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Q. I would like to cover several parts of my yard with shredded bark mulch. My concern is we have some wood roaches in this area, and I do not want to attract them to my yard. We have had some in the house in the past and still get one or two occasionally. This is not a problem, but I’m afraid if we put down mulch this may be a big problem. What are your thoughts on this? Is there any type of mulch that will not encourage the wood roaches?

A. Wood roaches prefer to live outdoors under the loose bark of dead trees, logs, stumps and, possibly, mulch. They are generally one of nature’s recyclers, rather than a pest of home structures. They may sometimes enter homes, particularly the males as they are good fliers and are attracted to light. So any house or building located near woods may find a few of these uninvited guests. They can also be carried in on firewood. But they do not thrive or reproduce indoors nor do they cause harm to the structure. As general good practice, keep the mulch pulled back a couple of inches from the foundation of the home. But mulch, particularly shredded material, is not likely to pose much of an attraction compared to their preferred habitat.

Q. I have a question about June-bearing strawberry plants. We planted 35 plants this spring. I took the time to pinch off all the blooms for the first year. Now, do I cut the plants to 2 inches above the ground, or do I just cover them with mulch, and wait for the plants to bear next year? This is my first attempt at growing strawberries, and I must admit that I know nothing about how to take care of them, so any information that you can share will be appreciated!

A. There’s no need to cut the plants back at this time. The purpose of winter mulch is to keep plants dormant, as well as provide some protection from severe low temperatures. Although we’ve had several hard frosts already this fall, the plants may not yet be fully dormant. The usual time to apply mulch is late November to mid-December in most of Indiana. Cover the plants with 1-3 inches of clean, weed-free straw after low temperatures are more consistently below freezing, but before they drop below the low 20s F. More information on year-round care of strawberry plants can be found in Purdue Extension Bulletin HO-46, “Growing Strawberries,” available online at http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-46.pdf.

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