Your Problems, Our Solutions: Wasps, Voles and Pomegranates

Wasps in the way

Wasp | Vego Garden

Problem: I planted black-eyed peas, and yellowjacket wasps were all over them. I could not tell if they were pollinating them or eating the blooms. It is a little hard to pick peas with them there. Any thoughts on this problem?  Larry Burkes, Paducah TX

Solution: Yellowjacket wasps are very beneficial, so please try to tolerate them. They feed their young a diet of liquefied insects, including caterpillars, flies and spiders. They can be rather obnoxious in the summer and early fall since fewer young are being raised. They are probably looking for worms on your peas. They may also be nibbling on any overripe peas you have on your plants. So be sure to keep them picked. Yellowjacket wasps love to eat rotten apples and other fruit waste so you may want to dispose of any rotten fruit you have in a compost pile far away from your peas. This will help draw them away from your pea patch and make it easier for you to pick those peas.

Pesky voles

Vole eating daisy | Vego Garden

Problem: For the past two years I have been fighting damaging voles in my raised-bed garden. They like the tender growths on peas and beans as their favorite food. Newly planted veggies and onions are also some of their delicacies. I have tried sticky traps, snap traps and Sevin dust, but can’t seem to eradicate them. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Tommy Wray, Georgetown TX

Solution: Voles don’t like to be out in the open, so you can start by pulling the mulch away from your plantings and roto-tilling vacant areas of your garden. You will probably need to continue using the traps. Voles can be caught with mouse snap traps baited with a paste of rolled oats and peanut butter. 

Here is some advice on trapping provided by Robert H. Schmidt, Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Utah State University, Logan, UT: “Set the traps on the ground, perpendicular to the vole pathway with the trigger end in the pathway. A pinch of rolled oats sprinkled in the pathway next to the traps may entice the voles, but be careful not to disturb the pathways or burrows. Make sure that traps are level and don’t wobble. You don’t want voles to be frightened away by movement, and you want the traps to perform properly so they’ll catch instantly, killing the vole.

“Birds may also be tempted by the oats. To prevent them from getting caught, cover traps with a length of cardboard bent in half. Leave enough space above the trap so the cardboard doesn’t prevent the trap from springing.”

Pomegranate problems

Pomegranates | Vego Garden

Problem: I have a pomegranate plant on which the fruit pops open before it is ripe. What causes that? Also, how do you tell when the fruit is ripe? What kind of fertilizer should I use? Oliver Osborn, Lake Jackson TX

Solution: According to Richard Ashton, author of The Incredible Pomegranate, pomegranates naturally have a habit of splitting open in the fall or when near ripening time. Many times this is before the fruit is fully ripe. It is caused by too much rain or watering after the nights start cooling. The fruit will stop growing because of the cool nights, but if they get too much water the fruit will still try to add liquid to the fruit which causes splitting.

Telling when the fruit is ripe is difficult but not impossible. Commercial growers have brix meters that tell the total solids by putting a drop of the juice on a mirror plate. Many home growers say they can tell by the metallic sound when the fruit are thumped. Others say that the skin becomes soft. Both methods are at least partly successful in telling ripeness.

As to fertilizer, do not apply any in the fall, as it can cause the trees to put on new growth and you do not want to have this happen in the fall before a freeze. Fertilize in the spring and early summer with a balanced fertilizer, as you would with citrus.

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