CRACKED TOMATOES, growing rhubarb in hot spots, Japanese stiltgrass, and the dark side of earthworms are among the subjects you asked Ken Druse and me about this month, that we tackled on the Urgent Garden Question segment of my public-radio show and podcast. Once the topic of Asian jumping worms came up, we got into a long chat about other non-native earthworms, and then the Japanese stiltgrass Ken’s been waging war with, and speaking of invasives:
We’d love to hear what aliens of any description you are battling, whether weeds, insects, you name it—perhaps for subjects for future shows. Be sure to add a comment at the end of the story to let us know, and please say where you located. Any questions you have of any nature are also always welcome here as a comment or via the contact form, or on Facebook—not just ones related to invasive species, of course. You can also find Ken directly at his website.
For answers to other questions, you can browse the archive of all our monthly segments.
Read along as you listen to the podcast version of the August 14, 2017 edition of the show using the player below, and don’t forget: Keep the questions coming.
august urgent garden question q&a with ken druse
why do tomatoes crack?
Q. So many questions have been coming in, because of course it’s that time of the garden season really no matter where people are in the country. Lots of pest questions. Are you fighting anybody there right now?
Ken. [Laughter.] Well, the cat’s about to scratch me.
Q. That’s not a garden pest.
Ken. I know we have talked about it a little bit, but I have some Japanese stilt grass, and I have some horrifying worms, and I don’t have too many Japanese beetles. That really is amazing.
Q. Of course I am getting Japanese beetle questions, something we talked about on the June Q&A, and of course lots of animal questions, too—furbearers. I wish I had the ultimate answer to that last one, as I am now on my third woodchuck “relationship” of summer 2017, and also seem to be spending time with a cottontail. [Laughter.]
And of course there are tomato-trouble questions coming in galore.
Q. There is one especially, a recurring one, but I’m going to grab the version from Theresa that came in via email, who says:
“My tomatoes are splitting. It’s been very humid; would that be the culprit?” So she has cracking. Do you get that? I know you do your tomatoes in the driveway, in pots.
Ken. Do you mean the cracking around the top that’s sort of circular, or the splits down the side?
Q. Hers had the split down the side.
Ken. I think that’s water, don’t you?
Q. It’s another one of what I call the “mechanical” problems; it’s not a disease, and not a pest. It’s a stress problem. And you are right:
Cracks in the fruit [whether radial like this reader, or concentric] often develop when soil moisture is uneven—so say it has been dry, and then it rains, or if you don’t water evenly. Suddenly lots of moisture becomes available after the plant hasn’t been getting a lot of moisture. Fruit swells too quickly for the skin to take. A stress thing. [Photos above from IPM Images dot org.]
Another thing: When you read the seed catalogs, some varieties say they are less prone to cracking. So they have a slightly tougher skin, I guess.
Ken. Although that may not be something we want.
Q. [Laughter.] Within reason you want that, but not too much.
Ken. And cracking, as long as you get there before the wasps get in, you could still eat the fruit, don’t you think?
Q. Totally. I agree. Another thing that I think can influence it is too much Nitrogen—if you feed too much. I know everyone says tomatoes are “heavy feeders,” but there is a limit to that. I think it can cause things to be more susceptible as well. But even moisture–and isn’t that the case with plants in general, that they grow best without extremes?
Ken. And I always tell people: “More water, less often.” And they don’t know what I am talking about. So many people with their houseplants give it a little bit of water every day, and the plants don’t really like it. They like to get some oxygen through the roots, more like nature frankly—like nature used to be.
Q. Right, before it had a nervous breakdown. So a deep, thorough watering hoping to really wet the soil.
Ken. I don’t know if we have time to get into this because we have so many other things, but what about all that Calcium stuff that people talk about with tomatoes?
Q. Right, and some of the ailments are from not being able to uptake Calcium, but I’d have to sit and really concentrate to think that through. In my brain about tomatoes—the mechanical problems I always understand, but when you get into the chemistry and the soil science, I have to sit and think. I might be too overheated right now for that. [Laughter.]
- [Read about Blossom End Rot (photo above), the most common result of inadequate Calcium uptake by tomatoes, from Maryland Extension.]
Ken. So I shouldn’t have put antacids in the soil?
Q. No, don’t do that. [Laughter.] Do you think we should dive into a caller’s question, Ken?
- Tomato troubles, with Cornell’s pathologist Dr. Meg McGrath
- A rundown with helpful photos of various tomato problems, from Missouri Botanical Garden
growing rhubarb, especially in the hot south
Q. I think we have Marsha on the line. Where are you calling from?
Marsha. I’m calling from just outside of Washington, DC, from northern Virginia.
Q. Has it been hot down there this summer?
Marsha. Actually it was, but this week has been beautiful.
Q. Oh, you have a respite. I know I have a relative in DC and she said they’ve been having some days.
Marsha. We had a few in the 100-degree range.
Q. [Laughter.] Ken doesn’t like the heat, and I don’t like the heat. What’s your question?
Marsha. I keep a garden for a restaurant. Even though we’re in Zone 7a, in northern Virginia, the garden is actually in Zone 8 because it’s right near the Potomac River. It’s a little bit warmer.
They’ve been wanting me to grow rhubarb, and I’ve been trying two years to grow it, and it just seems to wither away. It doesn’t seem to be a bug or a fungus, but the leaves get brown around the edges and in a few days it’s just gone.
I’m wondering if maybe it’s too hot, because in addition to being Zone 8, it’s closed in; it’s got brick walls all around it.
Ken and Q. Oh.
Q. You heard us both say “Oh!” simultaneously. [Laughter.]
Ken. The most beautiful rhubarb I have ever seen in my life was in northern Quebec. Just saying. [Laughter.] It wants cold, it doesn’t like heat. What do you think, Margaret?
Q. Another thing about rhubarb, and it’s exactly why what Ken just said is true: It’s hardy to like Zone 3, and it’s native I think to Siberia—and I am not kidding, or using Siberia symbolically. It literally comes from Siberia; that’s where it is a native plant. It’s extremely cold tolerant and much less so on the other end.
So this walled garden may be part of the problem. Not only do you have the influence from the Potomac, which makes you a little bit of a microclimate, but then you’ve got the microclimate within the microclimate, right?
Marsha. I’ve never gone with a thermometer, but it’s just my sense that when I’m not there monitoring it, it probably gets really warm. But I have a friend that grows it successfully, in her yard, right near me. I remember your advice, Margaret, about why I should buy seeds from Southern Exposure, since I live in Virginia, so with that in mind I ordered the rhubarb from Monticello.
Marsha. Yes, from the renovated Thomas Jefferson’s garden—thinking that’s in Virginia, and that’s even further south than we are. But it’s up on a hill, it’s in the mountains, and it’s probably cooler.
Marsha. So you think there’s no hope?
Q. It’s interesting; you did the right thing. One of the steps everyone always says especially when trying to grow a plant that is marginally hardy in your Zone is to get a locally adapted variety. So you did that; that was smart.
I think the best you’re going to get is maybe a short-lived perennial, not like what I have [above, Margaret’s rhubarb in bloom]. When I got to my place there was rhubarb already there 30 years ago, and it’s even bigger now. It just grows and grows, like what Ken said about Canada.
Do you grow rhubarb, Ken?
Ken. No, I think I’ve actually killed it twice. Usually I do three strikes and then a plant’s out.
Q. Now what’s your soil pH, because that’s the other thing I was going to ask about?
Ken. My soil’s neutral.
Q. Around a 7ish pH?
Ken. Exactly a 7, which maybe is not acidic enough.
Q. I’ve read variously over the years that it can tolerate a little more on the acid side, a little acid, but ideally to have the best crop, it would like the high-5’s to mid-6’s, or I’ve seen recommended ideally 6.2 to 6.8. Somewhere like that. I don’t know about your soil because of course that’s another factor—and what we want to do is make as many of the factors in favor of your success.
Soil condition and pH, the heat factor, the locally or regionally adapted variety—we want to take away as many of the potential problems as we can.
Ken. I have a question. I was just wondering about your friend who grows it. Does it have good air circulation were she grows it?
Marsha. It doesn’t. She lives in a townhouse, and even the front yard, which is very small, is surrounded by a fence.
Marsha. I don’t think she has good circulation, either.
Ken. I think the restaurant should start getting their rhubarb from her.
Q. [Laughter.] One thing: Where you are, it really wants afternoon shade. I don’t know if that’s something you could do, to move it to where it’s behind something in the later part of the day in the summer—on the shady side of an asparagus patch with ferns to shade it, or on the shady side of a tall crop like your bean poles.
Marsha. If I had planned this garden I would have done it differently. It’s a beautiful space, but it’s got raised beds around the perimeter and down the middle is a stand of fruit trees, so it’s kind of all shade or all sun.
Q. I see.
Marsha. In the late afternoon, it may not even get that much sun, because the sun goes behind the building.
Q. That was just another idea—again, if we could tease away some of the stressors. One of the other things you can think about doing is growing it as an annual, from seed. I know it sounds crazy, but even down into Florida people can do that. I think the variety is ‘Victoria’ that people do that with.
I’m glad for the call because it’s one of my favorite vegetables—or it’s not a vegetable, but you know what I mean.
Ken. It is a vegetable.
Q. Well you know what I am saying—we don’t use it as a vegetable.
Ken. [Laughter.] Yes.
Marsha. Do you think shade cloth might work?
Q. I do think anything that would take some of the sting of that afternoon heat away would help, yes.
- A deep, fertile organic soil
- Slightly acid soil is ideal, pH 6.2-6.8
- Avoid a soggy spot, and also avoid sandy soil that drains too fast
- Afternoon shade in the warm end of its hardiness range (Zones 3-7, with trickiness even in parts of 7 and anywhere warmer)
- A straw mulch and regular watering may also help keep the ground evenly moist in hot-summer areas
- 500 hours of winter chill (temperatures from 30ish to 45ish degrees)
- Growing rhubarb as an annual in the hottest Zones, from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
- Growing rhubarb, from Virginia Extension
- Growing rhubarb, from Tennessee Extension
invasion of the asian jumping worms
Q. Ken, I have a question from Alissa in Wisconsin that came in via the contact form on A Way to Garden. It’s kind of eerie, because within a week I had another person also from Wisconsin ask the same question as Alissa. She says:
“I have the jumping worm or Asian snake worm on my property in Wisconsin, which is composed of deep woods and savanna. I have the characteristic ‘coffee grounds’ soil and have noticed areas where the topsoil has eroded completely, partially compounded by the fact that my property is on a steep hill.
“I would love to learn more about maintaining a garden–and the land–with the soil changes that the worms bring. So far, I plan to mulch regularly to keep the remaining soil from eroding.”
She wants to know what else she can do, and is she just going to be feeding the worms further by mulching. She says that she is already seeing some “dead zones” where nothing will grow. [Illustration below from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources brochure; get the pdf of the rest of the brochure.]
Q. So earthworms—and what was the first thing we learned as gardeners? Earthworms are your friends, right?
Ken. Whenever I bring this up, I get the most incredible looks on people’s faces. And sometimes some hostility.
Q. I’m not going to yell at you, honey, I promise. [Laughter.]
Ken. [Laughter.] It’s blasphemy. Because I don’t think earthworms are all that good. There were earthworms here for hundreds of years, but [in the North] they’re not indigenous—not the ones who were here for hundreds of years. I guess there was a point in time when they turned over the soil, or helped aerate your compost 40 years ago, and that was OK.
But I only see damage from earthworms now, especially in the woodlands. Between the deer and the worms, and you can just see forever. It used to be that you looked in the woods and there was an understory. I don’t even see that anymore.
Q. Do you have passionate feelings about the subject?
Ken. It’s one of my “red” buttons, yes.
Q. You said earthworms, native, not native, whatever. She’s in Wisconsin, and talking about a particular type of worm. But the first point you made is that you’re not so sure if they’re your friend, like what I had said.
I think what experts would say, is that in a man-made environment for agriculture and horticulture, some earthworms can be a helper to a degree by accelerating the creation or processing of organic material into organic material in the soil that’s more usable and can improve the quality of the soil. Didn’t they come over with settlers and so forth in the ballast of ships?
Ken. And in plants, too.
Q. In the rootballs of plants. So in a man-made environment like a farm field they may be helpers, but in a natural environment and particularly a forest ecosystem there would never be this kind of earthworm that she is talking about.
Ken. And you’re saying “this kind of worm she’s talking about,” and what you’re saying might have been true at one time, but we have all sorts of worms now. She mentions the Asian worm. And we have worms now that I didn’t see as a kid. I remember worms as a kid. But we have worms now that are churning up the soil so much.
I was in Ithaca at Cornell almost 15 years ago, and they were putting in shrubs in a new garden at their arboretum, and they said the shrubs were falling out of the ground. There was so much churning of soil that they just fell right over.
So we are dealing with new, yet again, alien, exotic, non-native problems. And I know people say, “Oh, you’re a native Nazi,” but really what do you do? I don’t like these worms. [Laughter.]
Q. And this is a very extreme one, a very extreme worm. You said something about native and not native. So there were no worms native to the Northern part of the United States and in Canada.
Q. There were and are native worms south of like Illinois or somewhere like that—there’s a line at the Great Lakes area, and above there weren’t any [since the last Ice Age ended about 11,000 years ago at least]. And all the ones that were there were ones that were brought from Europe, and more recently they have come from elsewhere as well, and used for purposes like fishing bait, and vermicomposting, and so forth.
Like you said, alien creature gets out of control in a new environment. And what they really do is they reduce the soil to a mineral soil—there are no organics left in it, right? It’s a disaster. It gets very compacted and so forth.
Q. Indeed, and it happens way too fast. So what she has, in more recent years, these Asian snake worms—Amynthas agrestis—they have been found in a number of areas and the Midwest is having an expanding problem with them now. And there have been pockets elsewhere—we have them in New York State. [The Smoky Mountains have them, too, for example, and parts of New England and elsewhere.] These are very, very active ones—and that’s one way you can tell them apart from others. That’s where they get that “snake worm” name—larger, more active, snakelike in their movements.
And the other way to tell them from other earthworms including the, um…
Q. Yes! You know that different-colored band in a sexually mature worm? They have that band, the clitellum around their body, sort of near the head. In this jumping worm, it goes all the way around—it’s not like a saddle that doesn’t go all the way around on the others, like the nightcrawlers. The band is entire, around the whole body. That’s one of the ways you can tell if you have them.
So what Alissa wants to know, and the other person who wrote in from Wisconsin wants to know is: What do I do? And that’s where it gets super-tricky. So what do you do?
Ken. And also she was saying how to keep the ground from eroding. I was thinking about that because rather than just have mulch down, to maybe have more and more plants—more groundcovers in the woodlands. But then the leaves would fall off those; probably the leaves would be deciduous, and then the worms would go after those, and you’d be back where you started.
Q. For instance, from the Department of Natural Resources in Wisconsin, where they are very alarmed—I read an interview a couple of years ago, where an expert from the DNR said this can be “a game-changer,” this species, because it’s so active. And they can such density; their populations are so dense.
They were advocating, if you have them in your garden to remove them—and I know this sounds gross—to remove them and put them in a plastic bag in the sun and let the worms be killed. To remove them so none of the eggs survive, either, and then to put it all in the trash.
In other words, you can try to reduce the spread of them in your little world. But as environmental problem it’s much more serious.
What I did is. I thought, what do golf courses do? Those finely groomed courses.
Ken. You’d be stepping in the castings all the time.
Q. Since golf has been happening, the greens keepers have been dealing with the castings. You don’t want to have to rake and roll the courses all the time, the turf. They’ve always experimented with using fertilizers, which can make the soil inhospitable to worms, and have used a lot of chemicals over the years—but don’t do that any longer. But I found out from the United States Golf Association…
Q. …that an organic fertilizer for golf-course use has been developed by a company called Ocean Organics Corporation of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and also in Waldoboro, Maine. They’ve developed this organic fertilizer from tea seed meal (an extract of the tea plant), kelp extract, and composted poultry manure. It’s Early Bird™ 3-0-1 Natural Organic Fertilizer, and right now it’s just being used for golf courses, but this is one thing they are doing to try to minimize this problem and have fewer worms—and they’re not talking about just this particular species of worm.
overtime minutes: worms continued
Q. Jumping worms, huh, from Southeast Asia?
Ken. I was thinking it would be a great teaser-segue for the last segment, to ask you the question how come there are no native worms in the northern U.S. and the rest of our northern continent?
Q. I’m not the greatest scientist over here, but I know the glaciers—what is it, going back 11,000 years? When you scrape down the soil to a certain level, it isn’t going to be hospitable to worms, I guess, and there’s the issue of cold. [Map of “last glacial maximum vegetation;” see map larger on Wikipedia.]
Glaciers that covered north American and reached as far south as where Illinois and Indiana and Ohio are now, and wiped out native worms, and we talked about how ones from Europe and Asia and elsewhere have been brought in in ship ballast and on plants and spread around. But farther south than that there are native species, yes?
Ken. And they probably have fossil evidence of worms having been here 50,000 years ago or something like that.
Q. So I want to say to people: If you have a “small” problem, and you see these worms, it’s good to report it and you can check with your state Extension. Or get in touch with Great Lakes Worm Watch no matter where you live in the country, and there is a Canada Worm Watch as well.
They want to know where different and unusual worm species—especially now these Asian jumping worms, these Amynthas agrestis and other species—are. So we can sort of help as citizen scientists and also get more information, especially about how damaging they have been in the forest environment in particular.
- Asian jumping worms, from Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
- Why big Master Gardener plant sale was canceled, to try to limit the worms’ spread
- Great Lakes Worm Watch website
- Canada Worm Watch website
- My interview with Great Lakes Worm Watch
Ken. You’re making me feel that people aren’t going to be staring at me like I am crazy, or wagging their fingers at me when I say that worms are not always the best things in all situations—and, leave the moles alone.
Q. And I agree: Moles are insectivores, and are good creatures that help. We’ve talked about them on previous shows.
fighting japanese stiltgrass
Q. I did want to ask you about another invasive species. I know that you have been battling stiltgrass in the past. How is your one-man campaign over there going—and tell us what stiltgrass is first, I guess. [Above, Ken’s photo of weeded-out stiltgrass.]
Ken. OK. I’ve had a lot of things happen here on the island garden, including floods. And I have lived through the floods, and some of the floods have been really bad, but I have been really lucky (knock wood) for the last six years.
But when stiltgrass came to this garden [Japanese stiltgrass, Microstegium vimineum], it was the first time I thought I would actually hang up my trowel. And it’s all over the roadsides, it’s all in the open areas—talk about the woods, it’s in the woods, because it grows in the dry shade, it grows in the sun.
It’s a grass, and was first seen in Tennessee in the 1920s and was believed that seed was brought over. The whole thing, dried, was used as packing material from Japan—hence Japanese stiltgrass. I think I got it from someone in Pennsylvania, but that’s another story. Now it’s everywhere here; I can’t imagine that you don’t have it.
It’s really been the big monster—until the worms. [Laughter.]
Ken. And I’ve done a lot of reading, and I think I am sort of getting ahead of it a little bit.
Q. And your tactic has been…?
Ken. Well, it’s very easy to pull out. But there is so much of it; it is the lawn. Mowing is great. Its grows sort of like a segmented bamboo-y type thing, and you just pull it and it pulls right out. In the spring, when I first see the seedlings, I just rub them on the soil surface. Weed-whacking is great, but you can’t weed-whack a garden bed with all sorts of plants in it. You’d be killing everything.
But they do recommend, whenever you read something, they always say weed-whack to get it, to knock it back, and you do that now—in mid-August, before it goes to seed. But when it’s mature enough that the seeds in the soil—which will last up to seven years—don’t have time to set seeds themselves.
So if you weed it now, which is what I have been doing, just pulling it out wherever I can (and as I said, it’s very easy to pull out) and then new ones might sprout, but they don’t have time to set seeds. The season isn’t long enough.
Q. Oh, OK.
Ken. You don’t get another generation.
Q. This season, before winter in the North.
Ken. So if you keep doing that for several years—and again, I’m knocking wood—I see very many fewer of them, although there are still plenty. It’s amazing. And it also has an allelopathic chemical so it inhibits the growth and germination of other plants, and it also sort of lays over other plants and shades them. It’s horrible. [Laughter.]
Q. We could go on and on about how many people have Japanese knotweed, or the horsetail rush, or Equisetum, that has come into their garden. Those are a couple of really hard ones to get rid of. But you are saying you have been able to in your garden environment, with a deliberate and consistent program, you have been able to mechanically, safely tackle this. Not in the greater environment, but in your garden.
Ken. Well, on more than 2 acres; it’s happening.
Q. That’s encouraging.
Ken. I’m against lawn in general but having a lawn is one of ways I have reduced the area where this plant can spread.
Q. Because you’re mowing, mowing, mowing, right?
Ken. Right, right, right. [Laughter.] Especially this year.
Q. So invasives—we could go on and on. How about a question that’s not about invasives?
when to plant a peach tree
Q. Susan on Facebook wants to know about her peach tree-to-be. She asks: “When is the best time of year to plant peach trees?” She heard fall, not spring. What’s your 2 cents? I have my own prejudice about all this when-to-do-what stuff.
Ken. I generally recommend and do plant deciduous trees in the fall—in general. She’s not going to have peaches the first year after that.
You can plant in the spring, when it’s at the garden center and has lovely flowers—as long as you water it that first year, it will be OK. But I think generally deciduous trees are great in the fall, and even after they drop their leaves, because they’re never going to have stress from not getting enough moisture. But the roots of deciduous trees will continue to grow until the ground is really frozen, because they’re down like 2 feet.
Q. So you like to take advantage of that settling-in time before the ground freezes, and then again early the next spring when it’s generally moister and cooler, and less stressful for the plant to get acclimated.
Ken. Right. If you plant in the spring and it has to go through the summer, it’s going to have leaves and it doesn’t have new roots and it is more stressful for it.
Q. Of course I am like: If it’s standing in a pot at the nursery, and that’s the peach tree you are going to buy, anytime is a good time—as long as like what you said, that you give it a hospitable environment, and consistent moisture.
I’d rather do it early in the season or late in the season—and I love the fall, too, for deciduous things, because it’s easier on me, too, frankly. I don’t have to be running out every day in the summer, which is imminent if I plant in the spring, to keep it happy through that potentially hot summer.
But I think it can be done anytime if you’re vigilant—and I wouldn’t do it in the hottest part of summer if I didn’t have to.
Ken. You know a lot of fruit trees, sometimes you get them in the mail and they are bare root.
Q. And those generally arrive in the early spring.
Ken. Generally. But also choosing the variety especially with peach trees—that’s a big part of it. There is such a range, and some varieties really want to be in the South and some don’t have to be.
when a pruned-back grape will fruit again
Q. Paula, also on Facebook, has some fruit questions. Someone cut back her grapevine to the main trunk two years ago. “It’s been making new vine for two years,” she says, “but when should it fruit again?”
Ken. Where is she located?
Q. She didn’t say.
Ken? She lives in Facebook? [Laughter.]
Q. No she does not; Paula does not live on Facebook. But I think this thing just really got a real walloping.
Ken. I think it’s just time.
Q. It’s got to set up an armature sort of to support fruit. Isn’t it the one-year vines that then sprouts come off them that become your fruiting spurs or shoots or whatever they are called.
Ken. I think it’s three years.
Q. To grow back from nothing, right. You don’t have anything the first year to train up, to get your basic structure. I would think next year, maybe.
Ken. Yes, next year, maybe.
when will my fig tree fruit again?
Q. And another fruit question: How long after cutting back my potted fruit trees will it fruit again—from a hard cutback? To me this is one that partly depends on whether it’s a variety that fruits on new wood or not. [Above, the early or “breba” crop forming on overwintered wood on a potted fig at Margaret’s.]
Ken. That was my first question besides where does she live.
Q. What fig? [Laughter.]
Ken. What kind of fig? Most often people grow ‘Brown Turkey’ because it’s dwarf and it’s one of the best ones to grow in a container. But I know people who have fig trees and they schlepp them in and they are 6 feet tall or even taller…
Q. I know, like our friend Lee Reich [my interview on how to grow figs, with Lee Reich].
Ken. If it stopped fruiting, well it’s hard to tell.
Q. I think it needs either more time to rebound, if it was a really hard cutback—and especially if it’s not one that fruits on new wood. Probably next year it will be fine.
Ken. And it likes heat, and I don’t know where she lives but it may be another situation of this cool, wet spring and summer we’ve had [if she is nearby]. Most things have loved it, but some things have been adversely affected, especially fruit. This year there was heavy, heavy set—I have a friend who is losing many of his limbs in his old apple tree because he couldn’t thin them, and then sometimes the fruit is watery…so why do we do this? Let’s just go to Whole Foods.
Q. Between that and the stiltgrass, I think we should just give up—throw in the trowel as you said. [Laughter.]
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MY WEEKLY public-radio show, rated a “top-5 garden podcast” by “The Guardian” newspaper in the UK, began its seventh year in March 2016. In 2016, the show won three silver medals for excellence from the Garden Writers Association. It’s produced at Robin Hood Radio, the smallest NPR station in the nation. Listen locally in the Hudson Valley (NY)-Berkshires (MA)-Litchfield Hills (CT) Mondays at 8:30 AM Eastern, rerun at 8:30 Saturdays. Or play the August 14, 2017 show right here.
After listening to your enlightening podcast about the scary worms, I noticed that my worms were behaving as if on a bad LSD trip, unlike the worms of my youth that behaved so much better.
So I inquired with the local Cooperative Extension and, unfortunately, they confirmed my worst fears. I guess the “fix” is to round them all up and bag the little buggers.
Just one more thing to keep me awake at night. And keep me busy during the daytime.
We can go from your yard to mine, a traveling worm roundup, offering each other support in the rather gross shared mission. : )
Good grief. This intel about worms has, officially, blown my mind. I’d prefer to think that you and Ken Druse made the story up to see how gullible your listeners are but no … you are of course right. And here I’ve been carefully moving worms to one side so that they’re unharmed by my garden spade. I wonder if they are responsible for the sudden death of a set of heuchera in my garden in early summer – a group of plants drooped quickly, discolored and died, but were surrounded by other heuchera that remained healthy until 10 days ago and now these too are suddenly following the same fate. I have a student who likes to fish … perhaps I can convince him to gather up my worms to use as fishing bait?
i live in Durham, NH and the NH Diagnostic Lab has identified worms as Jumping Worms. I started trying to capture these guys and it feels futile since they lay eggs. The worms APPEAR to be in concentrated areas. So, as a preventive, do I stop applying compost and mulch everywhere, including my vegetable garden? What are best gardening practices? Thanks.
Hi, Jean. I don’t know, and I am trying to find out because I have one area as you describe here, too. The only recommendations I have found are the ones in the story — to bag them up and kill them in the sun to reduce the population, and also the lead about that organic fertilizer they use on golf courses. I am investigating more.
“Sad.” [you should pardon the expression.]
All of these years I’ve thought earthworms are beneficial and I’ve actually been known to have scooped a few up and added them and a layer of composted leaves to all the large pots that I bring in every Fall. I thought they’d aerate the soil and make castings to improve the soil over the winter in the pots. But Ken’s word “impoverished” in your interview was an eyeopener. Live and learn…