Tuesday, July 1, 2014

JULY 2014

We will be closed July 4th through the 7th to celebrate our independence! Hope you have a safe and fun-filled holiday!


Think about your pollinators. I have been suffering from "blogblock". When considering a subject to write about then looking back and seeing that particular topic was pretty comprehensively covered in an earlier post. That is why I often link you to a previous post. So I have been thinking about questions and conversations we have had from/with customers over the last few weeks. One concern that keeps popping up is the use of systemic insecticides, that contain neonicotinoids, on shrubs, annuals, perennials and vegetables. This was mentioned in  June 2013 ("Attract beneficial insects") via a link a friend sent me. These insecticides are synthetic derivatives of nicotine that attack insects' nervous systems. Because they are systemic they contaminate the entire plant including pollen and nectar. Any systemic insecticide, especially those with neonicotinoids will stay in the plant for AT LEAST 8 weeks killing anything that comes for a drink of its nectar. First, we would personally never use any kind of a systemic anything on our plants.  We never use any nonorganic pesticides of any sort on the perennials and shrubs that we grow. Second, there are very few, if any, large commercial growers that don't use some sort of nonorganic pesticides. Our grower does not use any systemic pesticides. The insecticides he uses have little residual effects and once the plants are delivered to us we treat them organically. I am not sure the other places in town that sell plants (your superstore, your hardware store, your grocery store, your farmers' market) can say the same thing about their plants. I understand the economics of this practice. It is pretty easy to mix some of this stuff into the soil before you plant and not have to worry about ANY insects. But that is really the point isn't it? Not worrying about ANY insects.

A variety of beneficial pollinators on our lovage and parsley.

Control insects on houseplants. (Reprinted from blogpost March 2012 & newsletter July 2002) If you have houseplants that you move indoors in the winter and outside to a shady spot in the summer I am sure you have noticed how insects seem to flourish indoors. Most insects love the warm, dry, still environment of a house. Be it a greenhouse or your home. Houseplants can be affected by a wide range of insects. Keeping them healthy by not overfertilizing or overwatering is one of the keys to preventing problems. Check them frequently for pests and you will be able to stop a problem before it gets out of hand. Be sure to check the undersides of the leaves and the leaf crotches since this is where trouble usually starts. Aphids are small tear-drop shaped sucking insects that can be green, black, reddish, yellow or wooly and cluster on the new growth. The leaves will look distorted. Wash aphids off with water or use Safer's Insecticidal Soap which will dry them up and kill them. Scale are also sucking insects. They gather on the leaves and branches and can be recognized by their hard, brown covering. This covering is waxy in nature and protects the insect inside which makes them hard to control with contact-kill insecticides. Your best form of attack is Horticultural Oil which will coat and smother them.  Spider mites are another nasty sucker. They are microscopic and the first signs are dull, stippled leaves, webbing and the plants may be stunted. Misting your plants or spraying them with water in a kitchen sink or shower will help deter them since they prefer warm, dry conditions. Safer's Insecticidal Soap or Horticultural Oil are the best sprays for control. Mealybugs are of recognizable size but hard to detect because they cluster on leaf stems, branch crotches and roots. They have round, white, fuzzy looking bodies and can eventually kill a plant. For small infestations rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab will take care of it. For larger problems use Horticultural Oil. Whiteflies look just like their name implies. They are tiny, winged white insects that flutter above the plant when disturbed. They attach themselves to the undersides of the leaves and are one of the most difficult insects to eradicate. Be persistent. Alternating Horticultural Oil and Safer's Insecticidal Soap every other week is effective. Increase air circulation and wash leaves off with water. A homemade spray of 1 teaspoon liquid dish soap, 1 cup cooking oil, 1 cup rubbing alcohol and 1 quart of water can be used every 10 days. Don't forget the undersides of the leaves. All of these sucking insects excrete a shiny substance called honeydew. It is often the first sign of a problem and left unchecked can encourage the growth of Sooty Mold. This looks like soot covering the leaves and is more unattractive than it is dangerous. First control the insects that are creating the honeydew and then wash the sooty mold off with a damp cloth. Fungus Gnats are very active when conditions are moist and/or humid. They look like tiny flies and lay their eggs on top of the wet soil. They are more annoying than damaging. Most importantly let the surface of the soil dry out between waterings. Yellow Sticky Traps will catch the adults and Mosquito Bits will kill the eggs.
Always follow label directions when using any of these insecticides as some plants may be sensitive to certain oils and soaps. If it is possible, when all danger of frost has passed, move your plants to a bright shady or part shade location away from strong winds. This will allow natural predators to intervene. One more word of advice (I make mistakes so you don't have to); although a feather duster is a good way to clean your plants it is also a good vehicle for your pests to hitch a ride on. 

Fertilize. As of right now (Love this website: Wunderground) we have a significant chance of precipitation beginning on Tuesday. Hallelujah! I may be getting 2 hours a day of my life back.  I have been reading articles that indicate that evenly moist soil (from rain) aids in the uptake of fertilizers. So if this monsoon does happen it is a perfect time to feed all of your plants. In deciding what fertilizer is best for you look at the numbers or chemical analysis on the fertilizer bag. Nitrogen, the first number, is for green leafy growth. Phosphorus, the second number, encourages healthy blooms, roots and fruits. Potash or Potassium is the third number and it is for overall hardiness, strong stems and branches, and disease resistance. We carry Fox Farm's Happy Frog  granular and liquid fertilizers. The granular products contain mycorrhizae which are beneficial fungus that attach to plants roots and aid in the absorption  of nutrients and water. You can choose from Fruit & Flower (5-8-4), Tomato & Vegetable (7-4-5), All Purpose(5-5-5) and Rose Food (4-4-5). These are organic based and easy to use since you sprinkle them on the soil and water them in. The liquids are mixed with water and applied to the root area. They include an all organic Big Bloom (0.01-0.3-0.7), Grow Big (6-4-4) for vegetative growth and Tiger Bloom (2-8-4) to encourage flowers and fruit set.  The Fox Farm liquids contain micronutrients, earthworm castings and kelp. We also have Yum Yum Mix (2-1-1) which is a very balanced, organic, all purpose, vegetarian (no animal products) blend. Another all purpose is Chickity Doo Doo (5-3-2.5). It is composted chicken manure and contains 9% Calcium. The other fertilizer that we have always sold is Gro-Power which is formulated with our southwest alkaline soil in mind. There are two different blends which contain 6-7% humic acid derived from compost. This helps break up compacted soil, encourages biological activity and promotes water conservation. Sulphur is also added to control the Ph and unlock available iron. We recommend using Gro-Power Hi-Nitro for lawns at a rate of 7 lbs. per 1000 square feet. It can also be used to fertilize any evergreen trees or shrubs by applying 1/2 cup for every 5 feet of height. The analysis of the Hi-Nitro is 14-4-9. This means it is highest in Nitrogen which, in addition to producing dark green vegetative growth, increases protein content in food crops and helps plants use moisture more efficiently. For all of your flowering trees and shrubs, fruit trees, perennials, annuals and vegetable gardens you can use Gro-Power Flower & Bloom (3-12-12). It is low in Nitrogen but high in the primary elements Phosphorus and Potash. Use Flower & Bloom at the rate of 2 lbs. per 100 square feet of bed area or for individual plants apply 1 cup per 8 feet of height or width whichever is greater. It is also a wonderful winterizer. Just let us know what you are feeding and we will find the fertilizer that is right for you.

Perovskia atriplicifolia. Russian Sage is a very popular perennial around here and for good reason. It grows fast, is drought tolerant once established, cold hardy, and deer and rabbit proof. The abundant lavender-blue blooms are borne in spikelike clusters that form a cloud above the foliage. They are a magnet for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. Native to the mountains of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and Tibet it grows quickly each year to at least 3' tall and 4' wide. The gray leaves are finely divided giving it a lacy appearance. Plant this perennial in full sun with bright yellow or magenta companions. It is very versatile and would be at home with evergreens or in a xeriscape. To rejuvenate cut to the ground anytime after frost.
Perovskia atriplicifolia

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