Identifying Insect Damage & Figuring Out What Insect It Is

Good bug (ladybug) eating bad bug (aphids)

OK … you see some damage to your plants leaves but how do you identify what bad bug it is?  Once you have identified it, treatment is a “read the label” away or “ask us” at our garden centers.  The key is identifying the damage and offending bad insect. And, for that, you need to understand the three main types of bad bugs – - chewing, rasping and sucking insects?

The mouthparts of insects have adapted over time to suit the feeding style of each type of insect. Mouth parts differ from insect to insect, so the damage that they cause is useful in the classification and identification of the pest. Differentiating the type of insect damage will help you determine how to control the pest.

A chewing insect is any insect that has teeth. Most winged chewing insects (such as beetles, caterpillars and grasshoppers) feed only on leaf tissue, working from the leaf edge towards the center and eventually to the leaf stem. Crawling chewing insects, such as cutworms, will also eat roots and even stems of small plants.

Rasping insects (such as mites, snails, slugs and thrips) actually scrape off the surface of the leaves as sandpaper would. They suck up the fluids from the top layer of cells until all the green tissue has been consumed, leaving only the skeleton behind.

Sucking insects (such as aphids and whiteflies) have slender mouth parts with which they pierce leaves and stems to suck out plant fluids. Large populations can cause curling, yellowing and distortion of leaves, as well as stunting of shoots. Most sucking insects also produce large quantities of a sticky substance known as honeydew, which often turns black with the growth of a sooty mold fungus.

If you’re not sure what type of insect is attacking your plant, just bring in a sample and one of our nursery experts will recommend a remedy to help your plant. But, now, you can identify the offender yourself because you know the difference between the chewers, raspers and suckers!

Variegations In The Garden Landscape???

High Desert Variegations

William Cowper once wrote the now famous words, “Variety is the spice of life.” This couldn’t be truer in the garden. Nothing spices up a garden like plants with variegated foliage. Use too many and they’ll make you dizzy. But placed in the background or strategically planted in the midst of the garden, variegated foliage can bring out the best in all of your plants.

Variegated plants come in a myriad of shapes and shades. From bold to subtle, there’s something for every gardener’s personal tastes. If it’s a tree you’re looking for, nothing steals the show like the ‘Flamingo’ box elder. It can be the centerpiece to build your entire garden around.

Many variegated plants make excellent hedges. Instead of hiding in the background, they provide a great starting point to planning a garden. Consider variegated English boxwood, ‘Red Twig’ dogwood, ‘Gilt Edge’ silverberry, euonymus, variegated English holly, variegated kohuhu, variegated mock orange, dappled willow or weigela. Many of these plants also look wonderful when planted individually to bring out a corner or become a focal point on a mound or garden island.

If a hedge is not your cup of tea but you still want to hide some of your fence line, a variegated bower vine or variegated potato vine will do an excellent job. For bursts of color and interest throughout your garden, consider variegated varieties of abelias, daylilies, licorice plants, phlox, mock orange, sage, stonecrop, weigela, New Zealand flax and ornamental grasses.

If your garden has shaded areas, don’t worry. There are many great selections for areas with less sunlight. Many popular variegated plants prefer shade or partial shade.

No matter what your garden setting is, variegated plants not only look great but also add interest. We have a large selection of plants with unique foliage and variegated colors. Stop by soon and see the beauty of these plants in person. You won’t be able to resist them!


Homegrown Strawberries … YUM!

If you are a berry lover, you can’t possibly have a garden without dedicating a space to grow delicious homegrown strawberries. Some people even go as far as saying they are the best of all the berries. What is unique about the strawberry (actually a member of the rose family) is that it is the only fruit with seeds on the outside rather than the inside.The delicate but great-tasting heart-shaped berry has always been associated with love, passion, purity, and healing. Legend has it that if you break a double strawberry in half and share it with a member of the opposite sex, you will fall in love with each other.

And speaking of legends and folklore, locals in some parts of Bavaria still practice the annual rite–each spring–of tying small baskets of wild strawberries to the horns of their cattle as an offering to the elves. They believe that the elves, (who are known to be passionately fond of strawberries–what good taste they have), will help to produce healthy calves and an abundance of milk in return.

Strawberries are also prized for their medicinal purposes and health attributes. Ounce for ounce, strawberries have more Vitamin C than citrus fruit and have been associated with lowering cholesterol, easing symptoms of gout and digestion problems and lowering the risk of certain types of cancer.

Strawberries are generally divided into three groups: spring bearing, everbearing, and day-neutral. The fruits of day-neutral plants and everbearers are usually smaller than the fruits of the spring-bearers. Spring bearing strawberries generally produce a crop during a 2-4 week period in the spring. Ever-bearing strawberries produce three periods of flowers and fruit during the spring, summer, and fall–while day neutral strawberries will produce fruit throughout the growing season.

Strawberries prefer the sun but do tolerate some shade. They can be used as an edging plant or a groundcover. Their major requirement is good drainage, so they’ll benefit from being planted in mounded soil, terraced beds, barrels or other types of containers. They can be grown indoors, even, in a sunny window or with supplemental lighting, which makes them a great candidate for starting indoors in cold areas.

We invite you to discover the sensational flavor of homegrown strawberries!

Strawberry Planting and Care Instructions
Be sure to plant strawberry starts with their crown just above the soil level. Use a good soil amendment to help them get going well. We recommend spacing outdoor plants 12″ apart. Remove all flowers the first two months to help with rooting and then remove runners so that the plant can put its energy into producing fruit.

Placing plastic sheeting underneath the foliage will help keep the soil warm and weed-free. It also deters slugs, snails and other crawling insects from feeding on foliage and berries. Water bedding plants using drip irrigation or by flooding trenches between the mounds or terraces. Water plants in containers under the leaves. Keep them healthy during the fruiting season by feeding with a fertilizer which is low in nitrogen and will promote more bud growth and fruit.


Student Learning Boosted By Landscape

Landscapes Boost Learning

A new study of high school students in central Illinois found students with a view of trees were able to recover their ability to pay attention and bounce back from stress more rapidly than those who looked out on a parking lot or had no windows.

The researchers, William Sullivan, professor of landscape architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Dongying Li, a PhD student at the university, reported their findings in the Landscape and Urban Planning journal.

“Schools surrounding landscapes have ben too long overlooked for their impact on learning, and it’s time to understand what campus greenery—or lack thereof—means for student performance,” the researchers agree.

“Green views produced better attentional functioning and stress recovery,” they explain. “Furthermore, viewing nature helps both cognition and stress recovery, but through separate mental pathways. In other words, nature’s ability to help us recover our ability to pay attention has nothing to do with whether we are stressed out or not, but nature, separately, also helps us recover from stress.”

Read more of the study here:

High Desert Plant Fertilizers … Secret Code Debugged

Reading a bag of plant fertilizer can be frustrating. What is that secret code? Most people, especially those new to gardening, are not sure what to make of “NPK” or the three numbers that appear on every bag – but seem to be different on every bag. We’ve all been there. At Moana Nursery we want to make it easy for you to grow beautiful, healthy plants and we believe that the proper use of fertilizers to build better soil is vital. Here’s a quick guide to what is in a bag of fertilizer and some of the benefits of regularly feeding our High Desert soil with a premium fertilizer.

When you look at a bag of fertilizer, whether for indoor or outdoor plants, you will always see three numbers such as the 3-5-2 formulation of G&B Organics Starter fertilizer. These numbers represent the three main substances, or macronutrients, that all plants need for healthy growth. These macronutrients will be provided in different amounts depending on the purpose of the fertilizer you are looking at.

The first number is nitrogen (N). Nitrogen is necessary for leaf growth and health and a nutrient most often lacking in garden soils. Lawns are made up of millions of leaves so they respond well to fertilizers with higher nitrogen.

The second number is phosphorus (P). Phosphorus aids in flower and root development and it helps promote fruiting. Roses and fruit trees are examples of plants that will thrive when fed with phosphorous.

The third number is potassium (K). Plants use potassium for stem and root development and this nutrient also helps make plants more resistant to disease and bolsters heat and cold tolerance. All plants will produce stronger stems and roots when potassium is provided.

Many fertilizers also list secondary ingredients. Calcium helps in the formation and growth of cells. Magnesium helps build chlorophyll molecules which help plants convert the energy from sunlight into food. Sulfur is also sometimes listed on fertilizer labels. It works with nitrogen to maintain healthy plant cells.

Other nutrients often included in fertilizers are sometimes called trace elements or micronutrients. Zinc and manganese help make other nutrients available to plants while iron helps build chlorophyll resulting in healthy, colorful leaves and stems.

Another category of ingredients becoming more common in high quality fertilizers includes beneficial soil microbes and mycorrhizae. These microscopic living organisms contribute greatly to soil health, disease resistance and overall plant vigor.

Moana Nursery recommends G&B Organics brand fertilizers because they are an organic, scientifically blended source of all the important elements, including mighty microbes, that promote plant health by feeding, building and permanently improving our lean High Desert soils. G&B Organics takes the guesswork out of choosing fertilizers by providing plant-specific formulas. Whether you are growing vegetables, fruit trees, roses, flowering plants, shrubs or trees, G&B Organics has a purpose blended, easy-to-use and long lasting fertilizer that will help you grow beautiful plants.

Moana Nursery believes in making gardening success easy to achieve. That is why we promote creating healthy soil through proper fertilization with every plant we sell. We love gardening in Northern Nevada and want to share our passion for growing beautiful plants with you. Come visit any of our stores to learn how easy it can be!

Fruit Trees In A Small Back Yard

As homes continue to be built larger and garden space becomes smaller, fewer homeowners have the space to plant as many fruit trees. But that doesn’t mean you have to go without the fresh taste of homegrown fruit.

The objective behind this gardening concept is to allow for a prolonged harvest of tree-ripe fruit from a small space. This can be accomplished by planting multi-grafted fruit trees, planting two or more trees with different ripening dates in the same hole, or by espaliering fruit trees along a sunny house wall or fence line.

By using multi-graft trees or planting more trees in one hole, a homeowner can now extend a 3-4 week harvest season into 10-12 weeks of different flavors. Planting or creating espaliers along a fence line can also free up valuable garden space for more fruit trees or other ornamental plants.

Close planting also offers the additional benefit of reducing the size of the tree’s crown, making the overall tree size more manageable. Close planting also can create an environment for better cross-pollination, which also leads to increased fruit production.

Most types of fruit trees need to be pruned each year to stimulate new fruiting wood, remove dead and diseased branches, or to allow more sunlight between the branches to help fruit ripen better and more evenly. If you start pruning consistently when your trees are young, it will be much easier to keep the tree at a manageable or desirable height.

At the heart of small yard orchard planning is the concept of summer pruning. By pruning at the same time you are thinning your crops, you will be better able to distinguish the kind of wood on which the tree sets fruit. You won’t accidentally prune off any fruit because you can see it, and the new growth is always above or beyond the fruit.

Reducing the size of the tree canopy will in turn reduce the photosynthesis (food manufacture) of the tree. This helps to limit the amount of food materials and energy available for the roots to store, which in turn will control the tree’s capability to produce as much new growth the rest of summer or the following spring. Summer pruning also reduces the amount of new growth the tree produces for the rest of the season, again keeping the tree to a more manageable size.

Pruning for size control in the summer will reduce your pruning chores in winter. Once the leaves fall off, you will have a better opportunity to prune for branch spacing and overall shaping of your trees. To create an espalier tree, simply prune off anything that doesn’t grow flat. Then selectively thin and train what’s left to space the fruiting wood. You can espalier most fruit trees, but apples and pears lend themselves to this type of pruning better than other varieties.

Smaller fruit trees can be much more manageable to spray, prune, and harvest than large trees. So, take a new look at your garden and you might be surprised at the possibilities you have for growing fruit trees. Then close your eyes and think about how great the fruit from those trees will taste!



In most instances, xeriscape principles and landscape best practices are one and the same thing.
Let’s take a brief look at xeriscaping (what it is and what it isn’t) to dispel misconceptions that have dogged the concept since the Denver Water Co. formulated it more than 30 years ago. The city’s water agency correctly anticipated the rapid growth of its region but also realized that its water resources are finite. The water agency chose the name xeriscaping (xeros is the Greek word for dry) because Colorado’s Front Range, of which Denver is a part, is semi-arid and receives, on average, just 14 inches of precipitation annually. Denver Water Co. felt the region could not sustain its precious water resources if property owners there insisted upon installing and maintaining landscapes better suited for wetter regions of the country.
Since that launch, cities across the U.S., including some in the Midwest and Northeast, developed xeriscape councils and began educating property owners on the movement’s water-conserving principles.
Here are xeriscaping’s seven big rules to ensure installations provide the benefits, including less maintenance, water and other inputs needed after establishment.
1. DESIGN. When designing a landscape, take into account factors such as climate, shade and sun, the contour of the property (slopes, depressions, etc.), soil types, watering requirements for ornamentals and turf grass, and any local regulations that apply.
2. SOIL. Match plants with the types of soils best suited for the plants’ survival and health. Test the soil and add nutrients and organic matter, such as compost, to promote plant health and also to retain water. Grade the soil to direct any excess rain or irrigation water to plants that would appreciate the moisture rather than having it lost to runoff. Some desert plants prefer gravel soils instead of soils rich in organics.
3. LIMITED TURF AREAS. Xeriscaping doesn’t mean “no lawns,” but it does advocate installing and maintaining lawns only where they serve a purpose and will be used, such as where children and pets play. Avoid grassing these sites with species or cultivars of turf grass that require frequent irrigation. In terms of species, a lawn of a native species, such as buffalo grass, requires significantly less irrigation than Kentucky bluegrass. In general, a warm-season turf grass, such as Bermuda grass, is more drought-resistant than most cool-season turf grasses. Many varieties of fescues (turf-type tall fescues and hard fescues) do well with limited irrigation. Better options for lawn areas may be native ground covers or other drought-tolerant plants.
4. PLANTS. Remember the adage “The Right Plant In The Right Place.” Proper plant selection and placement within a landscape is critically important to the success and enjoyment of the landscape. Group plants with similar light and water requirements and put them in locations that meet those requirements. Turf grass, of course, does best in full sun and will require more water than perennial beds that are also in full sun. Plants with moderate water needs are generally best suited for shaded areas or areas near downspouts, while water-loving plants thrive in damp swales or water-collecting depressions on a property.
5. IRRIGATION. Some people’s conception of a xeriscape landscape is one that requires no supplemental irrigation. In most cases, that would be a stark landscape and one that few property owners would appreciate. The better option is to provide the property with an automatic irrigation system with the latest “smart” features that irrigate the property in zones. For example, areas of turf grass require more frequent watering than areas of native or regionally adapted ornamentals, shrubs and trees, which should be watered with drip or bubbler emitters.
6. MULCH. Mulch serves several purposes on a xeriscape. Mulch moderates the soil temperature on plant roots and helps to retain soil moisture, blocks weed growth and reduces rain runoff. Apply mulch about 3 inches deep. Organic mulches, such as compost, bark chips, pine straw or shredded wood, break down, which improves the soil over time.
7. MAINTENANCE. Xeriscapes require maintenance, especially during establishment. In fact, all commercial and residential landscapes require an appropriate level of ongoing care. A landscape, including a xeriscape, that does not receive ongoing maintenance morphs into a mess. Turf grass requires regular mowing (3 inches high, leave clippings on the lawn), and trees, shrubs and perennials need periodic pruning.

Pesto Italiano … Grow the Basil & Garlic

Imagine our surprise that this wonderful Italian sauce … PESTO … can be just about anything.  That PESTO is simply Italian for anything ground or smashed with a mortar and pestle. Thus, “pesto” from a can, jar, restaurant or neighbor is some unknowable combination of smashed, hopefully edible, plants.  And, whether it includes peppers, spinach or whatever, it can be a unique combination of your own.  This is important because the edible garden is a wonderful entry way for young homeowners and renters alike to get hooked on the incredible difference in quality of HOME-GROWN edibles versus store-bought.

And, the two basic ingredients that are obviously in every pesto, are easy to grow in a container or plot. Yes, basil and garlic are the foundation edibles in every serious cook’s recipe and they are both easy to grow and better tasting when grown & used fresh.  So, get started with that edible garden on any scale and enjoy the smashing.

Fall Planting of Spring Flowering Bulbs – Color Galore!

Tips from our plant doctor, Jon Bruyn:

As we enjoy the gorgeous fall colors, it’s time to think about next spring’s color. I just finished planting spring bulbs in several spots that had no color last spring because my perennial flowers were still asleep. I decided to incorporate more bulbs this year to solve this minor design issue. Spring flowering bulbs provide early and continuous color in the landscape with very little effort on your part. And when planted in the right locations, will multiply each year!

In addition to adding color, I rely on different bulbs to tell me what stage of spring or summer we are in and signal what needs to be done in my landscape. Crocus and snowdrops bloom first, so I know weeds will soon follow and it’s time to for my spring application of pre-emergent. I also know that more cold weather is still coming and a spring snow is likely. This means that I still have time to transplant any trees, shrubs or perennials that I was unable to get to during the fall.

Daffodils typically follow about three to four weeks after the crocus and snowdrops, indicating it’s time to prune back my ornamental grasses, Russian sage and butterfly bush. This is also when I start my weekly watering regime. Weekly deep watering during the low stress, early spring helps promote deep rooting for all plants and lawns, just as they do during the fall. Daffodils in bloom also tell me to plant my tender bulbs – cannas, gladiolas, dahlias and freesia, to name a few.

Grape hyacinths, tulips and hyacinths follow and let me know that watering my lawn should be more regular and in keeping to the Truckee Meadows Water Authority guidelines. Winter storms are unlikely but the threat of frost is of course to be expected. These blooming bulbs also remind me to check if my lawn mower is working properly.

Allium are the last spring flowering bulbs to flower, typically in late May and June. They mark the beginning of warm summer months and remind me to feed all my bulbs with Dr. Earth Bulb Food, Fish Bone Meal or Bone Meal to help them store up energy for next spring. And perhaps they are telling me to go to Tahoe.

Bulbs have uses besides indicating the climate. Hyacinths and paperwhites are perfect air fresheners for your entire home. Paperwhites are the simplest, and when using the glass bulb vase, will also serve as a great education tool for young aspiring gardeners. Hyacinths are for the more dedicated bulb person since they will require a shady spot in your yard or a section of your refrigerator to meet their chilling requirement. Standard hyacinths require about ten to fourteen weeks of temperatures at 35 degrees Fahrenheit. This can be accomplished in a cold frame in full shade, a bulb pot healed into a deposit of mulch, or even a section of the refrigerator.

Bulbs can be stored in a cool location until ready to plant, so do not wait to purchase them. The quality of the bulb is very important to its survivability and quality of bloom. My father was always sending away for inexpensive bulbs he found in magazine ads. When they arrived, which was usually late, he would call me to help. These bulbs were always small, low grade bulbs which no retailer would dare to sell, not even a discount store. Bulbs should be firm and large, the bigger the better. Often when I visited my father to help, I took an assortment of bulbs that I purchased from my local garden center to plant as well. The next spring it was easy to tell which ones my father ordered versus the ones I brought – the flowers on his bulbs were always smaller and sparser than mine.

So visit your favorite Moana garden center and select bulbs that complement your plant palette. If you don’t have much space or the ground is frozen, you can always plant bulbs in a container which you can bring inside once they’ve started to bloom. We’re happy to get you started with your own love affair with bulbs – you’ll thank us next spring! My last tip is to be sure to plant bulbs with Dr. Earth Bulb Food, Fish Bone Meal or Bone Meal to ensure big, beautiful blooms. Remember, great spring color is as simple as DIG, DROP, DONE! Click on link for details.

Organic Can Be “Easy”

Organic amending ... Where is the organic material?

Tips from Plant Doctor Jon Bruyn

By now, most gardeners are familiar with “organic gardening.” While many of you are followers of organic gardening, I imagine you have discovered some of its drawbacks. For example, an organic pesticide will not kill every insect in your yard and may not work as quickly as a chemical pesticide. Organic fertilizers will not force plants to grow as high or fast as regular fertilizers. And organic weed control can be back breaking at times.

Healthy gardening is like healthy living – it’s hard work. However, a few tasks, like taking care of all those fall leaves, can be easy. Years ago, my crew and I spent a lot of time raking fall leaves. We created several large piles and spent the rest of the day piling those leaves into a flatbed truck and hauling them to the landfill. After weeks of this, I finally had to take care of my own yard! The last thing I wanted to do was rake again.

After considerable thought I began to use my 1986 Honda lawnmower and its side chute attachment to blow leaves into the shrubs. The following spring I noticed that those leaves had disappeared as soon as the temperatures started to rise. With this knowledge, I special ordered a mulching mower conversion kit. I also mail ordered a year supply of organic fertilizer which was the only way to get a blended, organic fertilizer for lawns without the smell of bagged manure. What followed was a spring and summer of effortless lawn care without having to bag any leaves!

When fall arrived I discovered, much to my joy, that my mulching mower was able to handle the weekly deposit of leaves. While a heavy deposit gives me some trouble, a second pass from the mower gives a beautiful, clean lawn. The following year my thatch was less and my lawn required less frequent fertilizing.

I continue this routine every year. I look forward to fall and the leaf drop. Mulching the leaves adds valuable organic matter to lawn soil. To make this process even easier, you can purchase a blended, organic fertilizer at Moana Nursery. I prefer Dr. Earth Super Lawn Fertilizer for the fall. It is specifically formulated to promote strong root growth. The high potassium level is prefect for winterizing your lawn and its beneficial soil microbes and micorrhizae greatly increase the break down of leaves and thatch. It’s kind of like an easy diet, healthy for the lawn with less effort and sacrifice.