Ask the Gardener: Tree lichens, bugs and a reader testimonial

Posted on: August 3, 2019 | Written By: Doug Oster | Comments

Everybody Gardens 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.)

tree lichens

Question 1: Tree lichens

Dennis: I have a Sunburst Locust tree that appears to have a fungus that started last fall. Branches are dying more quickly than normal, and I’ve noticed the roots coming to the surface of the grass. The tree is approximately 15 years old. I’ve attached a picture of the snowflake-like design hoping this may help save this beautiful tree.

Doug: Those are tree lichens and nothing to worry about. Tree lichens often scare homeowners but can’t hurt the tree. The roots near the surface for that tree are normal.

The biggest concern is the dying branches. That’s an issue for a certified arborist. They will come for free and diagnose the problem. Personally, I wouldn’t worry about it, as those trees are indestructible.

Question 2: Bugs bugs bugs

Dave: This season is my first year gardening in our local “organic” community garden. You can’t even imagine the problems I’ve had with garden pests. Everything except tomatoes were destroyed by potato beetles, squash bugs, Mexican bean bugs and squash borers. I tried neem oil and DE with little relief. I’m just about to give up and wait for next season. Any advice or suggestions?

Doug: Don’t give up. If there’s anything left in the garden, here’s what I use to protect against chewing insects safely. Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew (available here) works. It’s not a poison. The pest has to eat it and then it disrupts their digestive system. That will work for all the beetles and bean pests. Squash bugs and borer are a different story. For the borer, put foil down around the stem at planting day to physically stop the pest from getting into the plant. Squash bugs are the toughest to deal with. Here’s some more info.

There’s lots of time to plant things that will take you into fall. I don’t know when you have to be out of that garden, but think about lettuce, other greens, kohlrabi, beets, Swiss chard and more. I just planted some basil and hot pepper plants. I’ll be planting cool weather crops through September. There’s a couple of other ideas in this old post.

Reader testimonial

Becky: Hi Doug, I had to share! I sprayed my roses with Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew last Monday, and now I believe I’ll see these amazing roses this season!

Doug: That’s wonderful news Becky. Best of all, you solved the problem organically!

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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.”