Q: Here are photos of how I kept the birds from stealing this year’s bumper crop of cherries. — Richard Witte, West Fargo.

A: Thanks, Richard, for sharing a great idea about protecting fruit from birds, which are notorious for robbing at peak ripeness. Richard describes his unique method as follows:

“The cherry is the variety Meteor. If bird netting is applied directly over the small tree, the branches start to grow through the netting, making it hard to remove without damaging branches. It’s also difficult to pull back the netting every time you want to pick cherries. Instead, I made a walk-in enclosure, which supports the netting above the small tree.

“The frame is supported by four steel fenceposts driven into the ground. The part that supports the bird netting is made of PVC pipes and connectors. The frame was assembled on the ground and then lifted onto the fenceposts, and then the netting was added over the top. To pick cherries, you can lift the netting and walk inside the enclosure, making picking easy.”

Thanks again, Richard, for an innovative and practical way of protecting fruit of small trees and fruiting shrubs from being lost to birds.

Newsletter signup for email alerts


Q: The leaves of my string beans are being eaten by little beetles and now they’re taking little bites out of the beans themselves, which are beginning to get large enough to eat. What are these insects, and what can I use to get rid of them? — Ben L.

A: Bean leaf beetles have been seemingly everywhere this year, and I’ve received many questions. The leaves of our own string beans were riddled with holes before I applied insecticide.

Several insecticides will give good control of these beetles, including Sevin and permethrin (one brand labels it as Eight.) Check labels for the waiting time between application and safe harvest. An organic insecticide that can be applied close to harvest is Spinosad, and the label will indicate the exact interval.


Q: The leaves of my perennial phlox are yellow, and some of the lower ones have turned completely brown. The plant is flowering, but the plant looks really bad. I planted it last year. Is it doing this because of the heat? — Linda B.

A: Perennial phlox, which blooms in midsummer, is also called tall garden phlox, and often succumbs to foliage blights and mildews, caused mostly by fungi. Heat stress has affected the leaves of many plants this summer, but in the case of your phlox, disease is the most probable cause.

Fungal leaf diseases can make phlox plants look totally unappealing, and they do decrease the plant’s vigor, even if they usually don’t kill the plant. Control needs to begin in early summer, while the leaves still look green and healthy.

Disease-controlling fungicides work mostly as preventatives, protecting healthy foliage from succumbing to diseases caused by fungi. Once leaves are affected, an application of fungicide can protect healthy growth, but diseased leaves won’t revert to normal green health. The active ingredient chlorothalonil, found in many flower and vegetable fungicides, is effective on many foliage diseases when applied following label instructions.

Many newer phlox cultivars are resistant to foliage diseases, which is usually indicated in the plant’s description. To help minimize diseases and their spread, avoid wetting the leaves when watering, and water early in the day so foliage dries quickly.

If you have a gardening or lawn care question, email Don Kinzler, NDSU Extension-Cass County, at donald.kinzler@ndsu.edu. Questions with broad appeal may be published, so please include your name, city and state for appropriate advice.