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Gardening with Laurie: Watch out for thrips

By By Laurie Garretson
Jan. 24, 2013 at midnight
Updated Jan. 23, 2013 at 7:24 p.m.

Laurie Garretson

The warm sunny days we have been fortunate to have recently could even send devout couch potatoes outdoors. After so many cold, cloudy and damp days, we gardeners are very anxious to get back out into the garden. Many of us tend to slack off on garden chores when the weather turns ugly.

Although I talk to some gardeners that don't mind gardening when it's cold and gloomy, one thing about gardening is that the work never ends. There are always chores to do in the outdoor world.

Last week, I wrote about a garden chore that helped to get rid of ticks. I explained why this is such a good time to treat for them. While dormant, ticks can easily be killed by applying beneficial nematodes to the affected area. It won't take many nice, warm days to bring these pests out of the ground in search of their first meal. There is usually only a short window of opportunity to use beneficial nematodes to get rid of several different garden pests.

All of this information basically holds true for another garden pest - thrips. If you grow roses, you might already be familiar with this insect or at least the damage they do.

Thrips are very small insects that feed on many types of plant material; buds, flowers, leaves and fruits. These tiny pests have mandibles that they use to slash open the plant material and suck out sap. This feeding process can also spread diseases from one plant to another.

The usual sign of thrips will be deformed flower buds. The outer edges of the bud will turn brown, not develop or open and hang limp or completely fall off the plant. Thrips can also cause silvery speckles or streaks on plant foliage.

Hibiscus is another plant often targeted by thrips along with other bloomers such as camellias, impatiens, chrysanthemums and even some vegetable crops.

Once thrips are out of the ground and on the prowl for food, they can be difficult to get rid of. While inside a flower bud, they will be almost impossible to detect or to even effectively treat. So don't put off applying beneficial nematodes in your gardens and lawn. These very beneficial insects will help to control so many of the pests we gardeners have issues with.

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, TX 77902.

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