Finally drained and rolled up the garden hose, swept cobwebs from corners of the porch, and washed windows in preparation for winter weather?
Gives us a warm ‘look what I’ve done’ feeling every time we finish those seasonal tasks. But wait! Take another look at those flower beds and vegetable gardens – they need cleaning out, too. One of the least toxic and most helpful things we can add to our Fall “to do” list is the simple act of cleaning up.
Case in point: Canna leaf rollers. Don’t have canna lilies in your garden or yard? That’s OK, but I’ll bet you have something that overwinters in debris that accumulates, is left where it falls, and provides great harborage for pests that appear every year during spring and summer.
Back to Canna leaf rollers: these voracious little caterpillars, the larval form of the large brown skipper butterfly, start the process around April in our area. Feeding in groups, they roll leaves together and feed in a snug, protected environment. However, since they overwinter as larvae in rolled canna leaves, cutting or pruning off the above-ground stalks of canna in late fall and winter will remove a sizeable segment of the population without any other form of pest control.
Along with cabbage worms, cucumber beetles, and tomato hornworms, which also ride out winter in leftover debris, these pests are left protected and waiting to reappear next spring as temperatures warm.
Will an “extra cold” winter kill them off? Maybe a few of the weaker ones, but like most insects adapted to our climate, the majority will survive to start the cycle again in spring. So why not give your cannas and other garden plants a head start by getting rid of the generation smugly snuggled in leftover debris? A gardening friend works off her Thanksgiving feast by cleaning out her canna beds the following day!
So, remove that withered, blackened vegetation left from summer harvest, and remains of those ragged canna leaves. It will help control overwintering garden pests. This could become a new post -Thanksgiving tradition!
By Sallie Lee, Urban Regional Extension Agent, Alabama Cooperative Extension System. Contact Sallie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) operates as the primary outreach organization for the land-grant functions of Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities. ACES is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity and the diversity of its workforce. Educational programs of ACES serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or national origin.