It’s the skunks, stupid!

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I have skunks digging up my lawn right now. I have got to know how to kill those grubs that they are eating. A lot of damage is near my bird feeders.

The best you can hope for right now is that the ground freezes. Even if this siege is brought on by gazillions of grubs, they are currently dormant. Skunks also eat earthworms and soil insects so you can’t know for certain that they are eating grubs. But if they were, you cannot spread pesticide and kill grubs that are not eating.

In July, when you would normally use a grub product, it gets dissolved in the irrigation water and picked up by the growing grass roots. Then, the grubs eat the roots and croak. The big question is did you see any dead spots in the lawn in late summer or fall? That might indicate grubs.

In many places, grub damage was light or nonexistent this fall. In May, dig up a one foot square of turf. Peel it back and count how many grubs are feeding on the roots. If this is an irrigated lawn, the grass could handle 10 grubs per square foot and show little damage. If this is not a watered lawn, five is the limit. Then, use a grub control product like Bayer Season-Long Grub Control or Grubex in the first week of July.

If you let your grass grow to 3 inches in height and keep it at that height, you can prevent grub damage by just keeping it taller.

But the real problem is skunks. In May, spray a repellant like Scoot Mole or Mole Med on the grass. These castor oil extracts will keep skunks away. They mask the odor of the tasty soil critters. But keep in mind that bird seed on the ground provides good eating for skunks and other furry mammals. There is a possibility that your damage may have more to do with bird chow than unconscious grubs.

I have a couple of houseplants and one of them is a cactus. Are these plants supposed to be fertilized? How and when do I do this? They are on my kitchen windowsill. Just give a short answer.

A short answer like, “yes, no, with extreme prejudice and only if monkeys are not harmed?”

A little more information and reading is necessary. Indoor plants are fertilized if they are generally healthy and you are unhappy with their growth or color. Fertilizer is not like the horticultural world’s answer to aspirin for humans. If the plant has problems, fertilizer will probably make those problems worse.

Sitting on the windowsill, plants will not grow during the winter because of the lack of sunlight duration and intensity. Basically, skip the winter. Skip fertilizing if you don’t want them to outgrow their location. Often, succulents and cacti do not have to be fertilized. They are intended to be slow growers.

In the spring, when the plants begin to produce new leaves, you can begin fertilizing. The fertilizer must be diluted in water. Only fertilize plants that are not moisture stressed.

First, water the plant. Then add the fertilizer and water mixture. Do not put fertilizer mix on the plant, just on the soil. When you purchase houseplant fertilizer, follow their mixing directions.

The liquid houseplant fertilizers are not superior or inferior to the granulated ones. The granulated fertilizers break down rapidly in water so there is no mixing problem.

You can choose to not fertilize or do it on occasion. Your plants should not be fertilized every time you water or even once a month. But if you are fertilizing, stop in October when the lack of sunlight is beginning to shut plants down for their winter’s naps. Many plants that are not fertilized have long, happy lives.

About Gretchen Voyle 51 Articles
Gretchen Voyle is the MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator. She can be reached at (517) 546-3950.