The arrival of summer this week and the extreme heat brings a new set of issues in the garden – namely bugs. The relatively mild but wet winter means that the pests are out in force this year and aphids, thrips and grasshoppers have already begun their annual assault in earnest.
Aphids aren’t anything new to gardeners, yet some people still have trouble recognizing what aphids look like and the damage that they do. Symptoms of aphid infestation include leaves that will curl downwards or cup down, and leaves that will be distorted, wrinkled or shriveled. Generally aphids can be spotted with the naked eye and they come in a wide variety of colors from green to brown to peach to gray to black and often this camouflage hides them well. Look carefully and closely at your plants to see if you can spot these little critters.
If you do have aphids, the good news is that there are many, many treatments available for them. If you prefer an organic solution, try Neem oil. This is an insecticidal oil sourced from the Neem tree that effectively smothers the aphids on leaves when it is applied in order to kill them.
Sevin is another thing that works on aphid infestations and has been around for years. This garden chemical is available in a spray as well as a dust. I recommend the dust for its staying power over the spray, but either is a good choice. If you choose to use the dust, be sure to wet the leaves of the plant you are treating before applying the dust- the water will help to keep the dust in place.
If your yard or garden needs the bigger guns, then my go-to is Annual Tree and Shrub Systemic to treat your aphid problem. I like this product because it works through the system of your tree to fight many bugs that can be causing problems, and also because you only have to apply it once a year.
Thrips aren’t as easy to spot, mainly because of their size, but thrip damage is fairly easy to spot. The main thing a homeowner will see is new growth on a plant that is distorted. You may also see brown spots. And if it is a flowering plant, most likely the flowers won’t open or form correctly. If this is happening to your plants, here’s how to check for thrips.
Take a piece of plain, white paper and hold it under the plant. Tap the plant gently so that anything that is available will fall onto the paper. Then take a look. Thrips are usually brownish in color, but are very, very tiny. It may appear that there is no more than a small speck moving across the paper. But if there is that moving speck, then you most likely have thrips.
I like Capt’n Jacks for thrip infestations. This organic control is available in either a dust or spray and the bonus is that it will also take care of caterpillars and worms as well. There is a wonderful story about this product whose active ingredient is a bacteria called spinosad. This chemical was isolated from the soil in abandoned Caribbean rum distillery, so perhaps they are drunk and happy on their way out!
Grasshoppers have also been in abundance this year and we are already seeing many people in the garden center looking for something to treat them. Just like the plagues of locusts mentioned centuries ago, grasshoppers can do a lot of damage if let untreated. Grasshoppers are easy to spot and the damage will show in large chewed spots on flowers and foliage. Sevin is effective on adult grasshoppers, and Nolo Bait works on the young population. Nolo bait is an organic bran type flake that, once ingested, messes with the reproductive system of the grasshopper. It’s not a pesticide that kills immediately and works best on small ones, but it will work well if given time. This product is safe to use around pets and children as well.
The earlier you can get after and continue to treat any pest infestation that you encounter, the more successful you will be in keeping it under control. Keep your eyes peeled for these and other little critters this summer, treat them early and often and you will have a beautiful, pest free summer garden!
Gail Vanik can be reached at Four Seasons Greenhouse and Nursery at 565-8274 or by email at “firstname.lastname@example.org.”