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Gardening with Laurie: It's time to release beneficial insects in your landscape

By By Laurie Garretson
April 3, 2014 at midnight
Updated April 2, 2014 at 11:03 p.m.


April spent in the garden can be a wonderful time of the year. As caretakers of our landscapes, April can bring many gardening chores. After this year's winter and the ongoing drought, your to-do list might be much longer this spring.

As the temperature warms up and we have more sunny days, your lawn grass should really begin to green up and start growing.

Unfortunately, I hear many complaints about people's lawns, especially over the past couple of years. The lack of rain and high summer temperatures have stressed everything, including our lawns.

Feeding your lawn with an organic fertilizer and some compost can help provide many of the nutrients the soil could be lacking. A healthy soil equals healthy grass.

St. Augustine is the most common lawn grass grown in our area and also one of the biggest water hogs in your landscape. Always water your grass deeply and thoroughly as the soil dries.

As you fertilize the lawn, don't forget all the flower beds. All plants benefit from natural fertilizers.

This would also be a good time to replenish all the mulch in your flower beds.

Working in the soil, you might have noticed some fat, white grub worms. These pests are now emerging as our soils are warming up. These grubs eat on the root systems of your lawn grass and cause a lot of damage.

Grubs are a favorite food of skunks and raccoons. Both of these animals can also damage a lawn as they dig for the grub worms.

Beneficial nematodes applied to your lawn will help to get rid of grubs, ants and chinch bugs.

Pecan trees are beginning to leaf. That's the signal to put out some Trichogramma wasps on that tree.

When these tiny wasps are released at the proper time, they will eat the eggs of webworms, pecan casebearers, cabbage loopers, tomato hornworms, army worms, walnut caterpillars and any other worm or caterpillar eggs.

They are so easy to use and are much better than having to mix up some kind of insecticide and then spraying the tree.

Trichogramma wasps will not sting and are actually the world's tinniest wasps. They come on a small piece of cardboard that has 1,000 Trichogramma eggs glued to it. All you have to do is place the card in the area where you normally have worm or caterpillar problems - vegetable gardens, oak trees, mountain laurels, ash trees or mulberry trees.

As the wasps hatch, they immediately want to eat and that sends them in search of worm or caterpillar eggs. It's that easy.

Beneficial insects can be so helpful in the garden if we just give them the opportunity.

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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