Pests of the Season

Oct 5, 2022

Fall, aka Autumn, normally begins in earnest as nuts come off trees and pumpkins come off the vines. I know commercially grown pumpkins and gourds have been coming off the vines for over 6-8 weeks now and almonds seemed a little early as well. My “giant” pumpkin came off August 26th! What gives? What is the new normal for this season?

As we continue to see changes in our climate, it is comforting to know the general nature of growing hasn't really changed. You must provide an environment which is suitable for the plant and use IPM (Integrated Pest Management) to ensure your crop or landscape succeeds. Here are my favorite pests to look forward to this season.

Rain is a good thing! However, it can be both pesky and detrimental if the quantity is overwhelming to plants now accustomed to the reduced amount of water we have been providing. This is a good time to check your irrigation systems, making sure you aren't killing the plants with “kindness” in addition to the expected rains of the season. Be sure to pay attention to your plants and adjust flow as well as providing nutrients for the soil and modify the consistency

 if you find it is not draining sufficiently.

My favorite weed of Fall is Common Purslane (Portulaca oleracea). It is found throughout California to about 4600 feet. These plants are edible (they have a sweet, yet acidlike flavor. An excellent crunchy salad plant, it is said to blend well with hotter-flavored salad herbs) with vitamins and nutrition but can choke out or overwhelm the best of low-growing landscape or just make the bare areas of your garden an unsightly mess. Don't bother spraying these weeds – just pull them and compost them in your bin. These weeds are like fish from the hatchery placed in a lake – put and take. 


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Have you ever looked at moss as a pest? It is alive and growing in various mediums around our homes and one or more of us have slipped and fallen due to its presence during the “Fall” months. How do you deal with the green stuff? During the summer, we never have to concern ourselves with it because we don't get enough rain to keep it growing, unless you are overwatering your garden and covering the concrete walkways with water every other day or so. It can also be a nuisance with potted plants in protected areas. Rein in the irrigation system and let the moss die off. Re-pot plants that have an over-abundance and monitor your water. A ¼ cup of bleach in a gallon of water poured or sprayed on the moss will usually do the trick if you can't wait for mother nature to work. Removal is simple with a power washer during wetter months.

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One of my favorite vertebrate pests of the season is a year-round pest. I only mention him here because I continue to deal with them as they are chased from the almond and walnut orchards into the neighborhoods, looking for shelter from the elements and food from our gardens. They will eat on and through cucurbits, from cucumbers to pumpkin or any squash, although butternut squash tends to be more impenetrable.

You guessed it – Rats! BTW, I finally caught the one marauding around as Robin Hood in my vegetable garden. In California, the most troublesome rats are two introduced species, the roof rat and the Norway rat. It's important to know which species of rat is present in order to choose effective control strategies. Learn more about managing rats, here. 

There are distinct types of Scale which attach themselves to nut and fruit trees and attack the wood. Hiding under moss and lichens, they will over-winter if not identified and treated. Scrape away the lichens and look for the scale covers and various colored bodies of the scale. Good news – during this season, dormant monitoring can help control these pests. Orchards which receive regular blight treatment seldom become infested with scale. If scale is a problem with one of your fruit or nut trees, add Bordeaux mixture to your dormant spray and it should take care of the infestation. Not all copper compounds are “organically” acceptable so pay attention to the label of the product. Check out more information with UC ANR Publication 3471.