Summertime Blues

For gardeners, spring time is the best!  The grey of winter washes away, the tulips and daffodils bloom, and the garden centers fill with rows and rows of the newest, vivid seasonal color.  And then—summer comes, and with it, the mundane tasks of keeping those beautiful gardens looking their best.  Watering, weeding, mulching, deadheading, trimming, and oh my, trying to kill all those pests eating our plants!!

Well, as gardeners and landscape aficionados in Kansas City can tell you, summer arrived early this year (after a non-existent winter) and insects and pests came with it.  The very warm and dry conditions in the Midwest have provided the perfect environment for bugs to wreak havoc in the garden.  Bagworms are the pest of the week, having recently hatched, and these tiny little buggers have begun doing damage to evergreens (primarily) and whatever plant they may be attached to.

The good news is they are easy to kill now as they have voracious appetites and will consume insecticides readily—so check your gardens this week and look for tiny, tan, pencil lead sized and shaped intruders hanging on branches.  Hot and dry conditions also favor the development of mites, with junipers and burning bush being favorite host foods, so check these plants for tan or grey colored patches of foliage, or in extreme cases webbing, and treat accordingly.  Severe infestations will need treatment with miticides,  but minor damage can be corrected with well- directed, forceful sprays of water.  Azaleas have become the target of insect damage the past few seasons with the primary culprit being lacewings; these annoying pests suck the “green” out of leaves, and tiny tannish spots will cover the plant.  Azaleas should be checked soon, and if the leaves don’t look quite right, look on the underside and you will likely see small, black dots moving around and feeding.  Check with your local nursery or garden center for control recommendations.

Finally, 2012 has been a banner year for slugs and snails!  Significant, even extreme damage has been done to hostas and other perennials already this season.  To diagnose slug damage, look for tell-tale small holes eaten in leaves (kind of like Swiss cheese!) or silvery track traces on stems or on the ground around plants. There are several good slug baits/insecticides on the market which are easy to use if this is a problem in your yard.

Remember, if you are uncertain about a plant’s health, call the Greenleaf team and we will be glad to help diagnose the problem and get you the help you need!

Contributing editor: Don Archer, Don Archer Designs in partnership with Greenleaf Garden Services