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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.

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This week's HomeGrown

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HOME GROWN 312

Those disgusting bags are on the ends of the tree branches again. There are worms inside and I can't cut or burn any more branches because the trees look terrible. How do I stop this horrible invasion?

You don't. Stop the madness of cutting burning, slashing and destroying. Right now, you're your trees' worst enemy. Those teeny, pathetic insects are no match for your rage of mutilation. The insects are called Fall Webworms. They spend their short lives in the woven netting That they place over the end of branches. They feed inside their bag and only leave when they are done feeding and are leaving the trees. They feed on many kinds of trees. The webbing looks terrible, but the damage is of little consequence. If the trees or shrubs are the size that you can get to, just push a stick into the webbing and tear everybody out. Dump the little losers in a bucket of soapy water and let them marinate for a couple of hours. If the trees are large, ignore them. These insects are coming at the end of the season and the trees have had all season to store energy. They may eat leaves but they do not eat next season's buds. The trees will not have dead branches next season because of Fall Webworm this year. Spraying the webs is usually completely ineffective because the pesticide just rolls off. If the webs are brown, your Fall Webworms are probably not home. They have vacated for the rest of the year. If the webs are white, they are probably home. Don't destroy your landscaping in a vain effort to prevent these insects. Your profound misery and the damage that you are doing to the trees aren't worth it.

I have several large peonies and I have dark spots on the leaves and stems. Other years when this happened, I sprayed them with some fungus product but the spots didn't go away. I decided that I don't want to use chemicals anymore so how can I get rid of the spots?

First, a little refresher from one of our favorite classes, Fungus 101. Fungi are sneaky little life forms. They get into leaves when you're not looking. They incubate in the leaves for a period of time and then they appear as spots on, or more correctly, in the leaves. They and the 
leaf are now one. You can't scrape them off or spray them away. Applying fungicide after they appear is like slamming the ol' barn door after the pony runs away. It's just too late. Fungicides protect and prevent; they cannot cure. So to get the fungicide to be effective, you have to apply before the fungus comes knocking. But you want to go au natural. This can also limit your problems as long as you are willing to pay attention and get out do what needs to be done at the correct time. Wait until the first killing frost and all the leaves croak. Skip out to the garden immediately. Use your pruners and remove all the leaves and stems on the ground and destroy them. Don't pitch them in the compost pile or dump them. Future Fungus is still in your yard. You want them gone. Diseased leaves and stems will be the fuel for next season's fungus storm. This may not completely eliminate your fungal woes but it can put a big dent into the spotted peony problem. Don't wait until spring because leaves can fall off, get crushed or still be around in some form. Remember, it's sneaky.

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

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