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Why all the white butterflies around?

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Q: While out for walks, I’m noticing lots of white butterflies, especially in the weedy areas and landscapes in my area. Why are they here so soon or is this normal and I’ve just never been aware? – S.F., North Valley

A: The multitude of white butterflies you’re seeing is pretty much a spring thing! These insects are called Cabbage Whites, a very pretty pale white winged critter, and they are usually the first butterflies to appear annually. They coincide with the growing of cool-weather crops like cabbage, kale, mustard, broccoli and cauliflower. Did you notice the word “mustard,” and are there a lot of the Cabbage Whites flitting around the weedy areas you’re passing while you are out and about? I’ll bet that there is wild mustard growing in those unkempt areas, giving the Cabbage White a great place to live. The Cabbage White mates and then lays her eggs, one at a time, spread throughout an area that’ll support the hatchlings. So where you have wild mustard growing, you’ll probably see the Cabbage flitting around. Just another reason to keep weeds in your area under control. Remember, the dreaded leafhopper really likes those weedy spots, too.

Now, for the home gardener growing things the Cabbage White likes, all of the yummy leafy green vegetables, you’ll be able to control the caterpillars by applying Bacillus thuringiensis – “Bt” for short – as an effective way to combat chewing insects. Since we’re officially in the spring time of the year, it’s a given that you’ll see the Cabbage White flying!

Q: I want to have my yard aerated for better use of the water and fertilizers I apply. I’ve had a small problem with crabgrass and want to apply a pre-emergent weed-killer to help prevent the crab grass growth. Do I apply it before or after the aeration process?

A: It’ll be best to apply the pre-emergent to your lawn after the aeration. The less the lawn is disturbed after the pre-emergent application, the better it’ll do its job. Some pre-emergent products work by creating a crust that keeps seed from germinating so if you aerate afterwards you’ll break the crust and, poof, it’ll be most ineffective! Remember, too, that you’ll be unable to do any seeding in the treated area for at least six weeks after the application. Trying to reseed bare spots won’t work well at all. Consider applying the pre-emergent over any rock landscaping to keep blown in seed from growing. It really does work!

So aerate first, then treat with your pre-emergent to keep more of those pesky weeds and weedy grasses at bay. Happy Digging In, on this the first weekend of spring!

Need tips on growing your garden? Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send your garden-related questions to Digging In, Rio West, P.O. Drawer J, Albuquerque, NM 87103.

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