Word of the Week – Allelopathy

By Amy Stone OSU Extension

This week’s word of week was suggested by BYGL reader, Kathy Estabrook. Thanks to all readers who have suggested a word, or words for future BYGL alerts. Keep the suggestions coming by emailing me at stone.91@osu.edu with the subject line Word of Week for easy sorting and organzing.

Today will we be covering the word ALLELOPATHY. The meaning of the word is actually derived from two separate words. The first word is allelon which means “of each other”. The second word is pathos which means “to suffer”. It refers to the chemical inhibition of one species by another. The “inhibitory” chemical is released into the environment where it affects the development and growth of neighboring plants. It is important to note that it doesn’t necessarily inhibit the growth of all plants, but the effects can cause issues in both the landscape and garden when a plant giving off an alleopathic chemical is present, and you want to grow certain plants that find this biological phenomenon challenging. Continue reading

Winter Garden Prep – “An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”

By:  Stephanie Karhoff OSU Extension

Lower your chances of disease and pests next spring by taking these three steps this fall:

Removed diseased plants and weeds from garden. Clean up your garden and remove any weeds or diseased plants that can provide refuge to overwintering pathogens or insect eggs that can cause havoc on your garden next spring. Consider leaving a strip of perennials or flowers for beneficial insects to make a home in this winter. Rather than leaving your garden completely bare, you can apply a layer of compost, straw mulch, or plant a winter hardy cover crop like cereal rye or wheat.

Remove and discard weeds and diseased plants from your garden. S. Karhoff, personal photo


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Septic System Care and Maintenance

By: Karen Mancl, Professor, Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering and Brian Slater, Associate Professor, Environment and Natural Resources

Homes beyond the reach of a city sewer must treat and disperse wastewater on their lots. This household sewage treatment system requires regular care and maintenance just like other components of a home. A neglected system threatens public health and can result in financial losses to the property. In cities, a trained professional operator cares for the wastewater treatment system. For homes with household sewage treatment systems, the property owner is responsible for maintenance.

Household sewage treatment systems usually consist of a septic tank, a treatment system, and a dispersal system. The expected life of a properly maintained wastewater treatment system is around 20 years.

This fact sheet presents basic, regular maintenance required for all types of systems. Detailed information for an advanced treatment system or a complicated dispersal system can be obtained from the system installer or the local health department.

A homeowner can do three things to keep the system trouble-free and operating as designed for its full life span: conserve water, landscape carefully, and maintain the septic tank and its components.

Conserve Water

Using less water is the best thing a homeowner can do to maintain the household sewage treatment system. Systems are designed to handle 50–60 gallons per person per day of household sewage for a residential home. Adding more water than the design load can result in system failure. The following techniques can be used to conserve water:

  • Install water conserving fixtures such as low-flow shower heads and toilets, and front-loading washing machines.
  • Repair water leaks such as dripping faucets and toilet valves that don’t seal.
  • Space out water use. For example, avoid washing multiple loads of laundry on one day, and spread out bathing times throughout the day.

Landscape Carefully

Since the household sewage treatment system is buried in the yard, even seemingly innocent landscape changes can damage the septic system. Mark the system location and be careful when making lot improvements. The following suggestions will help prolong the life of your system:

  • Divert rainwater drainage away from the soil absorption system area. Downspouts, paved areas, and slopes can all deliver extra water to the area where the wastewater is being treated and dispersed. A typical septic system applies about 100 inches of extra water per year to a yard. This is in addition to the 40 inches per year of normal precipitation in Ohio.
  • Keep pavement, decks, vehicles, heavy equipment, and other solid objects off of the soil absorption system area. Heavy objects can compact the soil and close up larger soil pores, which reduces the amount of water that can move through the soil. Access for maintenance and repair is also limited if the system is covered.
  • Do not place additional soil fill over the system. Many of the system components are meant to be shallow to allow for air infiltration. If sewage is surfacing in the yard, covering it with fill does not work to solve the problem, and can actually make the situation worse. Surfacing sewage is a sign that the system is malfunctioning and needs repair or possible replacement.

Pump the Septic Tank and Clean the Filter

Septic tanks (Figure 1) are installed to separate and store solids from the sewage, which protects the soil and other treatment system components from clogging. If not maintained on a regular basis, solids can move out of the tank and cause system damage. Include the following septic tank maintenance:

  • Pump the septic tank on a regular basis. Table 1 shows the estimated time for septic tank pumping for different sized tanks and families.
  • Do not use biological or chemical additives in place of tank pumping. Sewage has adequate bacteria and enzymes, making additives unnecessary and in some cases harmful.
  • Do not use a garbage disposal. The extra solids fill up the tank, increasing the cost and frequency of maintenance.
  • Check the condition of the baffles or tees (Figure 1) when the tank is pumped. Baffles or tees are designed to improve the removal and retention of solids. They can crumble or fall off with time, or be accidentally damaged during pumping.
  • If your tank is equipped with an effluent filter to help capture and retain solids, remove and clean it on a regular basis (6–12 months, depending on use). Use a hose to clean the filter, washing the solids back into the septic tank. If a hose is not available, a spray bottle of water with a drop or two of detergent can be used to clean off the filter (Figure 2). Cleaning a severely clogged filter may require a brush in a bucket of soapy water.
  • Risers from the tank openings to the ground surface make future maintenance easier (Figure 1). Protect the tank lid from mower damage and replace broken lids. Always secure the lids to keep children and pets from accessing the tank.
  • Never enter a septic tank. The septic tank produces toxic gases that can kill a person in a matter of minutes. If someone has accidentally fallen in, call 911 then put a fan on top of the tank to blow in fresh air.
Table 1.  Estimated Septic Tank Pumping Frequency (in Years) for Different Size Tanks (Note: If a garbage disposal is used, more frequent pumping is required.) (Mancl, K. 1984. Estimating Septic Tank Pumping Frequency. J. of the Environmental Engineering Division ASCE. 110(1):283-285.)
Tank Size (gallons) Number of People in Household (Year-Round Residence)
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
500 5.8 2.6 1.5 1 0.7 0.4 0.3 0.2 0.1
750 9.1 4.2 2.6 1.8 1.3 1 0.7 0.6 0.4
1,000 12.4 5.9 3.7 2.6 2.0 1.5 1.2 1 0.8
1,500 18.9 9.1 5.9 4.2 3.3 2.6 2.1 1.8 1.5
2,000 25.4 12.4 8 5.9 4.5 3.7 3.1 2.6 2.2
2,500 31.9 15.6 10.2 7.5 5.9 4.8 4.4 4 3.0

Diagram of septic tank Cleaning effluent filter with soap and brush
Figure 1. Septic tank cross section. Effluent filters are required on new installations. Older tanks may not have filters. Figure 2. Clean septic tank effluent filters every 6–12 months. Hold the filter over the tank opening and clean with hose or spray bottle. For heavily clogged filters, clean with a brush and soapy water.

Professional Management

Few homeowners are prepared to operate and maintain a wastewater treatment system. In Ohio, professional service providers can perform this service. The providers are registered with the local health department and must participate in annual continuing education. For most household sewage treatment systems, an annual inspection with a small amount of maintenance can avoid a total system failure that would necessitate expensive and inconvenient system replacement.


By Ed Lentz, OSU Extension

The continuous rain this spring may cause us to forget that insects are still active. Often these insects may be controlled if insecticides are applied at the correct time. One of these insects that has reached that critical time for control are bagworms.
Bagworms can be a serious problem in town and on the farm. Bagworms can take out 20 foot tall trees in rural windbreaks, large evergreens in yards, and smaller shrubs around homes and businesses. .
Bagworms began to hatch from their protective cocoons several weeks ago. A few bagworms do little harm. However, many bagworms on a shrub or tree can cause excessive defoliation. A severe infestation may kill the plant within one or two seasons.
Bagworms do the most damage on arbor vitae and cedars, but will attack pines, junipers, spruce and at least 130 other trees and shrubs. They may not harm the deciduous trees, but they spread from these trees to more susceptible evergreens.


Larvae will begin feeding and start to build a camouflage bag with plant parts within a few weeks after hatching. They will continue to feed and eventually build a bag that is one to one and half inches long. Any dried and gray bags seen at this time will from last year. However, upon close examination, larvae can be seen with small new bags
Most of the emerging larvae will feed on same tree that contained their overwintering home. Others will form silk threads and allow the wind to carry them to adjacent trees. This is the most common way that bagworms spread from tree to tree in a windbreak planting. Rain events may have diminished the movement from tree to tree.
The most effective control of bagworms is to apply insecticides about two weeks after the first bagworms begin to hatch. This insures that all of the eggs have hatched from overwintering bags on the tree and the insects are in the crawler stage.
The Hancock County area has reached that two week point and spraying should begin on infected trees and shrubs. Spraying insecticide is an effective control until the larvae have made bags about ¾ inch in length, which generally occurs in late July.
Most foliar applied insecticides should provide effective bagworm control especially when applied to small larvae. One may want to consider the biological insecticide Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (Bt). Bt products are more environmentally friendly since they are selective for larvae of many moths, such as bagworms, without harming beneficial insects.
However, Bt products have short residual activity and may require more than one application for control. Also, complete vegetative coverage is important for Bt products since the worm has to actually ingest the insecticide while feeding to be effective.
Bt products would work well at this time. However, if spraying is delayed until mid-July, one may need to switch to more traditional insecticides. The non-Bt products generally are more effective since the product only has to come in contact with the larvae. Whatever product is selected make sure it is labeled for bagworms and the tree or shrub.
Control will become more difficult once the larvae stop feeding and attach their protected mobile home to the tree. Hand removal becomes the only effective method of elimination at this time.
Bagworms generally attach their protective home to a stem around mid-August and then pupate inside. About a month later male moths will emerge and mate with females in the bags.
Females never leave the bag. After mating a female will lay 300 to 1000 eggs in the bag, die, and form a mummified body around the egg mass for extra winter protection.


Eggs will hatch the following spring to start the next generation. Tiny emerging larvae (crawlers) will start to emerge late May and early June depending upon air temperature and accumulating heat units.
Bagworms have become more a problem in recent years for our area. It was thought that numbers had increased from milder winters and warmer springs. However populations have continued to increase even after severe winter conditions.
If not controlled, bagworms can eventually kill a row of large trees in windbreaks, evergreen borders and valuable landscape plants. For more information on bagworms, visit the following websites: http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/HYG-2149-10 and https://extension.entm.purdue.edu/publications/E-27/E-27.html