Gardening with Laurie: Prevention is best approach when it comes to garden pests

Current rain and lower than normal temperatures for this time of year have made for some wonderful gardening time. What a blessing for us. Weather conditions now seem to be settling back into more normal conditions: very warm, dry and humid.

The warmer temperatures have the insect populations waking up from their winter hibernation. The first thing on their to-do list is to start feeding - feeding on our plants.

Lots of pest insect problems are reported every day now. From bad beetles to different types of worms. This is nothing new, but pests are always something we gardeners hope not to see, at least not in large numbers.

Prevention is always the best approach when it comes to pests in our gardens. Keeping plants well-fed and watered, plant each type of plant in areas that will be conducive for the plants' healthiest growing conditions and mulching can make a big difference in keeping pests away.

Keep in mind that pests search out weaker plants. Pests are part of nature's checks-and-balance system.

May is the usual month when baby grasshoppers begin to hatch. Any rain seems to really proliferate this hatching period. Grasshoppers can cause lots of damage in a very short time to all types of plant life.

If you have had problems with them before, you are most likely to have problems again. Be prepared, for these pests don't wait until you find damaged plants.

Female grasshoppers like to lay their egg pods in grassy areas where the soil is unbroken. Roadside areas, grassy ditches and sandier soils, especially with a southern exposure, are favorite sites for grasshopper eggs.

To safely rid your gardens of grasshoppers, keep all grassy areas around the property mowed down from now until fall. Also keep any bare soil areas lightly tilled to help discourage female grasshoppers from laying eggs there.

Treat areas with Semaspore bait to help eliminate these pests. Semaspore is safe to use in all organic gardens and around all animals and humans. It is made from a protozoa organism called Nosema locustae. It is mixed with bran.

Grasshoppers are attracted to bran, and once eaten, the grasshopper becomes infected, and the organism begins to grow within the pest. The grasshopper will stop feeding and soon dies. Other grasshoppers eat dead, infected grasshoppers and then, they will also become infected and die.

Semaspore bait needs to be applied as soon as possible to benefit gardeners. The younger the pests, the more effective the bait. Older grasshoppers are much harder to kill.

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.