Ask the determined gardener

There are piles of dirt all over my yard. What are they and how can I get rid of them?

The fall dirt mounds are caused by short tailed crickets. They feed on weeds, grasses and pine seedlings, but damage to turf is fairly negligible. Short tailed crickets overwinter underground as nymphs. After several molts, they emerge and create their own burrows. Usually only one cricket inhabits each burrow unless eggs or nymphs have matured there. Burrows created by adults or nymphs may be reestablished after each rain. With little turf damage and the aeration effect of the burrows, the most common homeowner response is to accept them as a sign of fall. If they seem too unsightly or damaging, chemicals used for treating white grubs are effective. A quick note: spring burrows in the yard are caused by cicada killers, a mostly harmless wasp which paralyzes cicadas and carries them to their burrows to feed hatching eggs.

I’m needing information on growing milkweed.

You seem to want to grow plants for the order Lepidoptera, butterflies, skippers and moths. A few tips for a successful pollinator garden: a mixture of perennials and annuals, including native plants; nectar plants (marigolds, petunias and asters); plants for larvae (tomatoes and herbs); sunny location; shelter from wind; mud puddles and old fruit to attract them. Asclepias asperula (antelope horns), Asclepias viridis (green antelope horn), Asclepias viridiflora (green comet milkweed) and Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed) are several good varieties. Many seeds need scarification (weakening of the outer shell) by sanding or soaking before planting outdoors. Indoors in a heated environment, plant seeds in deep pots in February. Grow them out until spring planting. My best success came from buying plants to transfer into my garden. Many seem to reseed profusely, giving great stands for the next years. A dedicated area with plenty of sunshine works best. Remember to provide for all stages of life for the Lepidopteras. Place different types of seating to observe your migrating friends.

What is a good spraying schedule for apricots?

All stone fruits (peaches, plums, cherries, etc.) need frequent treatments. In dormancy (trees are dormant and temperature above 40 degrees) use Dormant Oil, Kocide LF, or Hi-Yield Copper Fungicide. When tree is in prebloom (when flower buds show pink) use Hi-Yield Copper Fungicide, Kocide LF or Home Orchard Spray (Ortho). When tree is in bloom (50% of blossoms open) use Hi-Yield Copper Fungicide, Home Orchard Spray (Ortho) or Captan 50WP. When tree is in petal fall (50 to 75% of petals have fallen) use Captan 50WP, Home Orchard Spray (Ortho), Sevin Liquid. When tree is in shuck split (75% of shucks split, 7 to 10 days after petal fall) use Captan 50WP or Home Orchard Spray (Ortho). First and second cover sprays should happen 10 to 14 days after shuck split and again 10 to 14 days later. Summer cover sprays should be done 10 to 14 day intervals before maturity. Good choices are Home Orchard Spray (Ortho) or Sevin Liquid. At post harvest (at leaf fall) use 3lb. Copper Flowable Fungicide. There are many alternates and many sources suggest rotating fungicides. Read OSU fact sheet F-7319, Home Tree Fruit Production and Pest Management for alternates and more info on diseases and pests being treated.

How should I prune peach trees? There is only room here for a short tutorial. Peaches are pruned for an open center. Select three to five scaffolding branches with a 35- to 40-degree angle. With heavy fruit weight these will spread to about 60 degrees. Prune to your preferred height. Second and third year pruning consists of removing broken or crossing branches and keeping the center canopy open. Check out the Oklahoma State University fact sheet F-6228, Annual Pruning of Fruit Trees, which gives an expanded description of pruning steps. Observe steps for thinning fruit for optimum fruit size and reducing limb breaks. Fact sheets are available at your County Extension Office or on-line at

The Oklahoma County Extension Master Gardeners are offering a three-day workshop, “Home Gardening 101”. It will be Feb. 17, 24, and March 3. The registration fee of $50 covers all three days. Call the OSU Extension office at 405-713-1125 to register and get more information. This is a great opportunity to learn more about gardening in Oklahoma.