control insect predation on currant bushes (aside from safer soap)?

Products like Bacillus Thuringiensis or BT are effective for controlling caterpillars, but Buyarski said, so far, it appears that it is only available on-line.

Buyarski said a solution of one to two tablespoons of safer soap or dish soap to a quart of water is usually most available and easiest. A shake of Tabasco can add a little repellant.

“Spray the topside and underside of leaves,” Buyarski said. “You need to get this stuff on the little caterpillars to kill them.”

Buyarski also said notched rhododendron leaves can signify the presence of rhododendron root weevils. They usually crawl up the trunk and move out to the branches to chew on the leaves.

He recommends trimming up the lower branches so they don’t touch the ground and don’t allow the larvae to have easy access to the leaves.

Products like Tanglefoot Tangle-Trap are available on line. But he also suggests a DIY alternative of wrapping the trunk with tape and coating it with something sticky and gooey like vaseline to trap the bugs.

As is the case with slugs, cleaning up dead vegetation and other debris in the yard and garden can remove the pests’ hiding places.

Buyarski also answered a question about the use of old tires as garden planters.

Tires may be fine for non-edible flowers. But he doesn’t recommend them for growing vegetables because chemicals used in the tire-making process could leach out into the soil and be taken up by the plants.

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