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Enjoy a Good Magazine
Magazine frontAmong the abundance of gardening magazines available, I'd like to put up a special recommendation for "Patio Gardens" which is a special interest publication by Hobby Farms Presents. This glossy magazine not only includes some great ideas for container gardening, vertical gardening and small water features, but this month's issue also has an article referencing Patio Plants Unlimited! I consulted with the author for the article a few of months ago and I find it very complimentary. (Although I wish she had asked for some pictures as I have some which are much better than those in the magazine!) You can find this magazine at the local Sprouts Markets and at Barnes &Noble.

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.

Now, on to this year's newsletter series: "Insects: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly."

 
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Assassin-Bug
The Good: Assassin Bugs

Despite the formidable name and appearance, assassin bugs are helpful in controlling many garden pests such as aphids, cutworms, earwigs, tomato hornworms, some beetles and many caterpillars. They are usually brown or black, have a broad body with long spindly legs and large, bristly front legs; they often look “armored.” Assassin bugs pierce their prey with their sharp “beak” and inject with toxin which both kills and liquefies the innards; they then suck out the insides and leave the exoskeleton. They can’t bite but can pierce human skin if handled roughly. These bugs can live for several years but have many natural enemies which keep the population down. 

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The Bad: Tomato Hornworm
Easily visible but well camouflaged by their color, tomato hornworms are 3-5” long and as thick as your thumb with a protruding “horn” on the rear.  They are smooth and green with 8 white “v’s” down their backs and several small black spots on the sides.   Their specific host plant is the tomato family: eggplant, peppers, tobacco, tomatillos and tomatoes. Voracious eaters, they can consume an entire plant in a day or so. Control tomato hornworms by hand picking and/or removing infested plants. Adult hornworms are called hawk moth, aka hummingbird moth, which is in the bottom picture. The moth eats nectar and is harmless.
Tomato-Hornworm

Hawk-Moth
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The Ugly: Parasitic Wasp

These tiny (between 1/32” and ”) wasps are non-stinging and have long, slender antennae and a long, ugly, and scary-looking ovipositor which is used for laying eggs.  Alhtough ugly, parasitic wasps are very helpful in the garden. They lay eggs inside host insects; the eggs hatch and consume the host from the inside out. The bottom picture is a tomato hornworm which has parasitic wasp eggs on it - it will soon by a host to these beneficial wasps. If you find a hornworm or caterpillar like this, you should leave it alone (or move it to a plant you don't care about). Parasitic wasps help control aphids, cutworms, caterpillars, mealybugs, scale, hornworms and whiteflies, although the control may depend on the exact species of wasp.  Adult wasps feed on nectar and are often attracted to scented flowers.

 

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If you're really interested in bugs, here are a few good resources:
  • "Insect." Wikipedia. Wikimedia 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.