Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Southwestern Deserts

May, 2008
Regional Report

Treat Pearl Scale

Pearl scale is a tiny, white insect that resembles a pearl. It leaves patches of yellowish brown or dead grass in Bermuda lawns. Use a trowel to dig up a sample from the area. Examine the roots under a magnifying glass. If pearls are there, remove all of the affected area and dispose of it in the trash, not the compost pile. Disinfect tools between digging so it doesn't spread to another part of the lawn. There is no one-shot chemical control that will kill this scale. Apply insecticide during May through July when the young insects are active. At other times of year, the adults have formed a hard coating that insecticide doesn't penetrate. Note that Bermuda does not thrive in shady areas, so dry patches beneath trees does not mean there is scale.

Maintain Tomatoes

Make sure your tomatoes have consistent soil moisture as temperatures rise. Add a generous layer of compost or mulch around the plants. Pollen isn't viable much over 90 degrees, so plants will stop setting fruit as heat increases. Continue to water plants so existing fruit will size up and mature. Lightly tapping or shaking the plant in early morning can encourage pollination if pollinating insects aren't out in force.

Watch for Butterflies and Caterpillars

Caterpillars may be seen consuming foliage on passion vines, which are host plants for the gulf fritillary larvae. If plants are otherwise healthy, they will survive, although they can look decimated. Keep plants well-watered so they are not stressed. Yellow and black swallowtail butterflies are swooping around citrus trees. They deposit eggs that turn into "orange dog" caterpillars. The caterpillars camouflage themselves by resembling brown, grey, and white bird droppings.

Protect Deciduous Fruit

Cover apple, peach, and apricot trees with netting to prevent birds from pecking holes in fruit. Try scare tactics, such as hanging items that wave or make noise in the breeze. Birds get used to these, so wait until fruit is ripening to hang them.

Reprogram Automatic Timers

Temperatures are rising and plants will need more water. Reprogram irrigation timers to increase the frequency of application. The length of time the water runs should remain the same throughout the year. Irrigation should run long enough to apply sufficient water to soak through the entire root system. For annuals, perennials and succulents, that is about 1 foot deep; for shrubs, 2 feet; and for trees 3 feet.


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