Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What is That White Stuff?

It's that time of year when Powdery Mildew (Microsphaera penicilliata) is likely to raise its head in one woman's garden - mine or yours...it matters not. It mars the beauty of the end of season blooms. Usually affecting plants like roses, pumpkins, squash, lilacs, bee balm, phlox, that seem to be most susceptible.

Plants growing in shady areas or crowded together with poor air circulation along with overcast skies, higher than usual amounts of rain, and higher humidity levels (at the microclimate level as well) make powdery mildew a common problem and everyone knows, in our Northern Wisconsin summer, this year we have had plenty of both. It's sad and right away I want to know what to do? 

Actually, it won't kill your plants in most cases. You can get rid of it with a solution of baking soda (gotta love that product - it has as many uses as duct tape or WD40)and water. Spray the affected plants and you should see it clear up. There are fungicides on the market that you can use as well. But, whenever possible I prefer organic. If you have excess milk, a more costly solution than baking soda,  you can dilute that and spray it on affected plants as well. Roses: Placing Roses, Planting & Care, The Best Varieties

Now, when these leaves fall off, do not compost them but instead burn or otherwise dispose of them so as not to create a possible problem next season.  
Happy gardening.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Fall - what of the trees in your garden

I count trees as part of my garden because the shade bed includes a maple, a willow, a blue spruce and a smoke tree, there is another but for the life of me I can't find out what it is. The birds love it. Now there is another brand new maple on the far side of this bed. The hosta, lily of the valley, bleeding hearts(two varieties) klonchoes on the fringes, and impatiens all find this a good spot to be. Today a large branch of that willow came crashing down...soon the other trees will have to take over to cast the cooling shade that this one did. My husband says it needs to come down, carpenter ants have eaten a hole in the center of it and it's just a matter of time.

So while cleaning up the garden for fall is still a ways off, October is soon enough--I must ponder the loss of my favorite tree. This year I planted a Pear, a Mountain Ash and an Apricot, and the small red maple - but, none can replace my willow. I may have to borrow the one from my friends book, she painted it for the cover of all three of her books, Willow Walk is SK Hamilton's work to match what God created in the real world.
The Kahill's of Willow Walk will need to take my Willow's place.The Kahills of Willow Walk

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shrubs - Blue Berries as Shrubs

As you are looking over your fall garden and trying to decide what you'll do next year, why not consider blueberries. They are edible, and beautiful all seasons. It is possible to grow them in pots, or to plant them direct into a planned flower bed.

The major consideration is the soil they prefer. Soil is the most critical component of growing success with blue berries. It needs to be very acidic. (pH 4.0 to 5.5). Another thing you should be aware of is that blue berries have a shallow root system.

 A mulch of organic matter such as compost, peat moss, or composted leaves will do the job really well and they contain enough acidic mix to the delight of the blue berries. You could also use a couple inch think layer of pine needles. Or as one tree trimmer told us, the small willow tendrils (branches) of the willow tree run through a shredder and soaked in rain water makes an excellent drink/tea for all your trees and shrubs --I venture to say, especially blue berries.

Blue berries have very few problems with insects or diseases which is perfect for the organic gardener who dislikes having to use pesticides. While the birds may pose a problem if you plan to harvest your blueberries for yourself, you can stall them off by covering the berries with netting - or plant a few in a place away from your cultivated berries so they may eat to their delight on them.

Be sure to water your blueberries during dry spells, especially the high bush types, fertilize them lightly in the spring with an ammonium sulphate nitrogen fertilizer and test your soil to see if you need additional phosphorus or potassium.

Blue berries are beautiful, easy to grow, pest free (for the most part if you don't count the birds) and they are so good for your healthy self.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Clean Garden Healthy Plants

Clean Gardening Practices will keep your soil and your plants healthy. Now while you are harvesting the bountiful crops you have grown this summer, keep an eye out, and keep a wheel barrow handy. As you weed, and when you cut off the unusable tops of certain plants as you harvest them--take them to the compost pile. Do not leave them in your garden.
Clean the garden area of debris and weeds. They are breeding grounds for insects and can be a disease producing mess. It is better to buy a good mulch to put around your plants then hope that the weeding and thinning of plants will be a good mulch for the garden. They are not. Put them in your compost bin where the intense heat of the composting process with kill insects and disease.

We have had a crop of volunteer sunflowers in an area by our vegetable garden where I also have a bird feeder. We let them grow because we had room and the little Gold Finches love to eat them as they ripen. It was going great until I stopped feeding birds at the feeders because of an influx of brown squirrels. These little monster-pests are worse then red squirrels, and more destructive than chipmunks. They crawled up the sunflowers and decapitated the biggest ones. They had a mess all over our yard. Needless to say, there are no more sunflowers standing as tall as my hollyhocks. We pulled them, cut off the seed heads and hung them on the clothes line away from the squirrels but available to the birds (Until the squirrels find a way to get to them anyway.)

Keeping your garden clean helps to deter some pests, but not all of them. Still, it's the only way to insure a healthy harvest this year and next.

Monday, August 9, 2010

RX For Your Yard and Garden

Just because the humidity is high doesn't mean your plants in your garden can get enough to drink. In Wisconsin we know about humidity - and 90 degree weather. It  usually happens only one or two days a year in July - but ....This summer is an exception.

Please be kind to your gardens and give them a drink from your saved rain barrels.  You do capture rainwater don't you?  It's great for your plants during these outrageously hot days. It saves your well or water bill and electricity. Its easy and very good for all your gardening and lawn care needs.

Your lawn probably is screaming for more water as well. To help it absorb more and give it a good summer treat use Jerry Baker's formula 2 cups of weak tea water, 1 cup of baby shampoo, and 1 cup of peroxide mixed in a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer... It's sure to perk it up. Just be sure to water well, to really soak the ground.

For more of Jerry's tips and his books go to  www.jerrybaker.com  You'll find his blog down the list on the left hand side. I highly recommend his frugal and sage advice.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Summer is in full swing and my garden is over flowing!

What a wonderful summer this has been for growing. The rain is on schedule every week - the new Pear, Apricot, and Mountain Ash are growing like weeds. The hollyhocks are 8 feet tall, the tomatoes are competing for height and the pole beans could easily reach the sky like Jack in the Beanstalk if they had taller supports.The grapevines are covering their support and have totally taken over a bird feeder hanging near the arbor. Incredible. Unfortunately frost hit the plums and apples when they were in full bloom and we won't get any fruits from them this year. But they needed a rest.  I hope your garden grows as well.

I had a thought about wild plants - so many things we think are nothing but weeds really are useful as food and or medicine. The Native American's knew this and found ways around pills. From wild rice to maple sugar we still enjoy some of the Native foods, but did you know Dog Bane, Yarrow and Barberry were used to cure a head ache--wild ginger was used to tame a tummy of indigestion. Have a sore throat try tansy, cow parsnip or choke cherry. Some of these remedies would be made into teas from the leaves or bark, others it was the roots--chewed or gargled with. A book that can take you through the basics is How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine and Crafts by Frances Densmore, available by clicking the title.
You may want to be sure next year that you have some of these "weeds" in your garden or on your property.
Mean time, May your garden provide you with all your needs be it food, beauty, or peace.