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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
03-08-05 deer pests in the landscape; grain moths in kitchens
03-15-05 ants in the kitchen; mythological apple trees

This week's HomeGrown

Extension web sites:












The house that I bought last summer was obviously owned by a gardener. There are a number of ornamental grasses that are growing in garden areas. I didnít do anything to the grasses in the fall because I didnít know what to do. Do I need to do something to them in the spring? Some are really big and I would like to split them. Can I do this?

Your timing is perfect. Spring is the time to tend to the grasses that you have. If you want them to look cute for your garden, they need to get a spring hair cut. Otherwise, the new blades of grass will emerge next to the old standing ones and you will have a green and tan tangled mess. If your grasses are small, a pair of scissors will do the job neatly. Trim the grasses to about a half-inch from the soil surface. Do it right now before the green blades are in the way. For larger grasses, their growth is a bit different. Many large grasses have the new blades emerging from the center of the old ones. Use pruners or lopping shears and cut off the grass at about a foot tall. If you donít see any green in the middle, trim a bit lower. Stop pruning before you cut into the new leaves for this year. Use one piece of the plant as your test pruning area. Once you know where that green center is, prune the rest of the clump the same way. You might be able to use other tools, like a weed whip, but you donít want to tear up the plant badly. Spring is also the ideal time to divide grasses. Wait until new growth has begun. During the spring-new growth rush, the plant is motivated to grow like no other time of the year. Smaller plants can be divided with a shovel. Make sure to get tops and roots together for your transplant. Plant and water immediately. If this is a big grass, you might have to use a hatchet, axe or pruning saw to take off your division. This is often a job where you are going to really work for that chunk of grass. Grasses are great additions to sunny gardens. They require very little maintenance, have virtually no insect or disease problems and deer donít eat them. What a plant!

I was doing some cleaning in the basement and just found about a dozen little bugs. They were along an outside wall. They are a half-inch long, black and oblong. They have a tan stripe that runs across their body slightly behind their head. There are six black spots on the tan stripe. This is not a dirty house. What are they doing here?

They are eating out. Cafť Clean House is still offering up some appetizers. Your dining guests are called Larder Beetles. They belong to a family of insects called Dermestid Beetles. These guys are natureís tiny clean up crew. They are very fond of protein meals of things like dry dog and cat food, dried cheese, insect collections and hapless insects that have died over the winter in the wall void. If you had a big olí knuckle bone for doggy around, they would feed in the marrow cavity of the bone. Start thinking about what munchies are around the area. The only one that you wonít have any knowledge of is the dead insects in the wall void. If these larder beetles are along an outside wall, they could very easily be eating there. Use the vacuum cleaner and suck up your offenders. There is no practical way of removing dead insects from between walls. Options include using a spray insecticide approved for indoor use and spraying cracks along outside walls. Or wait until the end of May when any live ones will have left the wall void and then sealing exterior cracks. Fewer wall void insects mean fewer diners next fall and winter.

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


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