You Bet Your Garden

The Mystery of the Wild Violets


Listen to the full show:

Most people want their wild violets to vanish. But on this You Bet Your Garden, Mike McGrath will help someone whose purple posies are being eaten before she can enjoy them, and identify the ‘culprit’ as a creature most welcome in any landscape! Plus: A primer on proper tree planting with Kyla Kruse, Communications Director at the Energy Education Council; and answers to all your growing questions.

Photo: H. Zell (Own work) CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Question of the Week:

“We moved into a new house two years ago, and the back lawn was more weeds than grass. Despite the two large silver maples that shade the lawn, I have most of the weeds under control, but have not been able to control the spread of violets. It seems that the only way to control them would be to kill everything and start over or dig them all up (an impossibility due to their sheer numbers). I tried mowing at a low setting to lop off the flower buds, but that goes against the normal advice of not scalping the lawn. It also didn’t get rid of them! “

— Rolf in Alexandria, VA

An unexpected beautiful benefit of violets »


Highlights from show:

Help for a rose bush

Elliot from Michigan has inherited his mother’s rose bush down in Florida that has a few issues that need to be addressed. Elliot has noticed a plethora of pesky “leaf-cutter bees” that have been ravaging his precious rose bush. Mike reminds Elliot from his previous show that there are such a thing; leaf cutter bees AND leaf cutter ants that make clean bits out of plants and use it for food and nesting material. Mike tells Elliot that a little bit of feeding by an insect on target parts of the plant can often stimulate a response that will surprisingly, give Eliot more roses! So, Mike says to leave it alone and Elliot, over time will indeed have plentiful roses!

Ant troubles

Carol from Prospect Park, PA has a severe ant problem; her poor garden is overrun with these tiny black bugs that are devouring everything in sight! (Even inside her bathtub!) Carol definitely has a multi-colony ant issue that needs to be resolved immediately. You can’t get rid of all the ants by attacking the worker ants directly as you need to get the workers to kill the queens, says Mike. Mike suggests to head over to the local gardening store and get some boric acid ant traps, which are comprised of Boric acid and sugar water. Because the dose of Boric acid is so low, it will not kill the worker ants right away, but instead they will take a sample back to the nest and it will be feed to all the other ants and the queen. This deadly cocktail will be sure to rid Carol of her ant problem as it will eventually destroy the entire ant family.

Kyla Kruse on planting treees

Mike speaks with Kyla Kruse, Communications Director for the Energy Education Council and she gives us some great tips on what kind of tree to select and how far to put it from power lines. When you are selecting a tree to plant she stresses thinking about how tall it will be in 10 years or 20 years and imagining what objects it might impact near by. Also don’t forget to check whats in the ground before you dig.

Moss lawns

Genevieve from Allentown, PA and her husband just bought a house nested in a quiet, woodsy area. She was wondering how she can have a decent looking lawn under the thick cover of trees that surround her property. Genevieve is here to ask Mike for recommendations regarding moss lawns; are they worth it? Moss, according to Mike, loves damp, acidic and shady environments, which is exactly what Genevieve has in her area. You never have to feed or cut moss and it is green all year long; the perfect “no-care” lawn, Mike says. Moss simply sits on the surface of the soil, as it has no root system whatsoever, but it is great for shady, moist places, like where Genevieve lives. Sounds like moss is the perfect solution for those lucky enough to live in a forest-y abode like Genevieve!

Vegetable gardening

Joe from Bowie, Maryland has recently planted a wonderful veggie garden consisting of tomato plants, squash, and zucchini. Joe notices that blossoms and fruit forming on this plants, but they quickly drop to the ground. How can this be, he wonders? Mike needs to know if Joe is using raised beds, or just flat earth to grow his garden; and Joe tells Mike he is using pure earth with a bit of soil mixture with fertilizer. Growing in wet ground is pretty treacherous, says Mike, as it does not allow the roots to dry out. Mike informs Joe to grab some nice organic compost from a local gardener and to put an inch of compost around the plants and to only water it once a week. Make sure you don’t walk around the plants, as that will inhibit growth and to definitely plan to use raised beds for next year. Good luck, Joe!

Emerald ash borer

Mike from Northwest Chester county PA has a severe ash tree problem; the majority of his lovely trees are infected with the dreaded Emerald Ash Borer; a green beetle native to Asia and Eastern Russia that is incredibly invasive. Mike (the caller) wants to know how to remove them or what can be done? Mike says to call the homeowners insurance company; as it is a VERY expensive project to take on. Mike tells the caller that the trees need to be removed immediately, as the Emerald Ash Borer works very quickly and can jump to the next tree and destroy it in the blink of an eye.

Yukon gold potatoes

Kathleen from Cape May has questions regarding her raised beds. She and her neighbor share about 10 raised beds between the two of them that are 4 by 9 made of cedar. One of the beds is dedicated to yukon gold potatoes and it’s the first time the bed has been planted. Within the last week, Kathleen informs Mike, all of the plants start to turn yellow and brown and are dying. Mike tells Kathleen that as soon as the green growth comes up from potato plants, an inch of shredded leaves should be put down all around the bed. Kathleen’s potatoes appear to be just fine though; she informed Mike she has been eating them but is just worried about these yellow and brown plant colors. Mike tells Kathleen not to worry; it could be that the potatoes didn’t flower this season; which is totally fine, says Mike, as this particular type of potato plant doesn’t need to flower to produce great spuds!




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