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Gardening With Laurie: Time to release beneficial insects in spring gardens

March 24, 2011 at midnight
Updated March 23, 2011 at 10:24 p.m.

Laurie Garretson

By Laurie Garretson

In the world of gardening, we have come to one of our transition times. The month of March is typically a transitional time from cold weather to warm, then quickly hot weather. We still have the threat of cold weather, but at the same time we experience beautiful spring- like temperatures.

Many of the cool season annuals are looking good and blooming nicely. But, of course, these cool weather annuals, like pansies and snapdragons, just don't like hot weather. This is the time when you have to decide if you're ready to pull out the cool season plants and replace them with hot weather annuals. Or, if you should wait until the cool season plants start to look worn out and then replace them.

There's a whole other world of summer annuals available and waiting to be planted. Vinca, pentas, zinnias, purslane, coleus and so many other beauties are ready and able to withstand the harsh summer heat.

Azaleas and other spring flowering shrubs, like bridal wreaths, are blooming beautifully at this time. The spring color from these plants can transform any landscape into a gardeners delight.

Now that temperatures are staying warm, all sorts of garden pests are arriving. I've already had several people complaining about grasshoppers. If you have had problems with worms in your oaks, ash, mulberries, or any other type trees in the past, now is the time to think about putting out the Trichogramma wasp. These tiny, little helpers will get rid of the eggs of all kinds of pesky worms and caterpillars. They are also very handy to have in the vegetable garden.

Now is a great time to release all kinds of beneficial insects in the landscape. Start the season off with some help from natures silent helpers. Lady bugs are the most well known of all the beneficials, but I wouldn't say necessarily the most helpful. Lady bugs are good helpers, but if there where only one good insect I could invite into my gardens, it would have to be lacewings.

These beneficial insects are hungry for all kinds of pests. Lacewing larvae hatch out of eggs that are suspended on top of tiny hair-like filaments. The larvae crawl down the filament in search of their first meal. They have such an appetite that if no other prey is found soon enough, they are ferocious enough to eat each other. Release at the rate of 1,000 lacewing eggs for every 2,500 square foot area that you want them to adequately help eliminate bad pests from.

There is never a bad time to apply beneficial nematodes to your landscape, as long as you occasionally water the area. The good nematodes will help to rid your soil of all kinds of pests like fleas, ants, grub worms, chinch bugs and more.

Remember to keep a thick layer of mulch under all of your fruit trees to help prevent damage to the fruit caused by worms.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all our weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, Texas 77902.

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