Eaten tomatoes, non-blooming flowers, and ‘yellow grass’: This Weekend in the Garden

Rate this post

Bird damage to the tomatoes

Those sweet, juicy tomatoes that are just hitting peak ripeness are alluring to many unplanned dinner guests.

Deer, groundhogs, chipmunks, squirrels and stinkbugs all love them, not to mention hornworms that eat the foliage.

Then there are the diseases that brown and shrivel the leaves.

But one of the worst and most underrated potential tomato destroyers is birds.

Catbirds in particular are fond of tomatoes. They have the gardener-unfriendly habit of pecking holes in almost all of the fruits, just as they’re about to fully ripen.

Birds are mainly after a drink rather than the flesh. Their damage is distinctive by being small holes in the tops and sides of nearly ripe fruit as opposed to the larger gouges made by mammal teeth. However, a few pecks is enough to ruin the harvest.

One strategy is to add a birdbath or similar water source nearby to divert the thirsty birds.

Another is to scare birds away from tomato plants by setting out fake owls or fake snakes, wrapping plants with shiny Mylar tape, or hanging pie tins from string around the planting.

If those don’t work (and they often don’t), the most effective option is to exclude birds by draping the plants with bird netting or similar plastic mesh. Be sure to secure the netting to the ground so birds can’t get in underneath.

Another protective ruse is to erect poles that extend above the plant, then use fishing line to make a gridded covering. Even a few strings might be enough to confuse and scare birds. You can always add more as needed.


Tobacco budworms often shut down the bloom of petunias and several other annual flowers in late summer.

Why the flowers stopped blooming

Did your petunias suddenly stop blooming? It could be the work of a tiny caterpillar called a budworm.

This little not-so-obvious bug is often the culprit of non-bloom this time of year while gardeners are instead assigning blame to summer heat, lack of water, and/or lack of fertilizer.

Those issues also can shut down bloom, but take a closer look to see if it’s really budworms at work.

Budworms are active in August, and they can cause petunias, geraniums, calibrachoa, flowering tobacco, and a few other species to go completely out of bloom due to the larvae burrowing into the base of flower buds.

The burrowing aborts the flowers, leaving behind foliage but no flowers. You might also see notches chewed out of the petals of already-opened flowers.

Budworms don’t kill plants, but they can end flowering for weeks or more until the larvae drop to the ground and pupate.

If you kill budworms with an insecticide spray or two, plants usually start blooming again within two to three weeks.

Permethrin, cyfluthrin, and bifenthrin are chemical sprays labeled for budworm control. Spinosad is the most effective natural/organic control. The biocontrol Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) also sometimes helps.

Give your non-blooming plants a shot of fertilizer and some regular water after spraying to speed the return to bloom.

Nutsedge in the lawn

This yellowish grassy-looking patch is really invasive nutsedge, not true turfgrass.

Nutsedge in the lawn

A grassy-looking weed called yellow nutsedge, a.k.a. yellow nutgrass, has popped up in lots of lawns in the last few weeks.

Because it looks and grows like a grass, this insidious weed often blends in with the lawn long enough to start taking over wide patches before homeowners realize it’s not turfgrass. In other words, it doesn’t stand out like dandelions or spiny thistle or the big leaves of plantain.

What usually blows nutsedge’s cover is that it grows faster than grass in summer, quickly poking up above the real grass blades a couple of days after mowing. Nutsedge also has a yellow-green color as opposed to the darker green of turfgrass.

A third distinguishing feature is that the stems are triangular, not flat like grass.

Aided by adequate rainfall, nutsedge has been sprouting in garden beds as well as lawns.

For early infestations, the simplest solution is to pull nutsedge. Plants come out of the ground easily, but the catch is that if you don’t get all of the bulblets that are attached to the roots as the plant matures, those broken-off, left-behind baby bulblets can sprout into new nutsedge plants.

For wider outbreaks, several chemical herbicides are available that kill nutsedge without harming lawn grasses. Look on the label for Nutsedge Killer (or similar) or for products that contain the active ingredient sulfentrazone.

The earlier that herbicides are applied to young nutsedge plants, the more effective they are at long-term control.

The Penn State Turfgrass website goes into more detail about herbicides that control nutsedge.

One of the best ways to avoid nutsedge in lawns in the first place is to cut high (good anyway for a lot of reasons) and to improve lawn soil by top-dressing it with a light layer of compost each fall.

  • More when-to-do-what tips: George’s “Pennsylvania Month-by-Month Gardening” book

You are viewing this post: Eaten tomatoes, non-blooming flowers, and ‘yellow grass’: This Weekend in the Garden. Information curated and compiled by along with other related topics.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here