Garden Basics with Farmer Fred

213 Controlling Earwigs. Summer Fruit Tree Pruning

July 22, 2022 Fred Hoffman Season 3 Episode 213
Garden Basics with Farmer Fred
213 Controlling Earwigs. Summer Fruit Tree Pruning
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

GB 213 Garden Earwig Control. Summer Fruit Pruning.

Earwigs. They’re a garden problem, coast to coast. How do you control these pests that can take down young plants overnight? America’s favorite retired college horticulture professor, Debbie Flower, has some tips. And, we talk with a fruit tree expert about the benefits of pruning your stone fruit trees this month.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go!


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Earwig Control Information

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GB 213 TRANSCRIPT Earwigs, Summer Fruit Tree Pruning

Farmer Fred  0:00  

Garden Basics with Farmer Fred is brought to you by Smart Pots, the original lightweight, long lasting fabric plant container. it's made in the USA. Visit slash Fred for more information and a special discount, that's

Welcome to the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast. If you're just a beginning gardener or you want good gardening information, you've come to the right spot.

Farmer Fred  0:31  

Earwigs. They’re a garden problem, coast to coast. How do you control these pests that can take down young plants overnight? America’s favorite retired college horticulture professor, Debbie Flower, has some tips. And, we talk with a fruit tree expert about the benefits of pruning your stone fruit trees this month.

We’re podcasting from Barking Dog Studios here in the beautiful Abutilon Jungle in Suburban Purgatory. It’s the Garden Basics with Farmer Fred podcast, brought to you today by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. And we will do it all in under 30 minutes. Let’s go!     


Derek in Colorado  1:12  

Hi, Fred and Debbie. This is Derek from Fort Collins, Colorado, zone five. This is my first real year gardening and I direct sowed a bunch of veggie seeds and annual flowers. I did the annual flowers in ground under straw mulch, and well-watered. Same thing with veggies except in raised beds with better soil. Anyways, I noticed that once they emerged earwigs, of all things, started just decimating the annuals quite viciously. They skeletonized a lot of them and so I was reading and I use traps. Oil traps, vegetable oil and soy and soy sauce to take down their populations. It's just really weird because I was reading that they're actually a beneficial, they love aphids, etc. They eat them, and they keep the real bad bugs down. So I just figured I would ask you to just talk about that. Because being my first year all the pests I read about et cetera. I did not read about earwigs and how they could be really bad. I guess  when their populations jump up, it's no good. And so also do pill bugs or roll polys eat live plants? I could just see one. Anyways, thank you for all you do. Love your show. And I hope you all have a great day.

Farmer Fred  2:29  

Derek from Colorado, thanks for chiming in on SpeakPipe. And if you've got a question for Garden Basics, you can also go to speak basics and leave us a message without incurring any phone charges. Or you can pick up the phone and call us at 916-292-8964. 916-292-8964. If you want to text us pictures at that number, be my guest. Email? Sure. Send it to Fred at You can also leave a question in the contact box at Garden Debbie Flower is here, America's favorite retired college horticulture Professor. Earwigs, Debbie. They have actually been kind of a nemesis in this area too. 

Debbie Flower  3:17  

For a while yeah, and I can remember being in Arizona and we had a carpeted living room and sitting on the floor watching TV and one came crawling across the carpet. They can look kind of scary because they have those pictures on the back. They do not get in your ears and hurt you, if anybody happens to think that or has heard that. But they do eat organic matter. Including young seedlings. They also eat insects. They eat aphids and mites. But yeah, young plant parts. I'm putting together a story in my head for what Derek did. He said he put mulch down which is a wonderful practice. I totally support using mulch. I wondered if that helped the population expand because that gave them something to eat and a place to hide. Not that it was wrong. It's just that it helped the population expand. Insect populations over time can come to somewhat of a balance over time. So you may have had a particularly bad year by starting a garden, number one; giving them some seedlings to eat; and applying the mulch.

Farmer Fred  4:17  

Yeah, earwigs as Derek pointed out, can be beneficial. Yes, problems happen when they have a nice cool, moist dark environment to hang out in. Like maybe an overwatered mulched garden.

Debbie Flower  4:29  

Which is a seedling situation. Yeah.

Farmer Fred  4:32  

By the way, earwigs will bite you if they get in your clothes.

Debbie Flower  4:36  

Oh, you've had that experience. Yes. Oh my. 

Farmer Fred  4:39  


Debbie Flower  4:41  

So just be careful.

Farmer Fred  4:42  

Don't wear loose clothing in an earwig infested garden.

Debbie Flower  4:46  

Okay, okay, I’ll keep that in mind. I love the fact that he used traps, the oil in a can with some soy sauce. You can just use some vegetable oil, it doesn't need to be very deep. The oil actually clogs their breathing portions. Insects breathe through their skin, their rear ends, usually through their skin. And when they die, they're attracted by the odor of soy sauce, or also bacon grease. Also, tuna water. All those things attract them.  I use cat food cans for this. Tuna Fish cans work as well. So they're the small cans, shallow cans, but bury them so that the top of the the can is even with the soil and the can is open, you've got the bait in there and they smell it and they come running and they fall in, they drown. And you typically have to empty them daily.

Farmer Fred  5:39  

I would think if you want to keep your nosey dogs and cats out of that particular trap from licking at the oil or the soy sauce, you'd put some sort of screening over it, pretty wide screening, probably half inch screening over the top of the cans to allow the earwigs to get in. But keep your tongue of dog or cat out.

Debbie Flower  6:00  

Yeah, I have used it with cats outside at night. And we have lots of other critters and have not had a problem. So if you came back the next day and the trap was empty, you might consider that something did drink the oil and whatever else is in there. And yes, put a dome of netting or something over the top.

Farmer Fred  6:18  

And of course the old trick of the old rolled up wet newspaper laid out there in the evening. And you wrap it very loosely, it's a loose roll and place it in their traffic area. And in the morning, you can just pick up that rolled newspaper or walk over to the trash can, unroll it and spill them into the trash.

Debbie Flower  6:38  

it's another nice moist, cool, dark place that they will hide. they feed during the night. So this is something you're going to have to do at night, put the traps out at night, check them in the morning. By morning they will have disappeared, they will have found that moist place and that could be that rolled up newspaper.

Farmer Fred  6:54  

Usually earwigs won't go after your permanent plantings of trees and shrubs for example, they like soft fruits.

Debbie Flower  7:03  

Yes, I opened an apricot that came off my friend's tree. I was cooking with it. And there was an earwig. You know, it looked surprised, if an earwig can look surprised. I've been exposed.

Farmer Fred  7:12  

Yes. Protein.  And that's the other thing, too, is if you have a lot of Fallen Fruit, Fred. Yes, I do. I'm going to clean it up. Don't worry. But if you have a lot of Fallen Fruit, clean it up.

Debbie Flower  7:26  

Yes. Because that gives them a place to hide and feed and reproduce and do whatever they want to do.

Farmer Fred  7:32  

It's not only important in the season, but out of season too. Don't leave any sort of winter time hotels in the yard.

Debbie Flower  7:39  

That's a conundrum for me, because I have lots and lots of mulch. I'm not removing that all winter long.

Farmer Fred  7:44  

No, I guess you could turn it and that might expose them?

Debbie Flower  7:48  

Well, there is one chemical and I tend to use it only when I have put seedlings in the ground or seeds that are going to grow into seedlings. And that's a it's called Spinosad. Let’s see if I remember this correctly: it’s byproduct of a fermentation process. It was made in a laboratory, but it's not a concoction of Mad chemicals. It's a byproduct of a natural biological process. 

Farmer Fred

It is organically acceptable. 

Debbie Flower

Yes, yes. And it's found in, among other things, a brand called Sluggo Plus. you have to have the “plus” part, that's the spinosad. And I will use that just  one time a year, when I’m first putting in the garden, I put it around, read the directions and follow them. The amount that you use is very, very little. It's something like teaspoon per 100 square feet or something really minor like that, don't apply too much. And I just put it where I think things that would eat it are going to be hiding, and so in a raised bed that's just inside the wall of the raised bed, and I might put it around the base of the raised bed where it meets the soil outside because that the slugs and snails and earwigs that it this controls high during the day in these cool moist dark places.

Farmer Fred  9:08  

And Sluggo Plus, by the way is registered for use against earwigs as well as slugs and snails, which most people think of Sluggo is being effective on.

Debbie Flower  9:18  

Right. It's that “plus” part that brings in the earwigs.

Farmer Fred  9:20  

it is effective as well on cutworms and pillbugs. The other name for the roll poly that goes to Derek's other question, he saw one Roly Poly and got worried. Roly polies basically like to eat decaying organic matter, right? That's their primary meal. If there's no decaying organic matter, then they might go after seedlings,

Debbie Flower  9:44  

And they're not big climbers. So they will eat  What's touching the ground. 

Farmer Fred

They are good guys too, in the yard. 

Debbie Flower

we need them to break down the organic matter to release the nutrients available there and create the humus that so wonderful in the garden. So you saw one, I wouldn't do anything to control them.

Farmer Fred  10:06  

Earwigs, though a different matter. Yes. And even with earwigs, you can tolerate a small population. But when you start seeing your seedlings disappear, first of all, make sure it is earwigs. And not something else like cutworms.

Debbie Flower  10:20  

Yes, he didn't mention in his voice mail about finding things in the traps. But I'm assuming he said he put out the trap that he did collect earwigs in those traps, right?

Farmer Fred  10:31  

A lot of great organic controls for earwigs. And just doing regular cleanup, and not watering so much, if that's possible. And like we said at the very beginning, the combination of too much water, too much mulch leads to an earwig hotel, I believe. And I'm doing this off the top of my head. So there's a 50-50 chance I'm wrong. But I believe that if the problem was so severe, that you could solarize the soil and raise the temperature over 100 degrees.

Debbie Flower  11:07  

That might get rid of eggs. I think the adults would leave. They'd move out. But they do lay eggs in that debris. Yeah, so solarizing would kill those eggs.

Farmer Fred  11:20  

I guess that would be another option too. If you do have a heavily mulched yard and you do have a earwig problem may be replace the mulch. Good point. That might control the eggs too. But yeah, and Derek, you're not alone that earwigs are a problem. Just about everywhere. Yeah.

Debbie Flower  11:35  

Good luck with your gardening. Yes, lyou're being very observant. And that's very important.

Farmer Fred  11:39  

There's a lot of great information on websites about earwig control. If you're looking for reliable information about any sort of pest, usually go to your local university websites, your local Cooperative Extension in whatever state you're in. And they'll usually have fairly reliable advice on what to do for a variety of pests. Correct. Here in California, the University of California Ag and Natural Resources website is full of great information.

Debbie Flower  12:05  

One other hint I did come across was to use black plastic mulch in the garden, which I abhor. And I won't do it. I'll bait for those earwigs before I'll use black plastic mulch, but they aren't interested in that environment.

Farmer Fred  12:21  

Earwigs, Yes. But with judicious monitoring and trapping, you can control their population, and they tend to be very seasonal too. As things dry out in the summer, I think it becomes less and less of an issue.

Debbie Flower  12:36  

They do like moisture. Yes. 

Farmer Fred  12:38  

All right. Debbie Flower, thanks for your help with the earwigs. 

Debbie Flower  12:40  

Always a pleasure, Fred. 

Farmer Fred  12:40  

Good luck, Derek. 


Farmer Fred  12:47  

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Farmer Fred  14:37  

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Farmer Fred 

We have a couple of fruit tree questions that have come in to the get growing with farmer Fred Facebook page. Gloria writes in and says "I have an apricot tree. seedlings are growing. They're growing in the ground, all around. Should I replant them? There's about 20, they're all about five inches tall. I don't know what to do." Phil Pursel's with us from Dave Wilson nursery, a wholesale grower of fruit and nut trees available throughout the country. So, regarding apricots and seedlings: what is Gloria going to end up with there?

Phil Pursel 

Well, she's gonna end up with a brand new variety of apricot. Basically, she's kind of doing her own hybridizing without even knowing about it. That's what these new seedlings are right there just not offsprings of the fruit itself. So we don't know what that apricot was possibly cross pollinated with anything else. And that's kind of how you know it's trial and experimentation. That's how we come up with new varieties. That's not to say that those those seedlings will go ahead and make a nice sturdy tree. That's a whole other subject but I mean, she wants to try and, you know, maybe see if she can come up with a new variety apricot, that's a way of doing it. I probably wouldn't spend too much time on the process.

Farmer Fred : 

So basically, dig them up, pot them up and give them to your friends. label them "Mystery apricot".

Phil Pursel : 

Sure. And then like I say, since those trees have not been grafted we don't know if that apricot it's going to be a nice sturdy tree in the ground. But it's it's something that you know, it's might be kind of fun to try out and then might not produce any fruit at all. It's you know, it's farming.

Farmer Fred : 

Well let's define for people exactly what grafting is because I bet many people don't realize that a lot of fruit trees are hybrid varieties that consists of basically two different fruit trees. There's a rootstock. And then there's the scion, the bud wood that was grafted to it.

Phil Pursel

Yeah. So you know, when people will go take a look at fruit trees, they'll notice that maybe about three or four inches above the soil line. There'll be like a little knot. And then, you know, off to the side, it looks like you know, a branch is growing. well that's where we grafted our fruit trees. And what we do is we select specific trees, and they have to be in the same family. So for peaches, we select specific features that the fruit might be horrible, but it might make a good anchor for the tree or might be, you know, resistant to certain type of insects. So we use that as what we call the under stock or rootstock. And then we graft the variety that is a good tasting variety onto that root stock. So that's how fruit trees are, are produced, you know, at our nursery, I would say 95% of our trees are grafted.

Farmer Fred

All right, what about that other 5%. Is there an apricot tree that will produce true from seed?

Phil Pursel

We don't have anything in our mix. Most of our what we call cutting grown, or on their own roots would be kind of like figs and pomegranates and people have experimented at home and taking cuttings and and you've planted And next thing you know, they have, you know, a black mission fig. That's kind of how we do it at the nursery, but for most of your stone fruit and pome trees, apples and pears, they really need to have a good anchor. And that's why we use specific root stocks to graft on to those.

Farmer Fred : 

because soil conditions are different throughout the country. moisture conditions are different and so the rootstock has been chosen to better able to live in that particular soil.

Phil Pursel : 

Absolutely. That's the whole idea of rootstocks

Farmer Fred :

Patty writes in on the get growing with farmer Fred Facebook page and asks, "When can I prune my dwarf peach tree. dwarf, by the way, is in quotation marks. We have harvested a good crop of Babcock's". and Phil, I think maybe Patty's being a little sarcastic here by putting dwarf in quotation marks like maybe the tree is no longer dwarf. Because when it comes to Babcock peaches, I don't recall a dwarf Babcock. Is there such a thing?

Phil Pursel : 

There is and there isn't. So there is a little you know misunderstanding between dwarfs and standards. Now there is a semi dwarf Babcock fruit tree and generally that's put on citation rootstock that's the semi dwarfing rootstock we use. For true dwarf, there are only what's known as miniatures or genetic dwarfs that are just inherently small growing, some retailers will like to promote what's they call an ultra Dwarf. And believe it or not, it's actually like a peach tree that is grafted onto the standard rootstock, but when it's early in its growing stage at the nursery, they pinch it down low. So the branching comes down low and it looks like a dwarf fruit tree but that will become a standard fruit tree. To kind of answer your question on when's a good time to have You know, prune that, that Babcock tree, we always recommend summer pruning. And by pruning in the summertime, you're gonna keep that tree nice and low. So you're able to pick almost like a fruit bush. So you want you know, you want to be able to pick your fruit, best time to plant is when that tree is actively growing. That way you know, it can keep to the heights where you want it and you're able to go ahead and produce new fruitwood down below as opposed to letting it grow too tall and next you know, it's just birds and squirrels getting the fruit.

Farmer Fred : 

So the general rule of thumb is let the tree grow until it's taller than you and then start snipping everything that's just out of your reach. Put your pruning shears up above your head and cut off the branches. Where your your arm ends.

Phil Pursel : 

Yeah, absolutely. In fact, you know, my my house. It's most of my plums, you know half of them have already fruited. So that's why I'm going to do this upcoming weekend. I know it's the middle of July, but it's a perfect time to go ahead and prune those trees so that they'll be able to callus over before the wintertime happens, but now you're keeping control of the the height of the tree. And honestly, you're saving yourself a lot of pruning time in the winter.

Farmer Fred :

Well, that brings up the question then for a lot of people that may have a peach tree or another fruit tree that's out of control that is 20 feet tall. Should they be pruning that in the summertime?

Phil Pursel : 

Well, something like that is gonna be... a tree that big, If you do cut it and cut it back in thirds. You tend to open it up to too much sun and sunburn. On cases like that. You might want to try to bring the size down in the winter. And then, you know, kind of work its way down. It sounds odd but that's what you would do. you prune it too hard. A mature big tree like In the summertime, like I say you could do a lot of sunburn inside.

Farmer Fred : 

Alright, so save it for the dormant season

Phil Pursel

 the dormant season. Yeah.

Farmer Fred :

But again, as you point out, you want to do it in thirds. So you'd be removing one third of those out of reach branches per season.

Phil Pursel : 

Correct, if you do it all at one time, you're taking away all the leaves which photosynthesize and, you know, produce a healthy tree. So you don't want to do that.

Farmer Fred : 

Phil Pursel is with Dave Wilson Nursery, you can find out more information about all their fruit trees and nut trees at Phil, thanks for a few minutes of your time here.

Phil Pursel : 

Yeah, no problem.

Farmer Fred  23:20  

In the latest Beyond The Garden Basics Newsletter and podcast, we continue our chat with Sacramento County Master Gardener and berry expert Pam Bone about another berry issue facing gardeners this summer: what can you do with all those berries you’re picking? 

Pam has three great recipes that are easy to prepare and are a hit with everyone who has tried them. 

It’s in the next Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. It’s out Friday, July 22nd. Find a link to it in today’s show notes, or visit our website, Garden Basics dot net, where you can sign up to have the free Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter delivered to your inbox each Friday. Also at Garden Basics dot net, you can listen to any of our previous editions of the podcast, as well as read a transcript of the podcast episode you are listening to now. That’s at Garden Basics dot net. For current subscribers, look for the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter on Friday, July 22nd in your email. Take a deeper dive into gardening, with the Beyond the Garden Basics newsletter. And it’s free. Find the link at garden basics dot net.

Farmer Fred  24:30  

Garden Basics With Farmer Fred comes out every Tuesday and Friday and is brought to you by Smart Pots and Dave Wilson Nursery. Garden Basics is available wherever podcasts are handed out. For more information about the podcast, visit our website, GardenBasics dot net. That’s where you can find out about the free, Garden Basics newsletter, Beyond the Basics. And thank you so much for listening.

Earwig Control
(Cont.) Earwig Control
Smart Pots!
Dave Wilson Nursery
Summer Fruit Tree Pruning
Beyond the Garden Basics Newsletter