Peony seeds

Look for this gift of fall: peony seeds.

How do you keep away pesky yellow jacket wasps that swarm garbage cans and sweet foods?

If you have and extra $7 just laying around, I would suggest buying a fake hornet’s nest and hanging it in the problem area.

Two weeks ago at the farmers’ market, being a seller of all things sweet and yummy, we were overrun with wasps. Options for control are few when dealing with food. My daughter suggested getting some fake hornet nests to see if that would deter them. The nests are made of paper and about the size of a volleyball.

Hornets and wasps avoid being near the nests of others. So I ordered 3 for $7 on a Monday, got them delivered on a Wednesday, hung them under my canopies on a Saturday and guess what? Only a few wasps compared with hundreds the week before.

Did the trap actually work?

Here are the facts: There hadn’t been any frost to kill them, the market weather was relatively the same, pastries as sweet as ever, only seven days between a swarm and no swarm.

It could be, however, that the wasps had simply moved on. We will continue to use the faux nests. As of now, for $7, I am a believer. Next spring, I plan to get more and hang them at my house where paper wasps tend to build their nest above my doorways, ready to pounce. That will be the true test of effectiveness.

Yellow jackets build their nests in the ground, paper wasps above the ground, and hornets create the large, gray-colored, round-teardrop-shaped paper nest. They are all from the Vespidae family and share similar traits. Yellow jackets are more likely to sting, leaving their stinger in you. They die shortly afterward.

This gave me great satisfaction to know after one stung me under the arm at the market. Not fun.

Hornets have the ability to rapid-fire sting you since they retain their stinger.

Also attracted to sweet things is the Sap Beetle, AKA the Picnic Beetle, which is also abundant in the fall. They are a black, oval-shaped insect with yellow dots about the size of a lady bug. You will find them in your raspberries, tomatoes, sweet corn and overripe melons, which are insect magnets.

If you find an overripe melon, it will likely be split open and covered with picnic/sap beetles. Use the unfortunate melon loss as your opportunity to create a trap. Nestle a bag under the melon, leaving the top open so more insects can gather. After a day or so, quickly tie the bag shut with the picnic beetles in it. They are slow-moving so it’s easy to catch them this way.

They are not on a catch-and-release program — get rid of them.

You can repeat this process with fruit scraps from the garden, creating several traps in the target area. Managing problem insects is challenging, but most are bystanders in the yard and garden and don’t cause any harm or worry.

Fall sprouts

Fall can bring interesting seed heads in the garden to life. The attached photo is of a peony with the seed pod cracked open, exposing the ripened seeds that look like raisins.

I have had several new plants begin to grow from the seeds of this Silver Dawn Mix peony. This flower seldom has mildew issues, unlike most peony plants. More of this and less of those!

Peonies can be dug and divided in October. If you plan to dig and divide, you should be watering them once a week in this continued drought so they are as healthy as possible.

My advice for those wanting to throw down grass seed this fall is to save your money and don’t. The soil is as hard as a rock with this continued drought. What does rain do when it hits a hard surface like concrete? That’s right, it runs off. Except now it will take your grass seed with it.

Overseeding may be OK as the seeds have other grass or weeds to help keep them in place. In an average year, getting grass seed to germinate is challenging, so wait if you can — unless you can water nonstop every day.

Visit us at the Mankato Farmers’ Market!

We are located at the Best Buy parking lot on Adams Street. Stop by and get local sweet corn, melons, tomatoes, honey, soaps, textiles, baked goods, crafts, woodworking, pies, hot coffee, cheeses, local raised meats and eggs. The Market is open 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays, and 3:30-6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can follow my Facebook business page @Market Bakery.

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