Harlequin bugs are munching on leaves

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 23, 2012

By Darrell Blackwelder
For the Salisbury Post
SALISBURY — With warmer than normal spring weather, many people have already started their vegetable gardens. Some have posed questions that you may also have about your gardening endeavors. Below are a few:
Q: (email with submitted photo) I have a small salad greens patch left from last fall in my garden. I noticed yesterday that red and black insects are sucking the life out of the leaves on the plants already this spring. There were 40 or 50 of the insects on each plant. I have included photos of the insects. What are these insects?
A: The harlequin bug is found from coast to coast in North America as far north as the Great Lakes and New England. Harlequin bugs attack nearly all crucifers, including cabbage and other brassicas and common weeds of the mustard family. Harlequin bugs overwinter as adults throughout most of their range, so winter cleanup is essential to prevent re-infestation. More information on the insect can be found at http://ipm.ncsu.edu/ag295/html/harlequin_bug.htm
Q: I want to plant my tomatoes early this year even though we still have a chance of frost. Isn’t there a fertilizer that will let me get my transplants off to a quick start?
A: Yes. Use a starter fertilizer solution when you plant your tomato and other vegetable transplants. A starter solution can be a houseplant fertilizer solution that is high in phosphorus. Houseplant fertilizers such as 10-30-15 or 9-45-15 are often sold as houseplant bloom booster will suffice. Root growth on tomato and other vegetable transplants respond positively, establishing roots much quicker with supplemental liquid phosphorous.
Q: I want to build a raised bed for my vegetable garden, but I really don’t want to use treated lumber. Can I use other materials like those dry stacked concrete blocks for raised beds?
A: Yes. Landscape blocks adapt well for raised beds, allowing gardeners the ability to add blocks as needed to maintain a desired height. Rowan County Extension Master Gardener volunteers are sponsoring a workshop on using landscape blocks for raised beds on Saturday, March 31, 10- 11 a.m. at the Agriculture Center on Old Concord Road in Salisbury. The makers of the landscape block, Johnson Concrete, will be there to answer questions about landscaping with block. Master Gardeners will also be there to answer questions about gardening.
Darrell Blackwelder is county director for Rowan County Cooperative Extension. Call 704-216-8970 or email darrell_blackwelder@ncsu.edu