How to control ‘blaspheme vine’

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: Can you recommend the best way to rid a property of the big briar vines that have massive roots the size of sweet potatoes? We purchased a building lot that has LOTS of those briars. L C Hammock, email

A: I have no doubt that you are seeing smilax vine, also known as “blaspheme vine” due to the reaction many people have when they first encounter it. The yellow root can run several feet from the vine. It forms nodes every foot or so, and each node can produce numerous smilax sprouts. It’s easy to see how one vine can become many. Birds enjoy smilax berries and scatter the seed hither and yon. The easiest way to kill the vine is to use a product that contains glyphosate and triclopyr, like Roundup Tough Brush Killer. This will kill the leaves and vines but may not kill all of the root, so keep an eye out for escapees.

Q: Before the recent cold snap, I moved a bunch of house plants into my garage for safekeeping. I discovered that yellow jackets had built a nest in the pot of a big, 30-year-old split-leaf philodendron. What can I do to kill the insects but not hurt the plant? Jeff T., email

A: The easiest thing to do would be to suffocate them. Fill a big bucket with water and add a tablespoon of dish detergent. Submerge the pot, with the philodendron in it, into the water. Like most insects, yellow jackets breathe through holes, called spiracles, in their exoskeletons. The detergent blocks the spiracles, thus suffocating the insect.

Q: Last year, Japanese beetles ate my peaches, but this year, a fungus got them. How do I treat it? Phillip Dickson, Hall County

A: This is the exact time of year to think about this problem! The most common fungus that attacks peach trees is called brown rot. Next spring, insects that walk on fruit that fell this year will get fungus on their feet, fly up to the young fruit, and infect it. So right now is a great time to rake up all the rotten fruit that has fallen and dispose of it. Spread a mulch of straw or chips under the tree to make a clean surface come spring. Brown rot can also be spread through the blossoms of a peach tree. Procure some Captan fungicide and make sure your sprayer works properly. Spray the entire tree when you see the first blossoms open. Spray again when half of them have fallen off. This protects the blossoms from brown rot. Your preparations now will yield healthy fruit next summer.

Email Walter at Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website,, or join his Facebook page at for his latest tips.

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