Some tips on how to get rid of pests
by Ronella Stager, Columnist
May 16, 2012 | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sometimes I receive interesting tips for gardening and sometimes it’s just some bit of general information.

Recently I received a tip from an old friend who asked me if I had read about Splenda, the artificial sweetener, killing fire ants. I hadn’t but if you unfortunatly have those really bad insects, it is worth a try.

This tip came from one of the smartest people I have ever known so I am sure it’s worth trying. I was bitten many years ago by one of those fire ants and it was very, very painful. We had a terrible time getting rid of them.

To get rid of slugs, buy “slug bait”, small pellets of poison, and put it under boards, under plants which slugs like, such as hostas, or any place you have seen the slug trails. It is a sure way of getting rid of slugs.

Or you could encourage those little garter snakes which like to eat slugs. Personally, I prefer the slugs. Speaking of snakes, recently some folks have been talking of the use of moth balls to discourage snakes and it is true.

You can buy boxes of crushed mothballs to place around a foundation or around a deck or any area that you want to protect from snakes. Just be sure you place the repellent on the outside of the snakes’ area. That same box of crushed moth balls will repel skunks and squirrels.

Now that you have worked for many months to have perfect flower beds, problems start arising. Some problems can be caused by too much rain, some by viruses and some can’t be identified. But some easy problems to diagnose are the lower leaves which turn yellow which is usually from nitrogen deficiency.

Calcium deficiency can cause leaves to curl. Viruses can sometimes just be too hard to cure and it might be best just to throw the plant away but not on the compost pile. I have found that it helps most insect or mildew problems to have a sprayer filled with a combination of insecticide and fungicide, a combination which is made by Ortho and easily found in any garden supply store.

One way to keep down mildew is to use a sprayer called a wand which is attached to a hose. It diffuses the water and keeps water from the leaves. It’s especially harmful to sprinkle at late evening when the water will stand on the plant overnight causing mildew.

No matter how much you do to prevent disease and other problems in your flower garden, it will happen. So about the best you can do is to learn to identify problems and the best way to do that is from a good gardening book. And sometimes, when I am sick and tired of doctoring some plant, I just dig it up and throw it away.

I often wonder why my grandmother’s flowers always looked so healthy. She had no insecticide and no fungicide and no gardening books to identify problems. I think that over the years, her flowers were inherited from her mother-in-law and some from friends but mostly, she didn’t have a great variety of plants and that is probably the answer.

If something didn’t thrive over the years, it went to plant heaven. Her fertilizer was natural and the only insecticide was the stems of tobacco plants which she used all over her flower beds along with chicken manure. Ma would be called an organic gardener though she wouldn’t recognize the title.

The most important thing to remember is that the environment must be right for each group of plants. The right growing conditions are fertilizers, mulch and water. You can’t mix plants which must have full sun with plants that require shade and expect a good outcome.

That is why it is so important to read the tag on each new perennial you buy. Not every plant requires the same fertilizer but all flowering plants must nave low nitrogen to bloom. Some plants require little or no fertilizer, such as iris.

Almost all blooming plants need mulch, but on the other hand, peonies need little or none. Water is essential to plants but not all plants need the same amount of water. I have always grown the plants which like dry soil in groupings the farthest from my water source, the spigot. The plants which like shade should always be grown together.

Then the plants which love the sun and need more water should be grown closer to your water source. It all makes sense and when separated into those groups, you spend a lot less time caring for them. It seemed that I spent a lot of time moving plants around to get the right spot in the flower garden.

Mulch is essential to good gardening but there are different kinds of mulch and gardeners generally have a favorite kind. I have always bought cypress even though it may not be the cheapest.

The reason I like cypress mulch is that it repels insects. I discovered that garter snakes were going through my mulch looking for roaches and other insects. Then I read about cypress. Who wants garter snakes roaming through a flower bed?

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632. I so appreciate your kind words about my Ma and she would be so pleased.
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