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Learn how to tell good bugs from bad pests

Yolo County master gardeners offer free online workshop on insect, disease identification

Lady beetle larvae like this one are scary looking, but they're voracious eaters of aphids.

Lady beetle larvae like this one are scary looking, but they're voracious eaters of aphids. Courtesy University of Wisconsin

Is that a good guy or a bad guy? That’s my first thought when I see an unfamiliar bug in my garden.

Some good guys – such as lady beetle larvae – look pretty scary, while some beauties bring trouble. (For example, the five-spotted hawk moth starts out as a tomato hornworm.)

Learn how to tell the difference between good and bad bugs as well as how to identify common plant diseases during a free Zoom workshop, presented by the UCCE master gardeners of Yolo County.

Set for 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11, “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Insects and Diseases Every Gardener Should Know” will help gardeners throughout the greater Sacramento area better identify what’s bugging their plants – especially in the vegetable garden.

“Experienced Yolo County Master Gardener Mike Kluk will lead the discussion, which will cover a variety of insects commonly found in the garden, both beneficials and bad guys, and common diseases,” say the master gardeners. “The emphasis will be on insects and diseases that have the most impact on vegetable gardens, although most of the information will be relevant to ornamentals as well.”

This one-hour seminar is immediately practical. For example, what’s eating your cabbage? More than 20 different kinds of bugs could be the culprits (plus some mammals, too). Find out how to spot tell-tale signs.

Proper identification of pests and diseases is key to treatment, control and prevention, note the master gardeners. By being able to tell the good bugs from the bad ones, gardeners can support beneficial insects that help their plants while effectively containing pest infestations with little or no chemicals.

No advance registration is necessary; just Zoom on in. Here’s the Zoom link:

Details and more information on Yolo County master gardeners:


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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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