Plant, Mulch and Control Your Pests

Oklahoma has been blessed with wonderful soaking rains the last three weeks.  Our trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables have responded with lots of new growth and great green colors.  This break in the weather has given us another good planting season. Many plants are the happiest they have been in years with the nurturing rains and mild temperatures. You can still plant most all kinds of container grown color annuals, perennials, herbs, shrubs and trees and still get lots of enjoyment this year.  At some point we will get hot and dry again.   Mulch your vegetables, annuals and perennials now to reduce soil temperatures, soil moisture evaporation and to reduce watering by up to half when it does get hot and dry.

This is also the battle season in the yard and garden.   We are faced with decisions on how much of our vegetable garden, flowers or fruit to share with God’s other creations and where to draw the battle lines.  You can decide how to fight the battle, with physical barriers, organic compounds or with targeted synthetic compounds. The next few months are the main battle season for pests both large and small.  Some Oklahoma gardeners have to battle deer, others deal with damage from armadillos, skunks, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels or the damaging underground sneak attacks of moles and gophers.  We can deal with these large pests by using fences or barricades to keep them out, live traps to catch them or a wide variety of repellents to redirect them to a friendlier neighbor.  Often the only way to control moles and gophers is to poison them with poison peanuts, gopher gas, or other gel, “worm” or bait type poisons.  Moles and gophers are usually present when you have lots of grubs so the long term solution is to get rid of the grubs and then the moles and gophers will relocate to your “grubby” neighbors.

The small pests or insects may not look very big but their populations can explode in warm weather and they can do shocking damage.  Years ago many gardeners would spray every week or two whether they needed it or not.  Now we all try to be more green and sustainable and spray only when a problem gets above our threshold of sharing or certainly only when we see a problem.  Most every pest can be treated and hopefully controlled with either a synthetic or organic compound.  Take a sample of your insect or disease problem to your local nurseryman and they can help identify the problem and prescribe your solutions.  These days there are many good land grant university web sites, like Oklahoma State University, with insect and disease pictures and solutions if you want to self diagnose.

We currently are battling bagworms on needle evergreens and scale on euonymus shrubs.  Vegetables and flowers are battling caterpillars, squash beetles, Harlequin bugs, aphids, spider mites, beetles, crickets, leaf hoppers, and thrips.  In the yard or on our pets we are confronting ticks and fleas, while the mosquitoes are mobilizing for their morning and evening blood sucking parties. 

Most every insect control works best on a certain stage or age of insect and may not control all stages of the insect requiring multiple applications to get their population back under control.  Most insects are easiest to control when they are very young or immature.  Bagworms for example, are much easier to control when small than after they get larger and are securely nested in their large, thick bags.  Be on the lookout for insect, disease or varmint problems, try to catch them as early as possible and decide on a plan of action based on your tolerance for insect or disease damage and how much you are willing to share with the rest of nature.

Plant, mulch, control your pests then please take time to enjoy your yard and garden as you harvest your bounty of beauty and food.

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