There’s no need to remove crape myrtle due to ant problem

The beauty of crape myrtle flowers far outweighs the urge to remove a crape myrtle due to ants and aphids. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
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The beauty of crape myrtle flowers far outweighs the urge to remove a crape myrtle due to ants and aphids. (Walter Reeves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Walter Reeves

Credit: Walter Reeves

Q: My house has been invaded by little black ants, which the pest control person calls Argentine ants. He says the ants are attracted by the sap in my crape myrtle trees and suggested I get rid of them. What are your thoughts on this? Liz Smith, Rockdale County

A: Crape myrtles are commonly afflicted with aphids in the fall. These insects suck sap from leaves and then excrete a sweet honeydew that ants like. I am a big fan of using baits to control ants in your home. A bait product that contains borax (Terro, etc.) works very well. The first frost will kill all of the aphids, but in the meantime, spray insecticidal soap up into the crape myrtle as high as you can to control aphids there. Wasps, yellow jackets, and spiders will feast on aphids higher up. There is no need to remove the tree.

Q: My fig tree appears to be dead and all the leaves have fallen off. Any idea what caused this tree to die? Eddie Dillard, email

A: Don’t give up! Fig trees in my neighborhood have lost all their leaves, but scratching the bark with my thumbnail reveals that they are alive. Wait till next May; if you have no leaves then, your fig is dead.

Q: We have blueberry bushes with lots of holes in the leaves. I’ve used systemic insecticide granules on other plants, but since we eat the blueberries, I’m assuming I should not use this product but use something like organic spinosad instead? Tom Pinotti, Decatur

A: You are right, systemic insecticide granules are not labeled for use on edible plants. Since some foliage-damaging beetles feed at night, spray the blueberries at dusk, making sure the spinosad hits the underside of leaves. Repeat every four weeks.

Q: I have an organic vegetable garden and am trying to find organically grown and processed wheat straw for coverage over my winter cover crop seeds. C. Pozzo, email

A: I don’t think there is such a thing as organically grown wheat straw for sale. It would be normal practice to spray herbicides on wheat fields to control weeds. The straw that is collected after harvest, which is then baled and sent for sale at nurseries, has to be processed at a large scale in order to make a profit. You might find organically grown wheat, but it would be a losing proposition for someone other than you to collect and sell the organic straw. Consider just hand-picking weeds until your cover crop spreads and takes over.

Email Walter at georgiagardener@yahoo.com. Listen to his comments at 6:35 a.m. on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website, www.walterreeves.com, or join his Facebook Page at bit.ly/georgiagardener, for his latest tips.