- Author: Dustin Blakey
Recently brown marmorated stink bugs (Haylomorpha halys) were found in Inyo and Mono counties. This invasive pest from Asia is relatively new to our area. Its first sighting was in Bishop last year.
We have plenty of species of stink bugs on the east side, but this one is especially annoying because it tends to aggregate in large numbers and will attempt to get inside homes and structure to avoid cold weather. As our temperatures return to more normal ranges, I would expect more issues with home ingress.
We have had reports from Swall Meadows down to Big Pine, and possibly an isolated case in Olancha. My hunch is they arrived from northern California, not down south, but there is no way to tell for sure.
As of now, most stink bugs you will encounter are not BMSB. You can identify this pest by a couple notable features: like many stink bugs it is brown, but it has white bands on its antennae and has alternating white and dark coloration on its abdomen. It also has rounded shoulders; similar species in our area have pointed shoulders.
Spraying adult stink bugs doesn't do much good. The best course of action is to ensure your homes are sealed up well so they can't get in.
If these bugs do come inside, they can be trapped easily. (Squishing them is just messy and smelly. Trapping is a better choice.) Here is a video from Virginia Tech showing a good way to trap them.
They can also be vacuumed up. Here is what UC IPM suggests you do:
An efficient way to collect stink bugs indoors is by sucking them up with a dry or wet vacuum. The bugs will cause the collection canister or bag and other parts of the vacuum to give off an unpleasant stink bug odor, so some people dedicate a vacuum cleaner to stink bug capture only. Alternatively, a nylon stocking can be stuffed inside the tube and securing the end over the outside of the vacuum tube with a rubber band; this way, bugs are collected in the stocking and not the vacuum cleaner bag. Individual stink bugs can be brushed off into a cut-off plastic bottle containing an inch of soapy water, where they will drown in a short period of time. If needed, the container can be fastened to a pole or broom handle to reach high locations. Stink bugs caught live also can be placed inside a plastic sealable bag and then into a freezer for 2 days to kill them. To conserve water, avoid flushing them down the toilet and avoid placing live stink bugs in the garbage so they do not become established around landfills.
Hopefully this will just be a minor nuisance for us, and nothing more.
- Author: Trina Tobey
They plague every gardener's nightmares. Like something from a sci-fi movie, they are green with long legs and antennae and long piercing mouths with which they suck out fluids. They eat 100 times their body weight, and—worst of all—they multiply asexually by the dozens in a day!
My first experience with aphids as a beginning gardener was watching the leaves on my plum tree wilt. The flowers fell off and died instead of producing fruit. This prompted me to research what I could do to protect my fruit trees. Here is what I learned.
In fall it is time to start your preventative measures for aphids on fruit trees for next year. After harvest, a zinc sulfate application on plums and prunes will provide zinc to the trees as well as hasten leaf fall disrupting the aphid life cycle.
If aphids are a chronic problem in your fruit trees, you can apply supreme- or superior-type oils to kill overwintering pests during dormancy this winter. This helps to start the following season with a clean slate.
In the spring, start monitoring your trees for aphids as soon as leaves begin to bud. Check for aphids on the underside of the leaves on several areas of your trees at least twice weekly. Ants tend aphids and collect their honeydew and large numbers of ants climbing up your tree trunk is an indicator that you may have aphids. Over watering and over fertilizing can increase aphid populations so only apply the minimum necessary for healthy plant growth.
One excellent way to reduce aphid populations is to knock them off with a strong spray of water.
Several natural predators feed on aphids including lady beetles, green lacewings, brown lacewings, syrphid flies, and soldier beetles. Predators can be released onto the trees but often appear naturally in significant numbers when there is a significant aphid population. Where aphid populations are localized on a few curled leaves or new shoots, consider pruning these areas out. Drop the infested plant parts in a bucket of soapy water. If insecticide sprays are needed, insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils are generally the best choice. Avoid using broad-spectrum insecticides which will kill natural predators and consequentially could increase your aphid population.
In our area, it can help to keep weeds under control near your trees.
With these tips, you can save your home orchard from an aphid invasion like the Men in Black saved earth from an alien invasion and go back to sleeping soundly throughout the night. Good luck!
Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California (2019). Leaf Curl Plum Aphid. Retrieved from http://ipm.ucanr.edu/PMG/r606301811.html
Flint, Mary Louise (2018). Pests of the Garden and Small Farm: A Grower's Guide to Using Less Pesticide, Third Edition. Oakland, CA: The Regents of the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources.
- Author: Erich Warkentine
On October 6, Inyo-Mono Master Gardener volunteer Laura Mogg presented the latest Sunday Seminar on composting. She explained the benefits and practical details of composting, and provided a handout from UC Cooperative Extension providing further details.
Laura provided a demonstration of a simple and easy way everyone can compost garden and kitchen waste. Materials are simple: a bit of fence material that is shaped into a cylinder 3 ft wide and 3 ft tall into which layers of leaves, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, and animal waste from herbivores are added. An even mix of fresh green waste and brown waste is ideal, and any large or woody plants should be cut into small pieces for best results. The pile within the cylinder is thoroughly watered down and topped with a plastic cover to keep it from drying out in our arid climate.
A compost thermometer is required to monitor the temperature of the pile to see when it is ready to turn (between 140°F and 150°F) and to monitor watering and turning until its ready. The finished compost will be about 1/3 the volume of the original contents of the pile.
Bottom line: it didn't look all that hard, and the benefits to our gardens and landfills are too big to ignore.
- Author: Trina Tobey
I woke up on my seventeenth birthday to find my parent's juvenile maple tree had magically converted to a banana plant overnight and had a resident monkey…and no, I was not dreaming. My very creative friend Whitney had snuck into my yard in the middle of the night to tie bananas and a stuffed monkey from the tree limbs. Twenty years later, this “banana tree” is the most beguiling gift I have received.
I come from a family of practical jokers. My dad loves to prank my children, and they love to get their revenge whenever they can. So when my dad's birthday came around this year, my kids and I took a page from Whitney's book, and plotted the perfect gardening practical joke. My dad hates watermelon and so my daughter suggested we put a watermelon garden in his yard. We found the fake vines with leaves and garden gnome at the thrift store and new Family Dollar in town for less than $10 altogether. All that was left to buy was a few mini watermelons and voilà, we had an instant watermelon garden! We got up at 4:30 A.M. the morning of his birthday and stealthily tip-toed into his backyard planting our prank garden into the middle of his pristine lawn. Now, the most fun was his response. He took pictures and posted them on social media, texted family and friends, and grilled every suspect until my daughter finally caved under the pressure two days later. My mom said, “He really got a big kick out of that!”
Here are some other ideas for gardening pranks, but the possibilities are endless and guaranteed to make for great stories and laughs for years to come. You could decorate your friend's garden with the ugliest garden ornaments you can find at yard sales. Put a gnome, flamingo, or other figurine in a garden and move it periodically (like Elf on a Shelf) posing it to do various gardening tasks. Attach store bought fruit or vegetables to a plant of a different species (i.e. tie oranges to an apple tree). And then there is the rubber snake, always guaranteed to create a startle but not for the faint at heart.
Be creative, have fun, and, most importantly, pick the right person or they might not think it is funny.
- Author: Harold McDonald
One of the first gardening books I ever purchased was Sunset magazine's book How to Grow Herbs, published in the early 1970's. Though it had great information on cultivation and harvesting, what really drew me in was the use of herbs in landscaping. In particular I remember one black and white photo (no color back then!) of so-called wall germander. Now I lived in rainy Santa Cruz at the time, and I doubt that I had ever seen germander, but there was something about that photo that always stayed with me. From the book I learned that Teucrium chamaedrys was a major component of “knot gardens”—those very formal geometric gardens that became popular during the Elizabethan Age in England—along with thyme, marjoram, rosemary, Santolina and other herbs of Mediterranean origin.
While there are hundreds of species of germander, it's not a plant that seems to get much attention or respect. The Wikipedia entry for Teucrium isn't much more than a list of some of the species, and while Teucrium chamaedrys shows up in many nurseries, I doubt if one nursery in fifty has any other representatives from the genus. That's a shame, because these workhorses can fill a number of roles in the garden and are especially well-suited for tough growing environments like we have in the Eastern Sierra.
So it's not surprising that it was more than thirty years later, when I moved to the wilds of West Chalfant, that I grew my first germander, a prostrate form of Teucrium chamaedrys that—unlike just about anything else—seemed to thrive in this strange new land! Its evergreen character and attractive pink flowers in early summer were a bonus—a real bee magnet! The downside is that creeping germander can do just that if it gets sufficient water, so accept that aspect and plant it where it will have room to fill in. It is a groundcover, after all!
A few years later I found upright Teucrium chamaedrys, the wall germander (see photo above) I had seen in photos so long ago, and planted a few of those. Again, these are not show stoppers, but they are attractive year-round, grow to a foot or so in height, and do not spread. I have come to consider wall germander one of my go-to plants. Santolina and 'Powis Castle' Artemisia are two other sub-shrubs I count on for their pleasing shape and foliage—plants that make the colors in front of them really pop. But unlike those plants, germander never gets leggy or unkempt looking, remaining neat and green throughout the year. The only upkeep required is to cut back the spent blooms in midsummer (and hope for another show in the fall). I would characterize wall germander as one of my garden's best supporting actors!
Teucrium fruticans (shrubby germander or tree germander grows 4-6 feet high and wide) is another member of the genus I tried in my yard, but it was, for me, a real heartbreaker! In my research for drought-tolerant shrubs before moving to Chalfant, this is one that really caught my eye with its fuzzy gray foliage and transcendent blue flowers. I found a beautiful specimen at a nursery somewhere on the west side of the mountains, but it died pretty quickly. Undeterred, I had a friend buy me another one when she was in Berkeley, but it met the same fate. Though I've seen it rated as hardy to 0-10 degrees, most sources list it as zone 8 (10-20 degrees). For me, that's worth a try—Salvia greggii is listed as zone 8, for example, and it is a staple in Eastern Sierra gardens. Of course, the flip side is that plenty of zone 8 plants die! Anyway, if you've got a protected area and are willing to risk the money, you might give this one a try, because it really is a beautiful shrub.
Similar in character is Teucrium aroanium, gray creeping germander. If you have a tough, dry area you want to dress up with a unique, beautiful groundcover, you should really give these two a try. Mountain Valley Growers and High Country Gardens are good online sources for germander. If you're in Southern California, look for a bricks and mortar garden store that carries plants from Native Son wholesale nursery (who kindly allowed me to use their photos).
Living where I do, I am always searching for plants like germander: hard-to-kill, drought-tolerant, low-maintenance plants that look good year-round. Who isn't? I read somewhere that there are 260 species of Teucrium, and I know I'll be on the lookout for any I can find!