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As Gardeners we face innumerable obstacles in our efforts to grow the “perfect” garden. Sports fans blame a lack of success on a “Cleveland jinx” but local gardeners share their gardening woes this year with the entire northeastern United States. Cool and moist weather has challenged parts of our landscapes and served others quite well. Let’s examine a few of the trials and tribulations of this gardening season so we may better understand what we are facing.
In our vegetable gardens we have generally seen more pests and less production in 2009. Tomatoes, peppers, basil and eggplant are examples of plants that thrive in periods of hot and dry weather meaning they will have lower production this year. Caterpillars and beetles have been more abundant than normal adding to our frustrations. Organic solutions of copper fungicide for diseases and Rotenone dust or Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew for insects have been in great demand this summer.
Annual flowers planted in beds or pots have also been affected by this years weather conditions. Heat and sun loving plants like lantana, vinca, zinnias and geraniums have less growth and flowers than normal while other flowering plants have thrived.
Tropical bloomers like hibiscus and mandevillia have not performed as well as hoped while hybrid begonias and banana trees have grown abundantly.
We have seen more than average pest activity on trees and shrubs this season. Magnolia scale is easily detectible by black soot accumulating on the upper surface of leaves. Control is most easily achieved by using a product called Merit, which is applied to the root system during the fall. Merit is available in both granular and liquid formulations. Fall webworms are now appearing in abundance producing large web colonies that grow with each successive generation. Early detection and treatment is helpful as large webs are difficult to penetrate with control measures. Accessible colonies can be easily removed manually while outbreaks high in trees may require professional treatments. Luckily, predator insects often populate infested areas and can control populations naturally. Leaf diseases on dogwoods, magnolias, lilacs, azaleas and many other woody plants have also been more common this summer. Symptoms range from minor leaf distortion to complete defoliation. Control measures will vary depending on plant species and severity of infection. Collect and bag samples to be taken to your local garden professionals for specific treatment suggestions.
While lawns have not completely avoided any cultural difficulties they have enjoyed the extra rain showers and we are amazingly green for this time of year. Unfortunately, clover, ground ivy and other lawn weeds have done equally well and may require control this time of year.
So as our growing season begins to wind down will you say you came out a winner or will it be “we’ll get ‘em again next year?” Personally, I’m not a big fan of 90 degree heat so I have learned to love fried green tomatoes.
Now go outside and have fun in the dirt!