June 2017
How's Your Garden?

How's Your Garden?

What Are Pirate Bugs?


This minute pirate bug is eating whitefly nymphs.

Some insects are in the garden to help by eating the very pests you want to control. Beware of this before spraying to control any insect pest. One year, I sprayed for whiteflies before taking a closer look at the situation and ended up creating a problem that was eventually worse by also killing predators that were present. The little bug pictured here is called a minute pirate bug. It feeds on whiteflies, aphids, mites, small caterpillars and thrips. If you find this fellow in your garden, leave him alone to reproduce. The tiny black and white pirate bugs are about a quarter-inch long. You will find them on leaves, stems or flowers of many types of plants – wherever there is something for them to eat. Pirate bugs are also capable of biting humans much like a mosquito. However, some people are extra sensitive and some are not bothered at all. Just in case, now you know what they look like!

Still Time for Eggplant

Look for the last of the transplants still available in garden centers to grow your own eggplant this summer. Plants will bear fruit in seven to eight weeks. By now, transplants may have been growing fast in their pots. If oversized or root bound, gently slice through the outer roots of the root ball on the surface on two sides to slightly untangle pot-bound plants. Fertilize plants with a liquid plant food at planting to encourage new growth. Although it seems counterintuitive, it is best to pick off any flowers and young fruit present on the plant at planting. This helps the young plant put energy into new growth instead of fruiting.


Vitex and Daylily Great Combo

Vitex and daylilies are an easy-care combo.


You’ll enjoy your landscape more when there is always something interesting happening with bloom, fragrance or leaf color. One great combo for the transition from spring to summer is vitex and daylily. Vitex, also called chaste tree, grows into a small tree sporting purple blossoms in the summer. Fast growing and easy to prune, vitex is easy to care for just about anywhere in the landscape, including a large container. Bees and hummingbirds will visit its blooms, too. Here it is pictured on top of a wall where it is under planted with daylilies. Consider reblooming daylilies that will bloom most consistently if they get some sun, and regular water and fertilizer. Prune the lower limbs of the vitex high enough so the daylilies will get good light in the morning and afternoon.


Are the Bees Abundantin Your Garden?


Bees are important pollinators, so be careful when and what you use to control unwanted pests in your garden to not harm them.

This spring we noticed fewer bees in our garden, and I don’t mean just honeybees, but also the many native bees that live in the ground and sheltered places in the shrubs and woods in our neighborhood. We always leave the collards, parsley and cilantro to grow tall and bloom just to feed the early bees, but this year, with the exception of carpenter bees, the visitors were few and far between. There should be many native bees living in our gardens. These are important for pollinating crops. Even if you don’t have fruit trees or vegetables at home, don’t discount the importance of providing a good habitat for these pollinators. The majority of the food we eat depends on pollinators; grocery store shelves would be sparse without them. Unless you are allergic, learn more about how to encourage bees, or at least not do anything that hurts them such as spraying certain insect killers, mosquito sprays, etc. around the house without awareness of the bee population. You can learn more about pollinators in Chapter 7 of "Alabama Smart Yards," a publication of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, by typing this partial web address, A/ANR-1359/ASY_chapter7, in a search bar.


Lois Trigg Chaplin is author of The Southern Gardener’s Book of Lists and former Garden Editor of Southern Living Magazine.