Margaret Lauterbach

Margaret Lauterbach: Dryer sheets may counter codling moths

If you’re throwing your entire arsenal at codling moths this year, wait a minute. James Taipale, Emmett, may have found an easy -- effective -- solution. He has four apple trees, and after years of using homemade and commercial traps for codling moths, he quit last year. Just gave up, he thought.

Last fall he harvested a beautiful, worm-free crop of apples. After leaves had dropped, he went out to look at his trees, saw small dryer sheets attached to limbs and twigs, then remembered he’d tied some Bounce dryer sheets in the trees in spring. Could he attribute his worm-free success to those sheets? He didn’t know for sure, and was going to tie sheets in his trees this year too. A late frost destroyed promise of an apple crop for him this year, so he’s waiting for someone else to try it.

Our late frost didn’t destroy my apples or pears, so I’m trying the Bounce sheets this year, but for future reference, if you try this, don’t tie those sheets in your trees before petals drop. If their heavy scent repels codling moths, it might repel pollinators too. Maybe even squirrels.

Codling moths are harmful to some fruit blossoms. They are rather small, about a third to a half inch in length, with dark horizontal lines on their wings. In a trap they appear just uniformly dark.

• If your cherry tree is looking poor, check the bark carefully for tiny holes. Bark beetles are wreaking havoc in the valley, I’ve been told. They’re not oozing sap, just boring holes in the bark.

• I transplanted more than 70 plants into my raised garden beds, and found only one cutworm and two pupas. Earthworms, sowbugs and millipedes were numerous in all beds.

Some gardeners in the north end of Boise report cutworms are quite numerous there. An explanation may be many homes there have landscape lighting, attractive to moths that are the parents of cutworms.

I have two new garden tools, and love them both. One is a long-handled trowel, the digging scoop at a right angle to the handle. I wonder why it took manufacturers so long to make this kind of tool. I’ve been looking and asking stores for one for nearly 20 years. This one is sturdily made, about $45, available from Lee Valley tools. If you can make one yourself, do so.

The other new tool is a hand tool for weeding, a “Hula hoe” hand tool. When weed seedlings are still tiny, it’s very easy to skim off the leaves with a Hula hoe (stand-up or hand tool) or the “Ida-hoe” I use (locally made, no longer commercially available, apparently). I bought the Hula hoe hand tool through Amazon, modestly priced.

If you love artichokes, but resent the fiddling required to get at the edible portions, try cardoon. This is a large plant with long arching grey leaves, very striking in the vegetable or ornamental garden.

A large cardoon survived winter, taking up more of one of my raised beds than I wanted to give it, so we cut off some of the leaves. I pulled off the leafy portions of the leaf stalks or petioles, removed strings and cut pieces into acidulated water (some Reallemon) to prevent cuts from turning brown.

I cut stems into pieces roughly 2 inches long, put them in a pressure cooker with two cups of water, and cooked for 15 minutes. When dipped into melted butter, the pieces did taste like artichokes, but slightly milder. The plant’s age produced some hollow stalks, not as good as the younger, solid stalks, but still edible. The usual recommendation is to cook pieces for 45 minutes, but I count pressure cooking as acceptable at one-third the time of conventional.

Now that I know how delicious they are, I’ll grow a different variety next year. Seeds of Italy carries seeds for “Gobbo di Nizza” (hunchback of Nice), with thick curving tasty ribs or petioles, and those seeds are on order. Get ornamental and delicious too.

Send garden questions to or Gardening, The Statesman, P.O. Box 40, Boise, ID 83707.