Begin monitoring conifers for spruce spider mites. These small, dark arachnids are active in cool weather and can be found on pines, hemlocks, arborvitae, and spruce and are especially damaging to Norway and dwarf Alberta spruce. Look for stippling on the needles and webbing in between the needles on the underside of the branches. A simple beat test is also a good way to detect their presence. Tap a branch over a white sheet of paper and look for tiny, slow moving, yellowish green mites. Also look for faster moving predatory mites or tiny, round black ladybird beetles that feed on the mites. If a beat test reveals more than twenty mites per beat, and you do not see predatory mites or ladybird beetles, you should treat your tree with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap.
Begin checking your dwarf white pines for white pine tip dwarf mites. Unlike most mites, white pine tip dwarf mites like cool weather and are most active in early spring. They cause older needles to become yellow and drop, and, if the tree is severely infested, it can become completely defoliated just before new foliage emerges in the spring. Beat test your trees weekly in early spring by tapping a branch on a piece of paper. Using a magnifying glass or 10x hand lens, look for very small, translucent yellowish mites moving across the paper. If you see more than fifty mites per beat test, you should treat the tree with an acaracide like neem oil. If you are designing a new landscape or are making changes in your current scheme, consider planting a resistant species like Japanese white pine.
Practicing good sanitation is an environmentally sound and effective means of controlling disease and insect pests in your landscape. Take the time to dispose of debris that may harbor overwintering pests. When replacing problem plants or adding new plants to your landscape plan, consider using pest-resistant varieties.
March is a good month for tending to your lawn. When reseeding, select pest- and disease- resistant tall fescue. Rake up debris and dead leaves that have accumulated during the winter months. Sharpen mower blades and start mowing early to discourage annual weeds that will be going to seed. Know the proper mowing height of the turf you are planting. Bluegrass and red fescue should be mowed to 2-3″, tall fescue to 2-4″, and zoysia and Bermuda grass to 1″.
You can reduce the need for insecticides in your landscape by using plants that attract beneficial insects. Ladybird beetles, hover flies, lacewings, spiders, and parasitic wasps are natural enemies of plant damaging insects like aphids, mites, whitefly, scale, and thrips.
common yarrow ladybird beetles, wasps, hover flies
coriander lacewings, hover flies, braconid wasps, spiders
cosmos lacewings, overflies, braconid wasps, spiders
fennel lacewings, ladybird beetles, hover flies, spiders
Queen Anne’s lace lacewings, ladybird beetles, hover flies, braconid wasps
spearmint lacewings, ladybird beetles, hover flies, spiders
sweet alyssum hover flies, spiders
hover flies, braconid wasps
Don’t let the first warm days of spring tempt you to put your houseplants outdoors. Tropical plants are easily injured by temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so wait until the weather has settled to move them.