I go out into my garden and look around daily.
I pick basil for tonight's bruschetta, parsley for the potatoes and a few Sungold cherry tomatoes that don't make it into the kitchen but are eaten on the spot.
I count 10 hummingbirds around my three feeders; the ruby-crowned kinglets are scouring the trees for spiders and other bugs; and the Wilson's warblers have found the thistle sock.
But what's this? Some of the fuchsia leaves and buds are curled; there are notches in the Impatiens balfourii; and I see white furry things on the trunk of the crabapple.
The weather is hot one day and foggy the next. I’d better adjust my watering schedule, too.
Whether you're seeing some of the same problems in your garden or have different issues that you don't know how to handle, here are some tips to help you decide what you can live with and what you can't.
Manage pests effectively
Integrated pest management, sometimes abbreviated IPM, is a fancy name for common sense.
By planting the right plant in the right place, you can prevent most pest infestation. Pick your battles. Take action against insects only when they pose a significant threat to your plant.
Plants can usually survive with a little bug damage. Insects that are natural predators will often eventually arrive and handle your bug problem. Picking them off by hand or spraying them off with water often works, too.
Some vegetable plants may need to be protected with insect barriers or row covers. Simple traps for earwigs, slugs and snails are effective, too. Vacuuming is another method of controlling pests, and tilling the soil often disrupts the breeding cycle of pests such as the rose slug.
Planting a variety of plants encourages beneficial insects to visit your garden. Or use natural biological insecticides, like Bt and nematodes, that have minimal environmental impact.
If you feel you must spray for soft-bodied insects like mites, choose insecticidal soap. This might sound strange, but by not killing all the pests, you will leave some in the gene pool that are not resistant to the organic or chemical sprays. Those left will dilute any resistant genes that appear.
Regular monitoring is the cornerstone of IPM. This is where that daily walk through your garden with a beverage comes in. You can see if a problem is getting out of control or not.
The fuchsia gall mite is one problem I keep tabs on, or the hummingbirds aren't happy. If your fuchsias aren't blooming and the leaf tips look curled up and deformed, your plants are infested with fuchsia gall mite.
First discovered on the West Coast in 1980, the mites are often mistaken for a disease because of the way they distort and twist fuchsia leaves and flower buds.
The damage can be debilitating. The leaves curl and distort so much that normal photosynthesis is disrupted and weakened plants fail to bloom. Infested plants usually recover, though, if further mite damage is controlled.
Prune off all distorted foliage and buds. This may be the best method of control, as petroleum oil or insecticidal sprays need to be renewed every four to seven days to disrupt the mites’ life cycle and eventually result in the mites becoming resistant. Neem oil is not recommended for use on fuchsia flowers.
There are several gall mite-resistant fuchsias, both hanging and upright, that are every bit as showy as the traditional fuchsia varieties. If you have been plagued by fuchsia mites, try growing one of these varieties. A list from Crescent City Fuchsia growers is available at www.ccfuchsia.net/ccfuchsia5.htm.
If you have a problem in your garden and don't know what to do, feel free to email me. I'm always happy to help a fellow gardener.
- Jan Nelson, a landscape designer and California certified nursery professional, will answer questions about gardening in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.jannelsonlandscapedesign.com to view past columns and pictures.