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IN THE GARDEN: Organic ways to get rid of roly polies

You can get rid of pill bugs, or roly polies, organically.

Carolyn asks, “What is an organic solution to pill bugs?”

Carolyn, pill bugs (Armadillidium vulgare) are crustaceans, meaning they have exoskeletons similar to shrimp. Although they are fun to play with, these isopods are decomposers. They feast on transplants and seedlings.

You have a couple of options.

Bill Luedecke and daughter, Martelle, offer gardening advice for the Highland Lakes.

First, diatomaceous earth (DE). Diatomaceous earth is not poisonous; it is pet- and child-friendly. DE is made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms. Their skeletons are made of a natural substance called silica, which causes insects to dry out and die after absorbing the oils and fats from the cuticle of the insect's exoskeleton. Its sharp edges are abrasive, speeding up the process. To eradicate the pill bugs, spread DE around your garden, a top layer.

A second option is to bait the pill bugs. Set a corn cob or a slice of melon in your garden. The pill bugs will congregate for the buffet. Then, dispose of the melon rind in a small trash bag before placing into the garbage can. Fair warning: The bait might attract more than just the roly polies, consider wearing gloves before you pick up your bait.

Just so you know, pill bugs are really good cleanup bugs, equal to vultures cleaning up road kill.

October Garden Duties

1. This is the month to purchase (and place in the refrigerator for 60 days) your tulip and hyacinth bulbs. These have to chill for that period of time before they are planted in December. The other bulb plants can be planted now.

2. Start to make your list of trees you want to plant in November and December. This is the time of year for planning for next spring and cleaning up the gardens for winter. Remove all the annuals as they begin to dwindle in their blooms. Cut off the tops of all herbaceous perennials that have completed their flowering cycle or when the first freeze has killed their leaves.

3. Plant your bulbs (not tulip or hyacinth) so the base of the bulb is at a depth that is three times the diameter of the bulb.

4. If you have been saving seeds of those favorite plants, allow them to air dry then place them in an air-dry container. Be sure to mark what they are before putting them away.

5. Late this month, begin to dig your caladium bulbs to save them for next year. After several days (7-10), remove the leaves and dirt then pack them, without them touching each other, in peat moss, vermiculite, or similar material for storage. Dust them with an organic fungicide and place them in an area where the temperature will not drop below 50 degrees.

6. How are your tomatoes growing? (The ones we cut back from the summer.) How about those we have planted for the fall?

7. It is time to feed the azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons with bone meal to encourage bud formation.

8. When you are composting, add coffee grounds to assist in bringing down the pH level.

9. If you want to have a beautiful, healthy lawn next spring, now is the time to prepare. The month of October is the best time to fertilize (8-2-4) for the winter.

Winter stratification

So, why are we planting our wildflower seeds in the fall before it gets really cold, you may ask? Wildflowers were here before bulldozers and even the explorers Lewis and Clark. The wildflowers are self-sufficient. According to Wildflower Farm, fall and winter create “cold moist stratification or winter sowing in order to wake up and begin to grow. Cold moist stratification or winter sowing is nature’s way of breaking down the hard seed coating found on some wildflowers.” If, by chance, you haven’t located the seeds that you would like to plant by our first freeze, don’t panic. In the spring, you can place your seeds in a container with sand. Shake it up to utilize the abrasion of the sand. Then, pull out your ice cube trays. Put a couple of seeds in each cube, top with water, and freeze for 48 hours. Then, plant your ice cubes. Voila: You have cold, moist winter stratification.

Keep your souls and soles in your garden! Remember the True Master Gardener, Jesus said, “I am the vine; my Father is the Gardener.” John 15:1

Have questions or comments? Contact Bill Luedecke at The Luedecke Group Realtors at (512) 577-1463 or email Contact Martelle Luedecke at (512) 769-3179 or

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