Hello fellow readers,
Last week we heard from Craig of Frelinghuysen about his Willows Gone Wild next to his pool. ‘They’re beautiful trees but cause countless hours of cleanup,’ explained Craig, who went on to rant about each stage of his dirty dilemma, giving us all a good laugh. The most recent dilemma was a massive cluster of ants that took up residence under his trees. They were feeding on the gooey substance called honeydew caused by the giant willow aphids his trees became infected with.
I asked Craig for an update and wondered if the weeping willow planted near the backwash had the same sticky stuff. My theory was that the tree might have been spared as, unlike his others planted in dry areas, it likely is getting plenty to drink, though backwash water is doused with chlorine. While willows can handle occasional drought, they thrive in water. As with all plants, providing the right cultural environment keeps them healthy and less prone to insects or disease.
“We got lots of rain over the last few days, so the trees, lawn, and pool deck have been cleansed of the sticky goo, and the ants are gone,” Craig said. “I’m hoping the aphids have all been washed from the leaves and will take the rest of the season off. The chlorinated tree had the same amount of honeydew as the others. I’m not really sure about swarms of ants under that tree because it’s all thick grass, but I suspect they were having a party over there too.”
A go-to aphid remedy is to knock them off using a strong spray of water from the garden hose in the early morning every other day for about a week. Our rainy spell likely did the job for Craig. Getting rid of the ants is essential, too, as they kill beneficial insects such as ladybugs and lacewing that prey on aphids. You can use an organic aphid control pesticide such as Neem Oil that will also take care of the ants.
The grass growing under the willows is hogging moisture and nutrients from the trees. It would be best to remove the grass and use organic mulch out to the drip line to help maintain the moisture. That will cut down on leaf raking too. The fallen leaves should stay put to decompose and add nutrients to the soil. There, there, Mr. Fastidious. It’s all about acceptance. And making the best environment for you AND your plants.
Garden Dilemmas? firstname.lastname@example.org
Link to Willows Gone Wild Part 1