Ticks become more prevalent as the weather warms. Various species of ticks may carry diseases, including Lyme disease. Wear long pants if possible and pull your socks up over your pant legs, especially if you will be walking in wooded areas or meadows. Most diseases carried by ticks are more likely to be transmitted if the tick has fed for an extended period of time. You can decrease your chances for contracting diseased by carefully checking yourself for ticks on a daily basis. Be sure to check children and pets, too.
Tackle tough tap-rooted weeds like dandelions, thistles, and pokeweed when the soil is saturated by spring rains. It is important to get most of the tap root when pulling these weeds since they easily sprout and grow from root pieces left in the soil.
Rotate annuals that you use in flower beds. Diseases can be carried over from one year to the next if you plant the same annuals year after year in the same bed. Try some new annuals if growth was poor last year or disease or insects were a problem.
Recent research has shown that use of the insecticide imidacloprid can lead to increased spider mite damage. This pesticide has recently become popular for controlling a wide variety of insect pests like Japanese beetles and aphids. While effective on these insects, it does not control mites and may eliminate some insects that feed on mites and keep their numbers in check. Imidacloprid is most often used as a granular material that is taken up by roots and spread throughout the plant. It may persist as long as ten months following application and is much less toxic than many other systemic pesticides. Like any pesticide, imidacloprid should be used sparingly. It is best used in situations where mites are not expected to be a problem and other alternative control methods are not effective.
Avoid using shredded hardwood bark mulch on yews. As it decays, it often releases toxic quantities of copper and manganese. Yews are very sensitive to these metals; affected plants are stunted, may turn yellow, and in severe cases, small branches may die. Use pine bark, chopped leaves, or another mulch and limit its depth to two inches.
When you shop for bedding plants, check them thoroughly for signs of impatiens necrotic spot virus. Look for irregular tan spots with purplish margins on the leaves and distorted, stunted new growth. Plants afflicted with this virus will remain stunted and grow and flower poorly even with the best of care. The virus is spread by thrips that feed on the plants and can be spread to other plants in your garden. Return plants to the nursery if they appear to be infected and immediately dispose of any plants in your garden that are afflicted with this disease.
Look for lacebugs on azaleas, Japanese andromedas, cotoneasters, and hawthorns. Turn over the leaves to find the nymphs as they hatch. They are small, spiny black insects that suck sap from the leaf; their feeding results in coarse white stipples that may give the entire plant a sickly, bleached appearance. Check plants frequently and spray nymphs with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap as soon as they appear.