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MSU Extension Service

Home Grown is an educational, entertaining, question-answer column seen weekly in "News from the Genesee MSUE Office," a weekly newsletter for Genesee County Master Gardeners. Special thanks to the Genesee, Oakland and Livingston county MSU Extension offices for providing this service.


2004 Editions

01-13-05 Fungus gnats; deer protection for trees
01-19-05 After cutting down trees: to chip or not to chip? Also: starting seeds indoors for spring planting
01-27-05 Excessive plant growth in ponds; problem trees and/or problem sites
02-11-05 Diplodia Tip Blight on Pine trees; caring for African violets
02-14-05 Caring for Ficus in winter; indoor pests: larder beetles
02-14-05 bonus! Fertilizer for gardens - designer vs "regular"; why gardenias don't like our houses 
02-21-05 vole damage in lawns & woody plants; how to root cacti and succulents
03-04-05 tree-climbing vines; hibernating insects

This week's HomeGrown

Extension web sites:












I must live in a deer park. Every summer, they chew down many of my plants. Putting repellants on the plants takes time and money. Are there plants that deer won't eat? My garden is in full sun.

Think stink. That's clever code for choosing plants that have and odor to them. Deer call them disgusting; we call many of them herbs. You may find yourself choosing plants at a garden center by both sight and scent in the near future. Any plant that belongs to the Allium family belongs to the garlic-onion guys and deer will avoid them. This includes Allium bulbs, chives and garlic chives. Then consider the Salvia family which includes sage and both annual and perennial salvias. More stinky plants are catmint, catnip, oregano, thyme, Sweet Cicely, Rosemary, Fever Few, Chrysanthemum, Yarrow, Zinnia, Tansy, Pennyroyal, Marigold, Monarda or beebalm and any of the Artemesias or mint family. Now think fuzzy or leathery leaves like Black-eyed Susan, Rose Campion, Gallardia or Blanket Flower, Coneflower, Coral Bells, Coreopsis, Peony, Dusty Miller, Foxglove, all poppies, Iris, Lamb's Ears and most daisies. Deer have little or no interest in ornamental grasses. Some plants are outright poisonous like daffodil, Buttercup, Castor Bean and a bulb called Crown Imperial. You might notice deer doing a "nip and drop" on plants they don't eat but don't recognize. They taste and then reject and you usually don't get any additional damage. Put fences around the other stuff but remember to put something over the top of wire screening cylinders. Deer can put their head down the cylinder and eat until they hit the bottom.

It's cold outside but I have a bunch of little moths in the kitchen and pantry closet. They are small and poor fliers. How did these get in?

They have been living in. It sounds like one of the grain moths. The choices are Indian Meal Moth and Mediterranean Flour Moth. It's not critical to tell them apart because you will do the same things to get rid of both of them. They feed primarily on grain-based products like cake and muffin mixes, instant mashed potatoes, crackers, rice, pasta, cereal, dry dog and cat food and birdseed. They are fond of dried fruit, nuts, certain spices like red pepper and paprika, chocolate and powdered milk. The eating stage is the larval stage. They are a cream colored segmented caterpillar with a brown head. To put an end to Moth Madness, you need to do several things. Open and check any possible food product that they might be in. There's no such thing as a sealed box to a grain moth. If they have been in the food, there will be a few dusty "spider webs" leading from the food surface to the side of the box. These are tiny silken threads left by the larvae as they exited to begin pupating. They pupate in places like napkin boxes, coffee filters or boxes of drinking straws. It will be about a week before the adult moths emerge from pupation. Put all people food in airtight containers. These guys can chew through plastic so go to a tougher container. If the food looks like there has been no grain moth activity, pop it into a container. If the bags of dry dog food, cat food and birdseed are too big for containers, store them in the garage in a clean garbage can with a tight lid. Vacuum up any food crumbs from the pantry area. As you buy new food, put it into airtight containers immediately. The goal is to starve your little larval mothies out.

I was doing some work on the house and had to remove some wood on the outside to expose the two-by-fours. At the bottom of the wall cavity, there was a pile of different kinds of insects. I don't know if they were dead or alive. I'm worried about the house. Is this a problem?

It's only a problem if you were one of those insects that lost your discount motel room. There are a number of insects that spend the winter as adults. They hibernate somewhere where they won't freeze. Your wall void was a super choice. In the spring, most of them will be stampeding out to the trees and grass. The rest of them dropped dead during the winter. None of these guys are house damagers. After all, how much trouble can you get into when you are asleep or dead? Most homes will have insects getting into the wall voids. They usually exit without much attention. Your problem is that you found them. And that's your only problem. Broom them out or suck them up with a shop vac if it makes you feel better.

Gretchen Voyle, MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture
Agent 517/546-3950


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