Use a UV light to help spot garden invaders

Use a UV light to help spot garden invaders

Tracey FitzgibbonIn your July 17th article … you suggested the use of a flashlight to detect what was eating the coral bells. A couple of years ago while fighting some pests destroying my tomato plants, we tried going out with a black light UV flashlight. They are readily and inexpensively available. You would be amazed at all the little critters you see when you shine the UV light (at night) on your plants. Many of the tomato worms and the like (are) fluorescent when hit with the black light, making them very easy to spot. Besides, it is a fun science fiction adventure to explore your yard with UV light on a moonless night. – M.K., Los Lunas

Dear readers: How cool is that?

Here is yet another way to hunt for destructive critters in your gardens.

I knew and was reminded that scorpions have a fluorescent glow when hit by UV light, also known as black light. But I had no idea that many other critters react to the light, too.

So, get out with a blacklight and see what else you can see. Hopefully, you’ll be better informed as to what is damaging your gardens and decide how to treat accordingly.

I’d recommended using diatomaceous earth or a ready-to-use pesticide spray containing pyrethrum.

C.C. in the Northeast Heights wanted to know which pesticide I recommended. That will depend on what you’re hunting. The pyrethrum spray will perhaps be far faster working. Just remember to apply the spray in the evening hours as it degrades quite rapidly if hit by sunlight and you want it fresh.

The diatomaceous earth will be slower-acting but effective. So if you are looking for a quick fix using a pesticide, the pyrethrum spray will be the ticket. Longer-acting but a bit slower in results, the diatomaceous earth is another way to treat your plants. You could apply both to get a one-two punch.

Q. With only occasional watering due to the water shortage, my hollyhocks have had a banner year. Now that I’ve harvested some of the seed, how and when do I plant them, or tell those I give the seeds to how best to replicate my hollyhock crop next year? – J.M. Abq.

A. From all the information I’ve gathered, you’ll want to wait until late September to plant the hollyhock seed. They do best if given ample time to sit in the ground during the dormant season. This is called stratification. The stratification makes the seed coat more degraded, so to speak, so the germinating embyro has an easier time popping up when the time is right in the spring.

So, for the time being, until late September – even through mid-October – store your hollyhock seed in a paper bag and every couple of weeks give the contents a good shake up. Store the bag out of any direct sunlight and aim to keep them cool, but don’t refrigerate them.

Mark your calendar, then get out and decide when you’re going to start the next generation. Sprinkle some finely milled compost on the area and using a stiff-tined rake, rough up the area. Once roughed up, use the top side of the rake and smooth the area back out. Using the tines again, gently scratch shallow lines or furrows in that area. Sprinkle your seed and gently cover the seed, smoothing out the area using the top of the rake.

Hollyhock seeds shouldn’t be buried very deeply. Once you have them smoothed into place, dampen the area with a gentle sprinkling of water. Periodically, during the dormant season, gently water the seeded area to keep them settled.

Hollyhocks are remarkably sturdy creatures, so they don’t want or need to be spoiled in the least. Come spring, the hollyhock plantings should sprout and soon there will be hollyhocks galore

Then, M.S. asks “What has happened to the hollyhocks in New Mexico? They used to be everywhere, now they are rarely seen.”

I think they might have fallen out of vogue. As new, exciting plants come on board, some of the standards are forgotten about. Also, if the mother plants are swept away with an overzealous yard cleanup in the fall, perhaps too much of the seed is cleaned up, too.

So, start a rebirth of cheerful hollyhock stands by aiming to plant your seed both in the autumn and then again in the spring.

Happy Diggin’ In.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to


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