Q: I had numerous wasps' nests around my house this summer. Is there anything I can do now to prevent them from returning to the same nest sites next year? I know they leave pheromones behind. Can those be eliminated? B.C., Jacksonville
A: I am glad to hear about your wasps. We saw very few last year and others reported the same.
Wasps are beneficial in helping to control various insect pests, especially caterpillars. If you are highly allergic to stings and must get rid of them, the best preventive is using "haint blue" paint on the undersides of eaves, porch ceilings and other overhangs. The blue paint is remarkable in that it repels spiders, wasps, mud daubers and other insects. We painted our eaves and the ceilings of porches more than three years ago, and they are still clean of spider webs and wasp nests. In South Carolina Low Country, for example, haint blue paint has been used on porch ceilings. Some say this robin's-egg blue extends daylight at dusk and helps keep bees, wasps and other insects away. It seems to be a cultural custom in the South. In Savannah, you will see the blue color painted on the door frames, porches and window sills. This color is aesthetically pleasing and, according to folklore, the color wards off evil spirits.
Haint blue is reported to have been used first in this country by African slaves to protect their homes from spirits. According to the Gullah culture of South Carolina's Low Country and the Geechee culture of Georgia and Florida, the haint blue color represents water, which spirits cannot pass over.
Q: My closet plant is not doing well. I don't think I am overwatering, it isn't in direct sunlight or near the heater, and I repotted it in late summer. I also use Garrett Juice when I water.R.W., Weatherford
A: That black, splotchy look is usually the result of too much watering. During the winter, many interior plants, including the one you mention, don't need to be watered any more than once every two weeks. Fertilizing, even with organic choices like Garrett Juice, should be put off till late winter.
Q: What is the best way to prune young grafted pecan trees that have rabbit ears or crow's feet at the top? What if none are good vertical central leaders? These trees, purchased in containers, are 1 inch in diameter and 6 to 8 feet. This is the second dormant season since transplant from the container. Each tree seems to have a 6-inch to 12-inch rabbit ear or crow's foot.J.E., Hamilton
A: All you can do is trim away the smallest of the shoots, leaving the one that seems the strongest. Cut just out from leaf buds that are pointing the direction you want new limbs to grow.