After the beautiful colors of fall have passed, and winter settles in, you may think that you can take a break from gardening. But what you do during the cold winter months can greatly impact your gardening success

If your landscaping has struggled with insect damage, dormant oil is a must. When plants are actively growing and flowers blooming, there are a number of insecticide options. But you also have a wonderful opportunity during the plant’s dormant period to really put a dent in those pesky insects.

Dormant oil is just what it says…oil. It is a highly refined mineral, paraffin or waxy-type oil that resembles baby oil.  Dormant oil is considered one of the safest contact-type insecticides.  Because of the purity of the oil and the relatively low rates at which it is applied, the risk of irritation or reaction is very minimal. Dormant oil is also chemical free, which is great for your family and the environment as well as being less toxic to beneficial insects.

Dormant oil works by spreading out and creating a thin layer over the entire plant’s surface. Any insects, eggs or larva will get coated and will not be able to survive. It is especially effective in controlling overwintering mites and certain scale insects. Dormant oil should be used as part of a comprehensive plant protection program, one of the preventive steps to helping the plant thrive to its fullest. Other cultural issues, environmental stressors or pathological pressures may exist that cause problems for the landscape plantings. These factors may be addressed individually, or may be treated collectively with an all-around maintenance package (which includes proper planting, mulching, pruning, plant selection, irrigation, fertilization, insect and disease control, etc.) No product can give you perfect insect control, but dormant oil is a safe, inexpensive and effective way to reduce the presence of cercertain.insects, but it is not a guarantee against all insect problems.

If you are considering applying dormant oil, the main thing to remember is timing. By definition, dormant oil is meant to be used when the plants are dormant, or not actively growing.  If used at the wrong time of year, the oil can coat the leaves and clog the stomata (the pores on the leaf surfaces that allow carbon dioxide, water and oxygen to move into and out from the leaf) or cause a phytotoxic reaction on the leaf surface resulting in leaf burn.  Certain lighter oils (summer oil) may be utilized, but only with caution and for specific insect control. Traditional insecticides can also be used as needed. Just be sure, as always, to read the label and follow directions. Some products require a certain amount of time between the dormant oil and insecticide applications for the plant’s protection.

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