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Caring for your flowers
We are about midway through our growing season and your flowers may need a bit of extra attention.
  • Water. Although we had a touch of rain the past couple of days, more heat is sure to come. Be sure your flowers have enough water. To prevent run-off, water more frequently rather than for a longer time. (This is an effective strategy for lawn watering as well.) If you have a timer, add another start time. You can find timer programing instructions here.
  • Fertilize. Two products I use and recommend are Osmocote's Slow Release Plant Food: Vegetable and Bedding (sprinkle on the soil) and Fertilome's Blooming and Rooting Soluble Plant Food (mix with water). Of course, you don't need to use both products, just one or the other. If you want something natural and organic, sprinkle bone meal on the soil. Of course, if you have a fertilizer canister on your irrigation system, you can just add 4 Tbsp. of water soluble fertilizer to the canister and let the irrigation system do the fertilizing for you.  For more information about fertilizer types, check out this past newsletter.
  • Deadhead. "Deadheading" means removing the flowers that are spent or past. When you deadhead the plants in your containers, you want to remove the dead flower and all its parts off the stem. Annual plants spend their whole lives trying to reproduce. When you get the seed pod off of the plant before the seeds mature, the plant will produce more flowers constantly trying to make more seeds. For more details on deadheading, check this newsletter from last year.

If you have concerns or questions about your container gardens or irrigation system, please contact me right away.

Also, if you're considering doing some landscaping work, please call me (970-988-3808) to help you with your landscape design.

This year's newsletter series is "Insects: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly." I keep a newsletter archive on my website if you would like to look back to previous issues.

 
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aphidius_wasp

aphid_mummy
The Good: Aphidius Wasp

These tiny (1/8" long) creatures are sometimes mistakenly called flying ants. They do not sting and feed only on aphids. The wasp lays one egg inside one aphid; the egg hatches and the wasp larva consumes the aphid as it matures. The wasp then exits the aphid and leaves behind an empty shell called a “mummy.” In the second picture, you will notice a mummy, an empty mummy shell and an ant which is herding/farming the aphids and protecting them. Look for the mummies on infested plants; control is already occurring and you may not have to do anything else to control the aphids

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The Bad: Aphid
Also tiny (1/8" or smaller), aphids are green, yellow, brown, red, gray or black and are a very common garden pest. The hind end has two little tube-like protrusions called cornicles which you can see in this picture and aphids have piercing, sucking mouth parts. The affected plant is discolored, curled or distorted, generally at non-life threatening levels but disfigured. Aphids secrete sticky “honeydew”  which ants love to eat. Ants are often seen herding and protecting the aphids.

I find aphids incredibly annoying but they have a very interesting life cycle. All aphids are clones; each female is born pregnant and continues to give birth her entire life. Thus a population of aphids can seem to explode overnight. Late summer environmental cues trigger the production of male and sexual-form females which then mate and produce egg-laying females.  Eggs are laid and spend the winter on the woody stems of tree, shrubs or garden debris. 

Anticipation is a great weapon against aphids; if you had a problem last year, you will likely have one again this year.  Many, many beneficial insects and even birds feed on aphids so you may risk killing natural predators by using insecticides. A jet of water from the hose can lower the aphid population until their natural predators take control.
Green-aphids
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Yellowjacket_Wasp

 
The Ugly: Paper Wasp

These stinging wasps make papery nests under eaves, in trees, along fences and many other places by gathering fibers from dead wood or plant stems. They aggressively defend the nest, although it is abandoned at the end of the year and a new one made next year.  Of the Vespidae species, paper wasps are social, hunting wasps – the nest is many individuals working together with very specialized tasks.  Their young are fed on a delicacy of “caterpillar paste” (the adults chew up the caterpillar and feed it to the young) or other insect parts. The adults feed on nectar.

There are many types of instant knock-down wasp sprays available. However, since wasps are pollinators, feed on other pest insects and don’t damage plants, they are considered beneficial insects. If there is a nest in your yard and it is not in a location that is bothersome or dangerous, please consider leaving it alone.

 

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If you're really interested in bugs, here are a few good resources:
  • "Insect." Wikipedia. Wikipedia Foundation, 27 Apr. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2013.
  • Walliser, Jessica. Good Bug, Bad Bug: Who's Who, What They Do, and How to Manage Them Organically: All You Need to Know about the Insects in Your Garden. Pittsburgh, PA: St. Lynn's, 2008. Print.
  • Sunset Western Garden Book. Menlo Park, CA: Lane, 1988. Print.
  • Leatherman, David, and Whitney Cranshaw. Insects and Diseases of Woody Plants of the Central Rockies. [Fort Collins, Colo.]: Colorado State University Cooperative Extension, 2000. Print.