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Using common sense when dealing with garden pests

Art of Homegrown Happiness

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Lance Ellis,

We all have pests come into our yards and cause problems with our landscapes, gardens, trees, and bushes.

These pests can range from small grubs that eat the grassroots in our lawn to moose eating our shade and fruit trees during the middle of winter. As we draw nearer to the end of the gardening season some pest issues tend to intensify such as aphids in your petunia patch. This can be vexing for some people, even though in a few weeks we will start having a killing frost that will eliminate the petunias and the issue they are having with aphids.

Common sense is critical to resolving a pest issue and you don’t ever want to go extremes to resolve a pest problem. Pests vary and control methods vary just as widely depending on the situation.

The first step to remedying a disease or insect problem is determining exactly what it is. Start by identifying the plant being affected — namely what kind of tree or shrub or herbaceous plant it is, and what part of the plant exactly is being damaged.

If the culprit is clearly evident, such as an insect, then get the insect identified, and find out about its lifecycle. There are many insects that only are damaging during one portion of their lifecycle, yet homeowners oftentimes overreact and employ control measures that are ineffective and pointless, since once the time period in their lifecycle is finished they pose no threat of damage.

The other side of this argument is you should try and kill them no matter what time of the year, but that isn’t true or valid since the same insect will continue to live in the environment off your property, and they will just re-infest once you kill the bugs on your property off.

The best approach is a timely, safe, and judicious application of an insect control if needed. A general rule is the less use of chemicals to try and control problems in our yards, the better. This is due to several reasons which could include the overuse of the same chemical leading to insects or weeds becoming resistant to a particular chemical formulation.

Lance Ellis,

After determining what the lifecycle, and the seriousness of the pest’s threat, start considering all of the options that are available and what the pros and cons if you implement them. For example, when homeowners have a particular insect attacking a plant and they decide to use a chemical to treat the problem, they should consider what the pros and cons are of that chemical and decide if it is really worth it.

They should consider what the chemical will do to the beneficial insects in the environment and if it will actually do more harm than good in the long run. Nature many times will correct itself, if given enough time, meaning the beneficial insects will have the opportunity to reproduce to high enough levels to control a damaging pest. In some cases, however, this isn’t possible, and other solutions to the problem must be considered. In a nutshell, when dealing with a pest problem whether it’s a weed, insect, or another issue start by doing a little homework and consider your options rather than going to the extreme with control measures right off the bat.

Lance Ellis,

On another note, as we progress to late summer an early fall, don’t forget to give some extra water to your trees (both large and small) and shrubs.

Lawns show their drought stress quickly and obviously with brown spots and darkened areas, but trees and shrubs are often neglected, so giving them a deep soak during the late summer or during periods of high temperatures, helps them to survive, thrive, and prevents damage from how much water they may be losing during the day.

A good rule of thumb is to give established trees a deep soak every two weeks during the heat of the summer and then continue through into the fall. This can vary depending upon the type of tree, soil type, and temperatures. A deep soak means that you have gotten water to penetrate into the soil at least two feet, and possibly up to three feet. Shrubs vary on watering needs depending on size, variety, and rooting depth, and many times require watering more frequently than trees depending on the situation.

For further gardening question, you can reach Lance at (208) 624-3102.