Nursery Notes: Warm weather brings aphids, mites to Creston Valley gardens

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Early June. The air is warm and sweet with the blossoms of Russian olive trees and grapevines. Sitting on my nicely shaded sun deck, the fragrance of the Concord grapes takes me back to my childhood. In the background I can hear children playing. My dad had grapes growing around the sundeck of one of his first houses, I recall. It was across the street from a park too. Funny how that works, smell and memory. We finally had enough rain to actually water the garden.

I can’t recall another year when we had so many aphids around. There are blue ones, green ones, black ones and red ones. They seem to be on everything from the fruit trees to the perennials and the roses. Aphids don’t lay eggs, so one thorough treatment of Safer soap should knock them down. The soap dries their skin out soon after contact. It works well, so long as you don’t spray your plants on a hot and sunny day. The soapsuds can magnify the sun’s rays and actually burn the plant leaves. You can always wash it off after it has worked on the bugs.

Spider mites are another story. These creatures are usually present toward the end of summer. They lay eggs, which hatch out based on the average temperatures. The warmer it is, the faster they complete their life cycle. I was just looking at a picture of a greenhouse plant someone had emailed me. They had mites in their greenhouse.

To deal with the mites, you need three successive sprays every five days if the average temp is 21 C, but if it is warmer three sprays every three days are required. Cooler temps call for weekly treatments. As you may or may not be aware, insect growth is directly related to heat units built up from day to day. The faster the heat units accumulate, the earlier we see the pests.

Many caterpillar-type insects are out this time of year too. BTK is another natural product that will control this kind of pest, like leaf rollers and tent caterpillars. It is applied to the foliage and when ingested by the caterpillar it kills them and only them. Using these kind of soft pest control products helps give the bees a little better chance.

So if the insects are all early this year, what about the tree fruit in the orchards? Last year, my earliest cherries were picked about the July 10. Chelan is the variety and I have about 16 trees as a trial. They are six years old and loaded up with fruit. My guess is that if I can keep the birds out of them, I’ll have fruit for Canada Day. There is always something to keep you on your toes — this year the bugs have arrived early.

Evan Davies owns Beltane Nursery at 2915 Highway 3 in Erickson.