A well-maintained garden is one of the best defenses against damage from caterpillars-the larvae of butterflies and moths. Feed and water plants adequately. Cultivate and weed weekly. Be alert to drooping stems and partly eaten foliage and remove them. By avoiding pesticides, you’ll encourage the presence of caterpillar predators, such as birds, parasitic wasps, lady beetles, and praying mantises.
Promptly after harvesting, burn or trash old leaves and stems; caterpillars can overwinter in them. Dig or rototill your garden in the early spring to expose and destroy pupae. Leaf-eating caterpillars Wearing gloves, handpick large caterpillars and drop them into a pail of warm soapy water or water topped with 1/2 inch of kerosene. For major infestations, spray with Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural control toxic only to caterpillars.
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In shopping for a cut tree, try to identify the type and test it for freshness. The needles of spruce and fir (including balsam) are short and attached to the twigs singly; pine needles are longer and attached in clusters of two, three, or five. Most pines, firs, and the blue spruce have good needle retention and a pleasant fragrance, whereas the white spruce and Norway spruce are poorer in both qualities. Avoid hemlocks, which shed their needles readily.
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With their glossy leaves, fragrant flowers, and colorful fruits, citruses make elegant houseplants. They are easy to start too. Just plant fresh seeds of lemon, orange, or grapefruit in a mixture of equal parts of peat moss and perlite or coarse sand. Water well; cover the container with clear plastic and keep it warm (70°F). When the seeds germinate in 3 to 6 weeks, remove the plastic and place the container in bright light (but not direct sun). When the seedlings have several sets of leaves, transplant them to individual pots filled with potting soil.