Ask the Gardener: Pokeweed, bug identification and voles/moles

Posted on: September 17, 2018 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Gardening editor Doug Oster gets asked a lot of questions. A lot. And he doesn’t mind offering gardening advice. But rather than just limiting those answers to the person who asked, we thought it might be a good idea to share that wealth of knowledge with everybody.

There are three ways to send in your questions:

• Email

• Submit your question on our “Your Garden” section of our site

• Send us a message on Facebook.

(The questions may be lightly edited for grammar/clarity/etc.)

Question 1: Pokeweed


Patricia: It looks like a berry, and I see it everywhere growing wild. I know I should know this, but what is it?

Doug: That’s something called pokeweed, and the berries are toxic to mammals including people. They increase in toxicity as they mature. Birds though are not affected and will eat the berries.

Question 2: Bug identification

Kelly: I took these two pictures of an asclepias in my garden tonight. One shot shows a butterfly caterpillar (exciting). The other shot shows tons of little yellow moving bugs of some sort. There is also a real or fake ladybug in the shot. What are all the yellow things? Aphids?

Doug: Yes, those are aphids, no big deal. I would use insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to deal with them. That’s the organic control, so you need to cover the insect with the soap or oil. We don’t want to hurt those monarch caterpillars.

Question 3: Voles

Carla: Voles have been a problem in my garden this year. After first noticing their tunnels several years ago, they have steadily spread throughout my yard. They have killed all of my gladiolus, liatris I’ve had for 15 years, a dianthus, and a ghost geranium I had just rescued from an end-of-season sale. What is the best way to control them? My 3-legged cat can’t keep up (but he tries)!

Doug: Voles can have colonies as big as 400 and since they are vegetarians, they can be devastating in the garden. There’s a product call Mole Scram that will get rid of them. It’s not a poison — it uses castor oil and garlic to repel them. Put down a band of the granules close to the house and then add another band each day to force the voles to another area.



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