41May 25, 2011

This weekend is Memorial Day weekend. Traditionally, it is the time for planting our vegetable gardens and our annual flowers The weather has been sub-par to say the least so now is the time to get busy planting! Remember even a cloudy day is a very good day to set out plants into your garden. A cloudy day makes it easier for the plants to get a new root system out into the soil. If you use a plant starter fertilizer, your plants will be able to get that new root system out into the soil faster than not using the fertilizer.

After talking to customers this week, insect and disease problems abound in our gardens. A wet and overcast weather pattern always appears to favor the insects and the plant diseases. Let me tell you about a few of the problems that have “cropped” up the past few weeks.

If you have peach trees in your yard, you may notice that the leaves are malformed. They appear puckered and may have a pink color to the leaves. This is a fungus disease called peach leaf curl. The leaves that are infected cannot be cured. They will fall early in the summer and this does tend to weaken the tree. Fruit set is poor and the peaches that do form are usually covered with lesions. There isn’t a fungicide that you can use now that will stop the disease once it has started.  Prevention is the only thing that you can do to stop this from happening again. In the fall, you should apply an application of lime-sulfur spray. This kills the spores that will be covering the plant. Spores are like eggs that will start the disease up again next spring. It would be a good idea to apply the lime-sulfur again next spring.

Caterpillars are everywhere eating our trees and shrubs. It would seem that a relatively new pest called winter moth is responsible for some of this damage. The caterpillar is light green in color with a white stripe on its side. They hatch out in early spring. They love to eat plants that are fruit trees or related ornamental trees. This caterpillar can lead to the death of plants if it is allowed to eat, repeatedly, the majority of the leaves on the trees over a period of several years. An application of BT will, organically, kill off most of the caterpillars. You can also use Sevin. For taller plants, you can use a systemic insecticide. This type of product is applied to the soil and is then taken up by the roots of the plant. Eventually, the insecticide is distributed by the sap of the plant to all of the leaves. As the caterpillar feeds it is killed by the insecticide that is inside the leaves. If you have this caterpillar in your yard, do not wait to get it under control. Even at this point in the season, it has done major leaf damage. Check your plants now and immediately begin a program to control this caterpillar.

Cool spring weather also favors the growth of aphids. Aphids can be any color and they will usually cluster on the new growth of plants. Many insecticides can control ladybugs. This year, we are carrying ladybugs at the store. Ladybugs will devour aphids in short order. A very organic approach to insect control!

Rainy and damp weather also favors an increase in the number of slugs in your gardens. You should be putting out slug baits now to control this pest.

A soil inhabitation insect called a cutworm can kill off newly transplanted vegetable plants. Cutworms will eat through the stem of your new transplants. There are many options for controlling cutworms. All control methods should be applied at planting time. One night is all it takes for the cutworm to do major damage to your garden. You can stop by the store and we can discuss your options for controlling this insect.

Well, I have probably run out of space in the newspaper, so I will wish you all a great planting weekend and a happy Memorial Day.

I’ll talk to you again next week.

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