Doug’s mailbag: 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 askdoug@535mediallc.com

• 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

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.

 

 

Previous mailbags

Caterpillars, mystery flower, onions and more

Seeds, leaf gall, bulb sale and more

Praying mantis, tomato issues, crabgrass and shrubs

Dogwood relocation, tomato issues and garlic soup recipe

Canada thistle, compost, bolting parsley and more

Blossom end rot, bees, butterfly weeds and more

Mystery bugs, lavender plants and watermelons

Strawberry plants, cool-weather crops, pumpkins and more

Tomato issues, zucchini struggles, lilacs and more

Hosta seeds, garlic, Alternaria leaf blight and more

Moving a hydrangea, hibiscus and succulents

Lilies, Brussels sprouts and septoria leaf spot

Garlic harvest, cucumber beetles, spindly tomatoes and more

Bladdernut, fungus gnats, rose black spot and more

Poison ivy, black-eyed Susans and container mix

Cucumber beetles, hot pepper plants and planting potatoes

Zebra grass, pale vegetables and yellow nutsedge

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Doug Oster is manager and editor of Everybody Gardens with a passion for gardening and a love of sharing is experiences with other gardeners. You will also find Doug’s gardening contributions in the Tribune-Review each week. He’s an Emmy Award winning producer, television host and writer. Oster is co-host of The Organic Gardeners Radio show every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KDKA radio in Pittsburgh. Oster’s Outstanding Documentary Emmy was awarded for Gardens of Pennsylvania, a one hour special he conceived and produced for the PBS affiliate WQED. Doug appears every Thursday morning on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today live at 9 a.m. “Gardening is fun, he says, enjoy every day spent outside tending vegetables, flowers, shrubs and trees.”