Q: Recently we bought an older...

Q: Recently we bought an older home with a neglected garden. The yard is full of the runaway growth of bamboo, ivy and rice paper plants . We want to start fresh. How should we go about it? --N.S., Hollywood A: The runaway ornamentals you mention can be even more difficult than weeds to bring under control. To do away with an unwanted bed of ivy, first cut it back and allow it to regrow. Treat the new growth with 2,4-D or Amitrole, misting the foliage to keep the runoff onto the ground to a minimum. Do not permit the material to drift to nearby plants. Bamboo is related to grasses, so its growth can be controlled with Dalapon. Cut down old stems, and when the bamboo reaches a height of two feet, apply the herbicide. A second treatment may be necessary. Runaway suckers of rice paper plants can be held in check with contact herbicides or 2,4-D. Q: Each spring, we see groups of small insects on the new growth of many of our plants. Our orange tree really seems to attract them. Are they worth bothering about? --E.T., Woodland Hills A: Aphids, which feed in large colonies, are almost always injurious to plants, stunting growth, spreading viruses and creating unsightly honeydew, a sticky substance that attracts ants and nourishes a sooty black fungus. Contact insecticides readily control aphids, but there are biological and even mechanical alternatives that should be considered first. Simple as it sounds, a stream of water forcibly directed at aphid populations works to reduce them, but this must be done before damage is substantial or honeydew forms. Keep inspecting and washing plants until the pests are controlled. Parasitic wasps, ladybugs, lacewings and syrphid fly larvae, which will frequent your garden if you avoid using pesticides, are also a great help in eradicating aphids. If you find you must use chemicals, always follow label directions to the letter.

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