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Posts Tagged: Freestone

Top 10 pests in gardens and landscapes and how to control them

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1. Ants

Most people deal with ants around their home at some point. Because most ants live outdoors, focus efforts on keeping ants from entering buildings by caulking entryways. Follow good sanitation practices to make your home less attractive to ants. Spraying ants inside the home will not prevent more ants from entering. Use baits to control the ant colony. Pesticide baits work by attracting worker ants who then take the poison back to the nest where the entire colony, including queens, can be killed. In the landscape, ants protect honeydew-producing pest insects from predators, so use sticky barriers or insecticide baits to keep ants out of trees and shrubs.


2. Aphids

Aphids can curl leaves and produce sticky honeydew, but they rarely kill plants and you usually can wash them off with water. When aphid numbers get high, natural enemies such as lady beetles (lady bugs), lacewings, syrphid fly larvae, soldier beetles and others frequently feed on them, eliminating the need for pesticides. Protect these good bugs by avoiding the use of insecticides that can be toxic to a broad variety of insects. Ants protect aphids from these natural enemies, so keep ants away from your garden as well. When pesticides are necessary, use less toxic products such as insecticidal soaps and oils.


3. Asian citrus psyllid and Huanglongbing disease

The Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) and the deadly bacterial disease it spreads, Huanglongbing (HLB), threaten citrus trees in backyards and on farms. There is no cure or effective control method for HLB disease.  All types of citrus—including oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and mandarins—are affected as well as a few closely related ornamentals. ACP and HLB have already devastated the Florida citrus industry, and now that it is in the Western U.S. it is threatening the California citrus industry as well.


4. Gophers

Gophers are small burrowing rodents that feed on roots of many types of plants. A single gopher can ruin a garden in a short time, and gopher gnawing can damage irrigation lines and sprinkler systems. In lawns, their mounds are unsightly and interfere with mowing. Early detection is critical to prevent damage. Use both traps and underground fencing to manage gopher problems. Toxic baits are available but can pose threats to wildlife, pets, and children, especially in backyard situations.


5. Leaf-feeding caterpillars

Caterpillars, which are the larvae of butterflies and moths, damage plants by chewing on leaves, flowers, shoots, and fruit. Caterpillars in fruit or wood can be difficult to manage because they are hidden most of their life and can cause serious damage even when numbers are low. However, many plants, especially perennials, can tolerate substantial leaf damage, so a few leaf-feeding caterpillars often aren't a concern. Handpicking and beneficial predators and parasites often provide sufficient control. Look for feeding holes, excrement, webbed or rolled leaves, caterpillars, eggs, and good bugs.


6. Peach leaf curl

Peach leaf curl is a fungal disease that affects only peach and nectarine trees. Distorted, reddened foliage in the spring is a distinctive symptom. New leaves and shoots thicken and pucker and later may die and fall off. An infection that continues untreated for several years can lead to a tree's decline. To prevent peach leaf curl, treat peach and nectarine trees with a copper fungicide every year after leaves fall. After symptoms appear in the spring, any treatment will not be effective. When planting new trees, consider buying peach tree varieties that are resistant to the disease.


7. Rats

Rats eat and contaminate food, garden produce, and fruit, and transmit diseases to humans and pets. Manage rats by removing food and shelter, eliminating entryways into buildings, and trapping. Snap traps are the safest, most effective, and most economical way to trap rats. For Norway rats, place traps close to walls, behind objects, in dark corners, and in places where you have found rat droppings. For roof rats, place traps in off-the-ground locations such as ledges, shelves, branches, fences, pipes, or overhead beams. Ensure traps are out of reach of children and pets.


8. Scales

Scale insects suck plant juices and are pests of many trees and shrubs. Infestations can cause yellowing or premature dropping of leaves, sticky honeydew, and blackish sooty mold. Plant parts can distort or die back, depending on the species and abundance of scales. Most plants tolerate low to moderate numbers of scales. Provide plants with proper cultural care, especially irrigation. Encourage scale predators such as lady beetles or lacewings and look for parasite emergence holes in scale covers. Use sticky barriers or insecticide baits to selectively control scale-tending ants. Consider replacing problem-prone plants because most scales are highly specific to certain plants.


9. Snails and slugs

These slimy mollusks emerge from hiding at night and chew holes in leaves and flowers of many succulent garden plants and fruit. Management requires a vigilant and integrated approach that includes eliminating moisture and hiding spots, trapping, setting up barriers, and handpicking. Regularly remove snails from shelters you can't eliminate such as low ledges on fences, undersides of decks, and meter boxes. Place traps in your garden and dispose of trapped snails and slugs daily. Reduce moist surfaces by switching to drip irrigation or watering in the morning rather than later in the day. Consider snail-proof plants such as impatiens, geraniums, begonias, lantana, nasturtiums, and many plants with stiff leaves and highly scented foliage such as sage, rosemary, and lavender.


10. Weeds in landscapes

Prevent weed invasions in new beds with good site preparation. Keep weeds out with an integrated program that includes competitive plants, mulches, and hand removal. Be particularly vigilant about removing aggressive perennial weeds. You rarely should need herbicides in established landscape plantings. Mulches prevent weed seed germination by blocking sunlight. Remove small weeds by hand before they flower and set seed. Use shallow cultivation or hoeing to remove annual weeds from ornamental plantings. Only use herbicides for special-problem situations before establishing new plantings or for difficult-to-control perennial weeds.


To see all of the University of California's Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program's information on home, garden, and landscape pests, visit

For other short pest “Quick Tips” like the ten above, see

 To read even more in-depth, peer-reviewed information on many other common home and landscape pests in California, see the Pest Notes series at

Download your free UC IPM Quick Tips Booklet of the Top Ten Pests in Gardens and Landscapes and How to Control Them with the link below! 

Posted on Friday, June 10, 2016 at 12:30 PM
  • Author: Tyler Ash

You're An Obsession, My Obsession

My current gardening obsession is hunting for nurseries and resources that carry perennial vegetables.  Such plants are usually available in the U.S. during the Spring (they are currently available at this time of year in Australia), but being the impatient personality that I am, I am anxious to get going now. 

But this post is not about perennial vegetables—that will come in a later post once I succeed in acquiring said unusual and rare plants (such vegetables will go well beyond asparagus and artichoke), which may occur sometime in August (if you are interested, see  It was my pursuit of these perennial vegetable plants that led me to recently stumble across a wonderful bakery and a small edible garden tucked behind it, which is the subject of this post. 

So you ask—where is this place where one can find both amazing food and a beautiful garden? The answer--in Freestone located in Sonoma County.  The bakery is called “Wild Flour Bakery” and features tasty creations such as sticky bun bread, scones dotted with strawberry and white chocolate, and savory goods (see  The garden behind the bakery is cleverly named “Wild Flower Gardens” (play on the word “Flower” and “Flour”) which I suspect supplies some of the fruit used in the bakery’s baked goods.  Unlike many edible gardens that can become overgrown because there is so much to manage, Wild Flower Gardens is, on the whole, well-ordered.  In that space, you will find a small grove of young fruit trees consisting mostly of pears and plums.  Also, in that space, are edible plants (kale, lettuce, raspberries, grapes, herbs, etc.) combined with ornamentals, the arrangement of which always interests me, because I enjoy seeing how people integrate these seemingly disparate groups of plants so that they look harmonious together.  Best of all, there is seating scattered throughout the garden where you are invited to bring your fresh baked goods in to sit down and enjoy.  It is a great little weekend getaway, just slightly over an hour from Solano County--not to be missed!   

Rows of vegetables. (photos by Betty Homer)
Rows of vegetables. (photos by Betty Homer)

Lavendar and berries flank this pathway.
Lavendar and berries flank this pathway.

Grapevines above and nasturtiums below-enter at your own delight.
Grapevines above and nasturtiums below-enter at your own delight.

Sunflowers, and plumes of Amaranth in the background with cabbages in the fore.
Sunflowers, and plumes of Amaranth in the background with cabbages in the fore.

Posted on Tuesday, August 13, 2013 at 10:31 AM

Thinning Peaches

We have two peach trees (Prunus persica) in our backyard. The old tree, original to the property,  is a delicious cling (the flesh adheres to the pit). We are not sure what type of peach it is, but it is still producing fruit.  Since the harvest is usually small, we eat these as fast as they ripen. Well, okay, we do share a few of them with family and neighbors. The newer tree is a ‘Red Haven’, which is a freestone (the flesh separates from the pit). Last year my husband grafted an ‘Elberta’ peach onto a branch of this tree and it has fruit for the first time. The newer tree is 13 years old and was one of the first fruit trees we planted in 1999. We have always had a bumper crop of fruit on this tree and our friends, family and neighbors know when it is ‘peach picking time’ at our house. The peaches are firm, sweet and delicious, and ripen early in the season. In years past, we have made peach pies, peach jam, peach syrup ice cream topping, peaches and cream dessert bars, (you get the picture).  To get these wonderful peaches, both trees are pruned and fertilized once a year, sprayed twice a year with dormant spray and thinned heavily each year. Most peach trees require 600 to 900 hours of winter chill. Annual pruning renews fruiting wood and encourages fruiting throughout the tree rather than at the ends of weak branches that would break. My husband is very particular about thinning. His goal is to have large, beautiful fruit. It is not unusual for him to fill his wheelbarrow half way full of one inch wide peaches when he is thinning. His motto is to thin 8 to 10 inches apart and he sticks to this method. This dedication pays off with magnificent peaches.    

Wheelbarrow full of thinned peaches. (photos by Sharon Rico)
Wheelbarrow full of thinned peaches. (photos by Sharon Rico)

My son Joel with our peaches.
My son Joel with our peaches.

Posted on Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 9:18 AM
Tags: cling (1), freestone (3), fruit (15), peach (2), Prunus persica (1)

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