Managing common landscaping pests in your yard

Start preventing pest damage this year in your garden and lawn with these tips.

Planting and caring for landscape plants can be both fun and challenging. There are many insects, diseases and plant disorders that can affect the health and vigor of plants in our gardens, lawns and fruit plantings. This can be frustrating, but following a few tips will improve your chance of success.

Protecting from deer damage

Deer directly feed on plant stems, leaves and fruit, resulting in poor structure and vigor and reduced yield. Male deer, or bucks, not only feed on plants, but also rub their antlers on the stems of trees to remove the velvet covering. This often girdles and kills the tree. There are numerous materials that can be sprayed on plants to repel deer. Active ingredients include eggs, ammonia, blood meal and other products. They tend to be short-lived and must be reapplied after heavy rainfall. The most effective method of minimizing deer damage is exclusionary fencing, but is the most costly.

Girdling of fruit trees by mice

The easiest method to prevent damage by mice is to apply flexible plastic wraps around the main stem, especially during the first few years after planting. Using white wraps, bury the bottom couple of inches of the wrap below the soil surface to prevent it from migrating upward and exposing the main stem to possible rodent damage. After a few years, the wraps can be removed. This is the time to paint the trunks with a white, outdoor latex paint to minimize winter injury. Do not use any rigid or dark wraps. These can cause physical damage to the tree trunks or increase winter injury.

Grub damage in lawns

Grubs are one of the most destructive pests of turf, feeding on the roots and killing large areas of grass. The life cycle of grubs can last several years in the soil. As the soil temperature increases in the spring, they move closer to the soil surface and feed on the plant roots. The best time to apply grub control pesticides will depend on the predominant species of grub each year. As the soil temperature decreases in the fall and winter, the grubs move deeper into the soil profile. New research indicates that keeping your mowing height near 3 inches will minimize the damage caused by grubs. Keeping your lawn dense and vigorous will also reduce grub damage.

Birch borer and white birch

One of the most common tree pests in the landscape is the bronze birch borer that attacks white birch. Only stressed birch trees can be attacked by this insect. Once the tree is stressed by drought or low fertility, leafminers will attack the leaves in the upper regions of the tree. When the birch tree has been defoliated for several years, it will be a target of the birch borer. The top third of the tree will be killed first. The rest of the tree will often die soon thereafter. Keeping your trees well-watered and fertilized will help to prevent borer damage. Infected trees can be treated with systemic insecticides as a last chance.

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