The warm winter we have just experienced has been great. This year we saved our backs by no shoveling and saved our wallets by not using as much heat. Probably the best part about the great winter we just had is that spring has started much earlier then last year. Your pansies and cool weather veggies are already in the ground and many of you are already asking for tomatoes! Now, all of this is great but it also means one thing. Insects will be out in force this growing season–and they have already started.

Under normal winter conditions, the freezing and thawing will control insect populations. That did not happen this year, so many insects survived the winter. You as a gardener need to be aware and proactive in keeping these little critters in check. It is as simple as going out and visually inspecting your plants around the garden. Many common insects, like aphids, you can see crawling around the new growth of your roses or other flowers. Mites, who are also very common, you cannot see with the naked eye. It is very easy to spot their damage. The needles or leaves of your plants will start to gradually yellow and fall off. The easiest way to check for mites is to do the “loose-leaf” test. Grab a piece of white loose-leaf paper and hold it under some branches of your shrubs. Shake the branches and many needles will probably fall onto the paper as well as the mites, which you should see crawling around. Another very common insect is scale. Scales very easy to spot. They come in a variety of colors and forms. They will either look like little brown or blackish clam shells or bumps attached to the branches of your plants or like little white cottony sacks on the branches.

Controlling these pests is very easy and you can do it naturally without the use of dangerous chemicals. Use horticultural oil spray and insecticidal soap at different applications. Insects breathe through their skin. The oil spray, which is non toxic, coats the insects and smothers them. The insecticidal soap, also non toxic, messes up the insect’s digestive system so they don’t want to eat. We suggest doing 3 to 4 applications one week apart, alternating the different sprays. Bonide Horticultural Oil Spray and Safer Insecticidal Soap are excellent choices to get these problems under control. We also suggest a good fertilizer after you find insects, because they can stress your plants out and you need to strengthen them up after you get rid of them. For evergreens, Espoma Holly-Tone is an excellent choice. For other plants use Espoma Plant-Tone.

Keeping on top of the insects this year will keep your plants healthy and producing and as you can see, it is very easy and safe to do.