You Bet Your Garden

Are you sure those are wasps in your garden?


Listen to the full show:

Mike explains how to recover your garden from hurricane damage, maintaining proper nitrogen levels in your soil, tricks to get rid of aphids without using chemicals, how to get grass to grow in bare spots in your lawn, ways to coax fruits out of your fig tree, the best product for ridding your landscape of ticks, and how to identify wasps in your garden.


Question of the Week:

I have an organic garden and shun the use of pesticides. This has attracted many birds and insects, which has helped with pollination of flowers, fruit, and vegetables. However, in the past month, I’ve seen a huge rise in the number of wasps of all shapes and sizes. I put out two traps (which supposedly attract all types of wasps) – but neither has caught even one. I’ve looked for nests in the eaves of my house, but haven’t seen any. I read that some wasps nest in the ground, which makes me very nervous because my dogs roll around in the lawn. I would really like to bring the wasp population under control without the use of pesticides.

— Alexis in Sherman Oaks, California

Learn how to identify wasps »


Slideshow below: Identifying wasps. Credit: Wikipedia


Highlights from show for July 27, 2013:

Rebuilding your garden after Sandy

Lisa in Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey is trying to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy destroyed her house and garden last year. She wants to know the best way to get her garden back on its feet in a relatively quickly and inexpensive way. “I want you to talk to your local county extension office… they have restoration plans that they will share with you. They have plants that are going to do good in the brackish water that you’re exposed to at times,” Mike encourages.


Raising your soil’s nitrogen levels

Willie from the West Coast in Redding, CA wanted a suggestion for raising his soil nitrogen level in his farm without using chemicals. “I would not worry about a soil test that reveals low nitrogen if you have cattle pooping on the soil all the time!” Mike explains.


Getting rid of aphids without chemicals

Patrick in Portland, Oregon has a self-regulating aquarium setup that is unfortunately the cozy home of plenty of aphids! He needs to get rid of them while not doing any harm to the goldfish he has in the same area. “The cure for aphids is sharp streams of water…use a pressurized sprayer, spray all the aphids off until you can’t see any aphids anymore, wait twenty minutes, and then do it again. Do that 4 times in a row, and then a light spray of true insecticidal soap,” Mike says.


Bringing back dead spots in your lawn

Nicholas from Tuttle, Oklahoma is concerned about a plot of land under a large maple tree that won’t grow any grass. “Acquire a nice load of yard waste compost and lay an inch of compost going out like 6 inches starting at the grass and going into the dead area. Try to keep that watered. What you want to do is trick the grass into crossing that [shadow] line,” Mike advises.


Coaxing fruit out of your fig tree

Lisa’s fig tree in Phoenixville, PA is struggling severely and seems to need some help if it is going continue to grow. “Let’s give it one more year,” Mike hopefully adds. “Get rid of any mulch near the fig, make a little windbreak around it, and in the spring…I want you to go out with a pair of pruners and I want you to open up the tree.” Good luck Lisa!


Get rid of ticks with Tick Tubes

Becky from Ocean View, New Jersey off the ground barrel composter infested with what she suspects are ticks. Mike recommends that if these insects are indeed ticks, that she purchase the best product on the market to kill them: “I recommend you purchase a product called Tick Tubes. … These are tubes that are stuffed with little cotton balls, and the cotton balls have been soaked in permethrin which is the synthetic form of the botanical insecticide made from chrysanthemum leaves. These tick tubes are very clever. Mice, who are the prime vectors of ticks, will take the cotton balls and use them to line their nests. And this pesticide, which is VERY potent against ticks, all the mice that come into that nest, the ticks on them are killed immediately, especially small ticks — the very dangerous ticks. But you don’t introduce the pesticide to the environment, it doesn’t even hurt the mice! These things have been shown to clear areas of 95% of the ticks.”


“I recommend you purchase a product called Tick Tubes … These things have been shown to clear areas of 95% of the ticks.”

Mike McGrath


  • Tick Tubes

Edgar from Norman, Oklahoma tomato issue coppery white specs bottom leaves


— This week’s post was written by Jolie Higazi, You Bet Your Garden Intern




  • Adam Ma

    I Love This Show !!

  • Fred

    You recently advised a caller against bamboo because they are so invasive. What about “clumping” bamboo which do not spread in the same way?

    Second question is about wasps… I’m being invaded by cicada killer wasps and they’re really destroying the lawn! What can I do?

    • Sarah Kaizar

      hi Fred — I passed your questions onto Mike and he advises that you check out his Garden A-Z archives. He has addressed both of these topics and has full articles in his archives here: http://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=492 Good luck, and thanks for listening!

  • http://www.onlineplantnursery.com/ Online Plant Nursery

    This is FANTASTIC, thorough, scientific advice. I never knew that a huurricane could do so much damage to the soil! On top, of course, of all the damage it does to the actual plants. Good to know about the wasps, as well! If summers here are dry, they can become quite the problem…

  • Michael

    I planted a new lawn this year. Seed was a standard fescue/bluegras mix, over a base of mushroom house soil ( I live in Kennett Square). Lawn grew very strongly, but since recent heatwave it has started browning out and either dying or going into dormancy. Any ideas? I think maybe either there is too much thatch from mowing clippings, choking the lawn, or does mushroom exhaust its nutrition quickly?

    • Sarah Kaizar

      hi Michael — I passed your question onto Mike and he says: “If you sowed the seed in the Spring, death is a natural result. Cool season lawns are sown in the fall. Thatch is caused by excessive chemical fertilization.”

  • Sue Pinsley

    Hi Mike,
    I have a brown turkey fig in my garden (I live in North Wales,Pa) and it has had many figs on each branch for the past 2 years but very few ever mature.It gets lots of light,the branches are spread out,the soil is not fertilized there..maybe a little leaf compost from fall.Is it lacking in something perhaps ?

    • Sarah Kaizar

      Hi Sue — I passed your question along to Mike and he suggests you read through his article about growing figs in his A-Z Garden Answers archive here: http://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=860 — if this article doesn’t answer your question, please check back with us. Good luck, and thanks for listening!



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