University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Fall News Article


Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont

Three questions many ask us in Extension this month include what are some bulbs animals wont dig up and eat, how should you take care of tools at the end of the season, and what does one do about fall insects invading homes.

Daffodils are my favorite bulbs, not only for their early spring show, but because most animals won't eat them!  Tulips, on the other hand, attract many animals.  Chipmunks, squirrels, and skunks dig them up, and deer will eat tulip tops in the spring.

One way to protect individual bulbs, including your special summer lilies, is to place some crushed rocks or shells in the holes when you plant them.  These can now be purchased in bags at garden stores, just for this purpose.

If you have a whole bed of bulbs such as tulips, you may wish to use poultry wire or something similar.  Dig the bed out completely, line it with the wire mesh, then replant the bulbs.  You may wish to cover the top with mesh as well until the bulbs emerge in the spring.

Dr. Lois Berg Stack, from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, says there is not much to do in order to have last year's amaryllis flower again.  After flowering last year, you hopefully let the leaves grow until late summer to replenish the bulb's energy.  When the leaves turned yellow, did you cut them back?  The potted bulbs can then be stored in a cool, dry place.

When new leaves appear around mid to late fall, move the plant to a bright place and begin watering.  Don't overwater, starting with less and watering more as the plant becomes more vigorous.  A new flower stalk should develop by early to mid winter.

If your bulb produces offsets (smaller baby bulbs), remove and pot them.  When potting, remember to leave the top one-third exposed above the potting mix.  New offsets produce flowers in about three years.

As the days get short, and the nights get cool, you may notice insects finding their way inside to hibernate for the winter.  Margaret Hagen, from the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, says the chief culprits are multicolored Asian ladybugs, boxelder bugs, and western conifer seed bugs (a member of the stinkbug family).  None of these insects bite or harm fabrics in your home, but in large numbers they can be a nuisance.

The easy, short-term solution is to simply sweep or vacuum them up and take them outside.  I keep a small hand vacuum near windows just for this purpose.  There are no repellents to make the insects leave.

A longer term solution is to screen attic or wall vents, chimneys, and fireplaces to
block their points of entry.  Air conditioners are another common point of entry, because the openings are rarely screened.  Caulk gaps around door and window frames and soffits, and tighten up loose-fitting screens, windows, and doors to help prevent these insects from entering your home.

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