August 2008
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

By Lois Trigg Chaplin

Totem-like sculptures in Maine show what can be done when craftsmen and artists utilize logs.

Garden Art from Maine

This June I went to Maine for the first time and was surprised by how much the inland areas we visited looked like Alabama. The land was hilly with a mix of hardwoods and pines, albeit different species. American flags hung on doors and porches and the folks were very hospitable. Like Alabama, timber is abundant and much of the local art and craftsmanship utilizes wood. Some fascinating totem-like sculptures in Belfast are an inspiration as to what can be done with logs. These sculptures are standing in private gardens and public spaces. More information about the artist, Ron Cowan, and his works is available at

The Table Can Turn on the Mighty Hornworm

f you see any big hornworms in your garden carrying white cocoons, leave them in place. Although parasitized hornworms may be moving a bit, they are too sick to feed your tomatoes. The cocoons are of a small, parasitice, Braconid wasp that doesn't hurt humans but does kill the hornworms. The wasps lay their eggs just under the skin of the hornworm where the larvae proceed to slowly digest the hornworm from the inside out as they develop. Hollywood doesn’t have all the gore! The white, egg-shaped structures on the caterpillar are the wasp’s cocoons. Since one hornworm can eat a whole tomato plant in a few days, it’s a good idea to encourage the tiny wasps, which are about the same size as a mosquito, to take up residence in your garden. Let the doomed hornworm stay so all those wasps can emerge and seek out more prey. 

Don’t remove big hornworms with white cocoons from the Braconid wasp. They help control the pest.

A Neat Idea for a Fence and Trellis 

Logs and limbs are used to create a trellising system and boundary to the children’s plot in Merryspring Garden.

This children’s plot at Merryspring Garden in Camden, Maine, is made from logs and limbs. It’s a pretty way of maintaining a trellising system that stays up year-round. It also creates a barrier and gives definition to the garden space. If you make it tall enough and on all four sides, it could double as a fence to keep out deer, too. The small plants pictured along the base are tomatoes to climb on twine tied to the top crossbar.

Late Squash

   The great thing about summer squash is it grows and matures so quickly. If you have the patience to endure a little heat now to plant and water them, you will find yourself harvesting squash in October. Sow seeds early this month and be on the lookout for squash vine borers. It’s hard to spray for these pests for many reasons: spraying in summer heat can burn plants, some sprays kill bees and the borers quickly get inside stems where they are protected from most garden sprays anyway. I’ve found the best control is morning coffee patrol in the squash patch. I get down on my hands and knees and regularly inspect my plants for the little brown, flat eggs the borers often lay at the base of a leaf or fruit stem. Last spring I smashed dozens from about ten plants. Another approach is to plant so much squash there is enough for you and the borers.

Mosquito dunks are an easy way to keep mosquitos from breeding in your water garden or birdbath.

Do You Know about Mosquito Dunks?

Mosquito dunks or "mosquito donuts" as some folks call them are an easy way to keep mosquitoes from breeding in your water garden or birdbath. The dunks slowly release a biological mosquito larvacide called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis) that kills mosquito larvae for at least a month. This is a bacteria specific to mosquitoes that will not affect fish, plants or wildlife. One dunk covers about 100 square feet of water surface. According to Summit, the manufacturer, they are also safe for animal watering troughs. Visit your local Quality Co-op to purchases these dunks

  Mosquito dunks will not affect fish, plants or wildlife.

Coax Crape Myrtle to Bloom Again

Early this month snip the blooming tips of your crape myrtles and you will probably see another flush of blooms. By keeping the seed head from forming and encouraging new growth on the stems, most varieties will throw out another, albeit smaller, flush of blooms. Do not prune way back on the limbs, only snip the tips right behind the bloom. A pole pruner will make easy work of this on most trees. Then give the trees a little help with a couple of cups of 10-10-10 or similar fertilizer sprinkled under the canopy and water gently but thoroughly.

   Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Garderner’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.