The Dirt Gardener: Thanks for Asking

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The Dirt GardenerQ: I’m having a problem with these Rolly Polly bugs getting into my strawberries when they’re almost ripe. Do you have any suggestions on how to keep those darned bugs off of my berries?

A: The Rolly Polly bugs, actually, are Sowbugs. They’re a gray color, oval in shape and curl up when disturbed. Also, they’re not actually an insect but a soil-dwelling crustacean that is closely related to the crayfish. They feed at night and live under logs, wood chips and other decaying organic matter where it’s damp, dark and moist. Sowbugs are considered beneficial, as they break down organic matter into nutrients, which is used by plants. However, they’re a problem with strawberries and any other crop that lies on the ground, like pumpkins, and melons. Sowbugs enter at the point where the berry makes contact with the soil. The lack of or poor air circulation and moisture creates a location were decay or rotting begins. This occurs quickly compared to other crops because strawberries have no waxy coating on their outer layer. This decaying organic matter is very attractive to the Sowbugs and they are easily controlled without any pesticides. The berry clusters are raised up off the ground with a drip irrigation clip. Acoated Dixie Cup placed under the mature berries is another way to prevent Sowbugs. Plastic is often mentioned with growing strawberries, however in many home gardens this creates watering problems. If I were to use plastic, I’d use black plastic over clear as it retains more heat, which will deter the Sowbugs. For cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, and all melons,
a layer of straw is a simple and effective solution.

Q: If we were to plant a lemon or lime in a twenty-inch wide glazed ceramic pot would it eventually break the pot or would it die from being root bound?

A: Given those two choices, your plant would strangle itself from being root bound before it cracked the ceramic container. A plant is more likely to crack a clay pot rather than a ceramic container as moisture evaporates through the porous sides. And, it takes longer for plastic than clay to break down because of UV issues. Water stress is the primary reason why Citrus and other ornamentals die in containers rather than from being root bound. The volume of soil is lost out the drainage hole and from the activity of the microorganisms while the root ball increases in size to support the vegetative growth and moisture retention is severely reduced. These plants suffer from water stress when the days are long, windy and with warm temperatures. Hence it is recommended to water containers daily when the temperatures are above seventy-five degrees. Also, you need to remove the saucer so the water flows free out the bottom and to avoid a mosquito breeding area. Today, mosquitoes are a serious health hazard as they’re the primary carrier of West Nile Virus.