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Rolly-polly bugs cause minimal damage

By By Amelia O’Brian / horticulture columnist
June 2, 2002
Dear Gardener,
My husband and I have a running debate about those little bugs with the hard shell that are found under rocks and in flower beds. The ones that roll up into a little ball when disturbed. We always called them rolly-polly bugs as children. Well, he says that they are damaging our plants and that we should get rid of them in our flower beds. I do not think they are harmful and that we should leave them alone. Which one of us is correct?
Dear Reader,
Actually, you are both correct. Sowbugs or pillbugs, as rolly-polly bugs are also known, do perform minimal damage in the garden. The damage is usually contained to seedlings though. A large population is needed to tell any damage has occurred. Usually these creatures do too little damage to worry, so eradication isn't usually necessary.
Dear Gardener,
I despise mulching. I get filthy and itch all over. I have vowed not to perform this nasty chore this summer. Please, I am begging you to give me any reason, just one will do, not to mulch my flower gardens this year.
Sandra
Dear Sandra,
I am so sorry, but I cannot come up with any reasons, even bad ones, not to mulch a flower garden. Mulch has several different purposes. Mulching smothers weeds and helps protect the soil from erosion during rainstorms. It also helps conserve moisture, reducing the need to water as frequently. Lastly, it just plain looks better. The mulch has an aesthetic effect on the bed while preventing mud from splashing onto the plant leaves while watering.
Dear Gardener,
I put out several clematis vines this spring. Some are doing well, but a couple simply shriveled up and died. What might have possibly happened to them?
Sharon
Dear Sharon,
The most possible cause of your problem is clematis wilt. It is the most serious disease affecting clematis vines. There is very little that can be done about the disease. If caught early enough, try to cut out the infected portions of stem. Also, plant the vine a couple of inches deeper in the ground than it was in the pot. This will encourage healthy new shoots to emerge from the ground. Avoid planting an other clematis in that same spot.

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