Saturday, June 23, 2007

Roses in Peril

Roses in Peril

By Billie A Williams

Roses are my husband’s favorite flowers—little does he know the work involved in keeping them beautiful. Today while I was out trying to rescue a $26 hanging basket of Petunia’s that were surviving on mere water and nutrients I had fed earlier in the week. A side note, beautiful basket but the first time I watered it I knew….I’ll save that story for another column.

Now on to the roses in peril I heard this buzzing sound – nearly like an electrical transformer makes in peak air conditioning season. I thought wow; the bees are especially busy today—on our very fragrant white roses. The fragrance is heavenly and perfumes nearly the whole yard. To my surprise – the bees were trying to be busy, fighting for existence among the blooms of the roses while an outrage of Rose Chafers devoured blossom, buds and everything they could reach. They even attacked the bees as I watched. I was devastated. Apparently, these obnoxious visitors are especially fond of white blooms.

I hurried to the house to read what Jerry Baker had to recommend. (I have several of his gardening books—he always has the natural solution) His solution was hand picking – YUK! Not something that made me feel very good. Other than that he mentioned a couple chemicals rotenone or Pyrethrin…Not into the expense or the side affects of chemical solutions, I opted for my old stand-by which cures nearly all insect infestations without the harmful side affects for birds and other critters in my yard.

I mixed up a cocktail of Mrs. Murphy’s Oil soap and water. (1/4 cup to a quart of water) and sprayed the dickens out of those roses. I probably err on the side of too much soap to water, as Jerry Baker has a different recipe below--but his is pre--mine is present solutions.

Reading further in Jerry’s book he says “if you give your roses a bath once a week with a solution of 1 tablespoon of liquid dish soap mixed with 2 gallons of warm water, odds are, you won’t need any chemical controls!” I wish I had heeded my own advice earlier when I saw the first chaffer on my Smoke Tree.

Here’s another trick from an old-time gardening friend, "put one or two garlic cloves among your roses to keep aphids and other pests away." (Another thing I was too busy to follow this year) Usually, I plant a row of set onions in front of the roses that border the head of my garden, which normally is enough control. This year the weather has been so different that perhaps I need to go back to more intensive and consistent prevention medicine. It's hotter than it should be this early and the rains we get are torrential downpours accompanied by horrendous winds. Very unusual.

Now, I must keep an eye on my Concord grape vines as these nasty critters move across my yard, they are surely next and the Rose Chafer will feed on them too. Mrs. Murphy, are you ready?
Happy Gardening
You may feel free to use this article if you retain this resource box with it.
Award winning Mystery Suspense author Billie A Williams invites you to visit her at or check out her You Tube video of A Christmas Dream Script for a 3-Act Play designed for medium to small theatrical groups.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bananas, Salt, Tea and WD40

By Billie A Williams
Rose bushes are they hard to raise? Depends on who you talk to. I have had terrible luck with the miniature variety, but basically the others are a breeze. They need pruning, water and occasionally a few banana peels. What you never heard of burying banana peels around the perimeter of your roses? The nutrients are ideal for them, but what I didn’t know before was, the banana peel actually retards aphids a real nasty for rose bushes and gladiolas. I usually spray my plants at the first sign of trouble with a weak soap solution. If I see any aphids near my roses, I use Mrs Murphy’s Oil soap mixed with water in a spray bottle (also good on the grape vines) but I like the double duty banana peel instead. Tea is another rose booster. It will enhance the growth of roses.

Here are a few more hints for other bugs and areas of your living space. Are you tired of uninvited guests at your picnic? To keep those pesky ants at bay try putting plastic containers under the legs of your picnic table and filling them with water. The ants may climb up the plastic container but they will fall in and drown before they get to the table legs.

Salt has always been a favorite remedy of mine for so many things. You can fill a plastic container with salt water and place it at ground level in your gardens where you have seen slugs or snail damage. The snails and slugs drown trying to get at the salt. (This works with beer too) If you need to bait them use pieces of raw potato around the dish. You can also use salt to stop weeds from growing in the cracks of your sidewalks or walkways and is one of the many things that can extend the life of cut flowers. In the kitchen you can use a light salt water solution to put peeled potatoes or apples in until you are ready to use them, to keep them from turning dark.

Tea is a great addition to any acid loving houseplants soil. I use weak tea to water my ferns, and other house plants once a month. You can also use it and the tea bags to speed up the decomposition of your compost pile. (Compost pile coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells and any organic vegetable matter is great.)

Now here is something I bet you’ve not heard of before—WD-40 ™uses in your garden. I believe WD-40 ™ has nearly as many uses as duct tape. You can use it to spray your flower beds lightly to keep cats, dogs and other animals out of them. You can use it on your bird feeders to keep squirrels off of them (hmmm cheaper than Cheyenne pepper – perhaps.) Those dirty messy pigeons building nests on balconies and porches, try spraying surfaces with WD-40™ it makes your place very unappealing to the pests.
Also spray railings and bird feeders to keep them off. If you have a wasp problem, building nests under your eaves—next summer spray the over hang under the eaves with WD-40™. One more good use for it, spray thistle plants and they will be history.
Use it to take care of your lawn and garden tools. Spray the handles to keep them from splintering and giving you slivers, spray the tines of garden forks, shovels, hoes, to keep them rust free and in good condition. (you can do this with your snow shovel, snow blower etc to keep snow from sticking to them in the winter, too)

Like I said WD-40™ is in a race with duct tape™ and probably super glue™ to see who is the most versatile and important. I love organic solutions when at all possible, but when something works like magic it’s hard to resist using modern warfare in the garden to get rid of pests.

Feel free to pass this article along as long as you leave this resource box attached.
Billie A Williams
Multi-published Mystery/Suspense Author
Whose Accidental Sleuth’s solve crimes with wit, wisdom and chutzpah.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rose Pests - and Helpers

This morning when I stopped at our local Mathis Ace Hardware ( you know the jingle "Ace is the place with the helpful hardware - man" - er person) I needed a cure for my peonies - they haven't bloomed yet and I planted them years ago. Someone told me they need Oyster shells - I wasn't able to find any. (If any one has any ideas I'd be pleased as punch to hear them. I do have plenty of ants so that isn't the problem) Picture of Lady Bug and aphids on fennel
But speaking of ants they are a problem in another way. Every insect has a benefit - such as the need for ants to help open peony blooms. however, Ants do pose a problem in that they "farm" aphids -- aphids can mean disaster for your glads or roses. So whats a person to do? You could import some Lady Bugs - they have a special appetite for them. (not the asian beetle please, but the real Lady Bug)
A women next to me in the insecticide - fertilizer isle was searching for rose dust to kill the aphids and things bothering her roses.

I had a solution for her - since she seemed to prefer organic, but was desperate. We could use the lady bugs (we have many around here. They didn't seem to be doing their job) or at least something safe for pets, birds, people. My solution for pests is Mrs. Murphy's Oil Soap. I mix it with water in a spray bottle - about 1/8 to a 1/4 cup to a quart of water and mist my plants until the leaves drip. I've used it to get rid of the bugs in my grapevines, the bean and squash bugs. It works to spray it around my back door to keep asian beetles and box alder bugs from coming in everytime the door opens. It's a wonderful product and doesn't hurt the environment.

I love finding solutions to my gardening problems that can help others and not harm beneficial critters or people. If anyone knows a reason why my 10 year old transplanted Peonies are not blooming though - I'd appreciate a note. Thank you!

Happy Gardening.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It's Organic, It's Exciting, It's Cutting Edge

I borrowed this (with permission of course) from a lovely lady over at The Daily Dirt - if you love gardening you will want to subscribe to her daily missives they are great! Here is the link.

Wednesday What's New: Sustainable Urban Farm
The Link for the story: the original article:

The Science Barge, a sustainable urban farm is on a mission to educate people about sustainability. Moored on the Hudson River on New York City's west side, the barge is equipped with two greenhouses and is powered by solar, wind, and biofuels, and irrigated by rainwater and purified river water--with no carbon emissions, no water use, and no waste stream.

The cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, and other vegetables are grown using hydroponic gardening techniques. Ted Caplow, head of New York Sun Works, the non-profit organization behind the Science Barge, believes that if vegetables were grown hydroponically in greenhouses on New York City's rooftops, there would be more than enough vegetables to feed the region.

Caplow says that greenhouses produce seven times more food and use four times less water than traditional farming methods on land. Despite the proliferation and success of community gardens, one of the reasons rooftops may be the solution is that space for growing gardens on land is limited in a region with a population as dense as New York City. Of course most people don't have access to their rooftops, but the possibility of using public rooftops is a viable option.

Photo source: Source: Environmentalist dreams of New York rooftop farms

Heleigh Bostwick, Making Gardens Greener

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

One Woman's Garden - a look at Organic Gardening

I've gardened all my life. No wait, that's true. While I was growing up I spent summers on my grandfather's farm - he had two 80 acre parcels split in half by a road that twisted over the narrow bridge and through the woods to a little country town that was nothing more than a whisper on the map in Northern Wisconsin named Morse.
I learned that if you salt cabbage it heads without the intrusion of worms and a lot of other great things about gardening using ordinary things every kitchen should have to control pests and invaders. Control ants and weeds with vinegar or cheyenne Pepper. Skunks don't like moth balls. But I'll leave more on that for later.
Living on a small dairy farm with pigs, chickens and eggs, geese, sheep, worked by draft horses that eventually were replaced by the more energy efficient (?) tractor...a learning experience unequalled by anything else. I came away richer for it and I would like to share some of what I learned with you. If you garden, or want to garden in this day and age where you are afraid to buy Spinach or peanut butter because it might be contaminated-- tag along with me. It's time we all started doing, what during World War II they called A Victory Garden, near our kitchen doors. Don't worry if you live in a high rise apartment building - I've got solutions for you too. So join me, won't you! Until next time...

Happy Gardening,