It’s always interesting to see whether those early planters of warm-season vegetables and flowers can escape that last spring whack of frost. This year, we haven’t dealt with too many late frosts, and since we just passed our average last frost date, being the middle of April, chances are good we might escape any more — well, most of us, anyway. So since gardening is picking up, what’s already being seen around town?
The tree fruit situation seems to be mixed. For some, the early blooming fruit trees took a hit, but others look to have good crops. So what does that tell us? It’s a typical Grand County fruit tree year.
If your trees have some fruit on them, hopefully Mother Nature thinned them already with some cold temperatures. If, however, you find your apricot, peach or nectarine trees have a lot of fruit on them, don’t forget it’s best for the tree and for increasing fruit size to thin your fruit before they reach 1-inch in diameter. And don’t be afraid to do so aggressively, which might mean thin, thin, and thin again. For fruit such as peaches, nectarines, and apples try for at least 3 to 5 inches between each fruit.
The winter did seem to trail off pretty quickly, and with the warmer weather, insects are out and about. An early riser was the red-shouldered bug, which is mostly black, with red eyes, and red on the shoulders and along the abdomen. I wrote about this last fall because it’s a nuisance pest that likes overwintering in buildings. It hangs out during the summer making more red-shouldered bugs, and prefers to feed on the seeds, leaves and fruit of trees such as golden rain tree and rose of Sharon. It also likes boxelder, ash, maple and many fruit trees. Usually no control is needed, except in the fall, to keep them out of buildings.
A pest of real concern seen this month is the greater peachtree borer. It was found at the base of some peach trees in town and can be quite a problem. The adults are clearwing moths that lay eggs, usually at the base of the tree but anywhere in the lower 12- to 18-inches of the trunk. The larvae hatch then burrow into the tree and feed on the cambium or living layer just under the bark. If left alone, they can tunnel through the cambium around the base, killing the tree. These are usually first noticed when someone sees a gummy mass of sap and frass at the base of the tree, which has a different look from sap exuding from the trunk due to mechanical damage, winter injury or stress.
This pest is a concern to young peach, nectarine, apricot, plum and cherry trees in the three- to five-year range, but can attack older trees. Controls include periodically inspecting the base of the trees and limiting stress, so be sure to water appropriately. A good practice is to paint the tree trunks with a 1-1 mix of interior white latex paint from the first scaffold limbs down to the base. You can also apply a preventive spray in late May when the adults are flying around mating and looking to lay eggs. Should you find damage, take a wire and insert it into the holes made by the larvae to kill them, or apply a biological control of nematodes specific to this particular insect, which can kill the larvae.
Lastly, aphids are already on many fruit trees. A good preventive practice is to periodically spray the leaves with a good stream of water for a couple of weeks. If aphids are found that could work if numbers are low, or spray with either an insecticidal soap or a non-scented, non-colored dish soap solution. Usually, further controls aren’t necessary.
Thought for the day: “An apple is an excellent thing — until you have tried a peach.” —George du Maurier.
Previous articles are available at The Times-Independent website, www.moabtimes.com. Have an idea you’d like Mike to consider writing about? Want more information about these topics? Call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 435-259-7558 or email Mike Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.