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Sun, Nov. 17

'Divas' bring vibrant color

New this year is a sensational group of fuchsias called "Divas." These charmers are exceptionally heat-tolerant and superb choices for hot days and cool evenings. The dainty little flowers dangling from these compact plants are irresistible. They are well worth a trip to the garden center to see these fabulous multicolored blossoms.

While good potting soil and regular feeding are musts for every successful fuchsia, placement is paramount; when planted in the right place, what spectacular plants. I highly recommend growing them on the north side of the house, under a covered patio or in an Arizona room. They beg to be in containers, especially hanging baskets. This draping plant blooms and blooms with minimal care. It's covered with fluorescent pink, purple, red and orange flowers, and many varieties have multiple colors on each bloom. Fuchsias perform best in full to partial shade, which means less than four hours of sun each day. It's unusual to see such colors from a plant that thrives in the shade.

Hummingbirds love to find fuchsias in the garden. The tubular flowers are loaded with pollen and sugars that fuel the tiny birds' frolicking antics throughout the summer. Plant one in a hanging basket and place at eye level for the best show of flowers and birds.

We haven't fertilized our gardens since March or the first part of April. Warm temperatures increase plants' water requirements so that the plants have used most of the food applied earlier this year or watering has flushed it away from the root zone. So now is the time to use a slow-release food on all your plants that flower or produce fruit. I use Start-N-Grow by fertilome for great looking plants in pots or in the ground.

I've had several customers coming into the garden center this week asking for advice to combat bag worms. It's difficult to spot these worms at work, so here's how to find them: Watch your oak and fruit trees for webs the size of footballs or a little smaller. These are not spider webs, but compact condo accommodations for dozens of caterpillars that will devour new foliage almost as fast as the tree can produce new leaves. When you spot one of these masses, you need to get after it right away.

Deathly afraid of birds, these pests hide inside the large webbed area during the heat of the day. You can cut he webs out, but unfortunately they are usually found at the very tops of the trees. I attack this challenge with a hose-end sprayer and the organic pesticide Thuricide. It has the active ingredient Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT), but just go to your garden center and ask for BT.

BT is unique in that it only affects caterpillars and nothing else. By spraying the foliage of the tree, a caterpillar will ingest the spray as part of the foliage and become very sick. It becomes so sick that it stops eating and ultimately dies of starvation. Don't worry about birds, ladybugs, bees or other beneficial bugs in the garden; BT will only make caterpillars sick.

BT also works well on tomato worms. I've seen several sphinx moths flying about the garden. That's the very large moth that can be mistaken for a hummingbird. This is a beneficial insect until she decides to lay her eggs on your tomato plants. The eggs hatch within days and the horned green worms begin to digest your tomato foliage. Tomato worms will show up sometime within the next couple of weeks. They are small at first, but quickly grow to four-inch eating machines that rapidly devour both tomato and pepper plants. Keep an eye out for this pest.

Last year I caught a tomato worm eating one of my jalapeño peppers. I'm not talking the leaves but rather the entire mature fruit. I made quick work of getting rid of him.

Visit or contact me this week through my Web site at www.wattersonline.com, clicking on the "Questions for the garden center" button. Also, there's a new garden talk handout just posted on the "Garden Talk Topics" link. The newest topic is my experience with "Javalina Resistant Plants." For answers to your gardening questions, listen to my radio show, Gardening in Granite, every Saturday from 7 to 8 on KYCA 1490AM.

Until next week, I'll see you in the garden center.

Ken Lain is the owner of Watters Home and Garden Center and is an Arizona Certified Nursery Professional and Master Gardener.

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