Q&A With Seth Nagy

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This week there were several questions that came into the Caldwell Extension Center. I’d like to share a few of them with you. I hope you find these questions and their answers helpful. If you have a specific question not answered here, please contact the Caldwell Extension Center directly.

Q: Hi, there are a few of these trees growing around my yard and I was wondering what type it was.

Autumn Olive berries.

The Autumn olive was introduced into the United States as an ornamental shrub around 1830 from East Asia. It performs well in poor quality soil and was also used for erosion control. Unfortunately autumn olive out competes native species in these low quality environments making is a pest.

The tree itself is about 15 feet tall and is covered in small reddish berries that have rough, yellow/tan spots. The fruit is pitted, very juicy, and smells similar to a plum when crushed. Any help identifying the plant would be appreciated.

A: This is called autumn olive or Japanese silverberry, the scientific name is (Elaeagnus umbellata). It is an exotic invasive plant. Exotic plants are plants that are not native to our ecosystem. Invasive plants are plants that don’t play nice with others. Invasive plants spread and crowd out competing plants leaving a monoculture. It is for this reason planting or encouraging autumn olive is not recommended for the landscape. However, these plants do produce lots of edible berries. The flavor is an interesting mixture of currants, cranberries, and peaches. These little fruit are delicious. So, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade, or in this case silverberries.

Q: What is best to kill those small ants that get into the house? Just any generic spray that says kills ants?

A: Spraying indoors to control ants is usually ineffective. Spray treatments “detour” ants from the treated area and don’t really stop them. In the long term, indoor bait stations are much more effective than sprays indoors. Baits are of course poison combined with food that ants bring back to the colony.

The key to successful baiting is proper placement. Bait should be placed in areas of ant activity, such as near a cabinet or where ants are seen. Be sure to place the bait out of the reach of children, pets, and wildlife. Never place bait directly on counter tops where food is prepared or an area where it will get wet and contaminated.

Also, make sure you provide enough bait and check it daily to make sure that it isn’t depleted. Large ant colonies may require multiple locations and amounts the bait. Leave the bait in place for 3-4 days after you see no more signs of feeding by the ants.
The other thing to remember is sanitation. Baits work best when there are no other competing food items for the ants. Keep these areas clean so the ants are not “distracted” from finding and feeding on the bait.
To learn more about controlling ants visit – https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/ent/notes/Urban/ants.htm.

Q: Why won’t our squash mature? It seems healthy but will only get to just past the blossom stage and will not get any larger. If left on the plant it will harden as overly mature squash will do but stays mini…please help!!

A: This is a pollination problem. Squash have separate male and female flowers. The female flowers may have blossomed before the male flowers, the male flowers could have been sterile, or most likely insect pollinators did not get the job done. Squash are typically pollinated by honey bees or by one of the many native squash bees.

Whatever the cause of the pollination problem, the result is dismal squash harvest. Given time it should correct itself. The other option is to hand fertilize the squash.

Q: What can be done to stop the destruction of sweet corn by groundhogs or/and raccoons? The corn is being destroyed overnight once the ears begin to silk. The stalks are broken off and the corn is half eaten. What is the best method for stopping the destruction?

A: The damage you are describing sounds like raccoons. They will break corn down to get to the developing ears. Groundhog damage will not show up all at once and they don’t have the ability to climb. However, they can damage the garden by grazing plant leaves. The good thing is both these pests can be excluded with an electric fence. It is a bit costly, but it is effective. A live trap is also an effective option. There is no scientific evidence than sonic devices effectively repel garden pests. Also, be sure you are not attracting raccoons to your garden by throwing food scraps or feeding the dog/cat outside.

The four basic rules for controlling raccoon damage: 1) remove food supply; 2) remove water supply; 3) modify habitat; 4) trap responsibly.

For answers to your other agricultural questions, call the Caldwell County Extension Center at 828-757-1290, or visit us online anytime at https://caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu.

Written By

Photo of Seth NagySeth NagyCounty Extension Director (828) 757-1290 seth_nagy@ncsu.eduCaldwell County, North Carolina
Updated on Jul 18, 2016
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