Consistently warmer temperatures are taking over from the rollercoaster, warm, cold, hot weather we have had this spring. Lawns are growing, and now is a good time to fertilize if it has been more than 3 months since the last time. Use a good organic fertilizer, and remember you do not have to water it in right away if time does not permit.  If you have flower pots and hanging baskets, keep some of the fertilizer back and use it as a liquid to water them.  About every 2 weeks put about a cup of fertilizer in a 2 gallon water can and let it sit a few minutes to start dissolving, then water.  You should be able to do this a couple more times before the fertilizer is used.  

As there will not be a January newsletter, here is an early reminder that it is best not to trim perennials and shrubs until after Valentine’s Day. Trimming any earlier can cause new tender growth that will freeze even on evergreen shrubs and delay new spring growth. The first weekend of December is our typical first frost, and annuals can be discarded as they freeze.

We are now into the New Year and by the time this reaches your mailbox we will be only weeks away from the next growing season. Early March is the typical last frost so Valentine’s Day is the earliest best time to trim plants. Bush roses can be cut back by about half but do not trim climbing roses until they have bloomed. Climbers bloom on last year’s wood and trimming them earlier eliminates their spring flowers. Bridal wreaths, mountain laurels, flowering quince and most early blooming plants fall into the same category.

You may have noticed a white, cotton-like growth on neighborhood nopales the past few months. This is caused by a parasitic scale insect called cochineal (Dactylopius coccus) – but don’t be alarmed! Normally the insects do not harm the nopales. The cochineal lives its life sucking on the pads of prickly pear cacti, producing carminic acid, which, when mixed with aluminum or calcium salts makes carmine dye, also known as cochineal. If you use a small stick to smear the white fluff you can see this intense crimson color bleed on the cactus pad. This deep rich color and its resistance to fading made cochineal one of the Americas’ most important exports.