Watch for bugs and the fragrance of rosemary
Now this is the type of spring I remember in Prescott … warm beautiful days and chilly nights with a cold front that floats through once in a while. A week ago I thought we had jumped right from winter directly to summer. The cooler nights ought to slow the growth down on the fruit trees not already blooming.
If you ever want to know what epidemic is going on in the plant world, just visit your local nursery. Dozens of customers come flocking to the garden center carrying the same type of bug in little zip lock bags or baby food jars with the same bug in them.
We are seeing two pests here at the garden center this week. Caterpillars have taken over the town. Little black ones with red spiny hair creeping around the garden by the hundreds. The next question customers have is: "Can they be out in the yard, or should I kill them?" If they are out in the wild parts of the yard, don't worry about them; they should turn into an ordinary moth in just a few weeks.
If the caterpillars are in your prized apple tree or an oak that you really like, you need to spray them before they strip the foliage off the plants. Caterpillars have a ferocious appetite. The best spray for knocking this critter off is Bacillus Thuringiensis, or B.T. for short. Don't come to the nursery and try to pronounce the full name because we can't even pronounce it correctly. Just ask for BT, the caterpillar killer. It's one of those sprays that focuses on a specific species of insects so that it doesn't harm hummingbirds, your cat or other bugs such as ladybugs. BT also works great on that huge green caterpillar that looks like it just landed from Mars, and loves to eat your tomatoes.
Have you noticed how quickly your flowering bulbs have faded, or that flowering shrubs such as red quince and golden forsythia have dropped their flowers? There is a little pest eating the flowers that nobody sees. A tiny bug named "Thrip" literally sucks the life out of your plants, starting with the flowers. You can barely see them with the naked eye. The best way I've found is to take a white sheet of paper and tap a flower or branch over the paper. If you see specks of dust jumping around the paper, you have thrip.
Thrip can be hard to control because there are millions of them and they can fly. B.T. works only on caterpillars, so it isn't going to help control this pest. Your best bet is to use a bug killer that can kill the insect and helps to repel them at the same time. "Triple Action Plus" by Fertilome is an all-natural oil made from the Neem tree in Africa and works great for this bug. The oil kills the insect and reduces the number of insects that come back to the plant. It's one of the few natural products on the market that is highly effective. It also works great on aphids, and they always show up shortly after thrips make the scene.