GARDENING BY RONELLA: Insects, birds, yellowing leaves and snakes
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Jun 26, 2013 | 102 102 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the hot, moist weather of summer, we are plagued by insects, fungi and mites. Ticks and fleas are also prevalent in my area. I just heard that a man whom I know is very ill with a disease carried by ticks. So it is important to use a repellent spray when going into an area where there are ticks. As for the insects, mites and fungi that attack our vegetables and flowers, there are newer and better sprays and drenches for those pests. Among the calls I have received this week, one was a complaint about little red mites or spiders on tomato plants. In checking, you can use the organic treatment, which is safe for edible vegetables and also for flowers. It is made by Bonide and should be available at your hardware/nursery store.

One of my most interesting calls this week was from a long-time reader, Ms. Laura Cook. She has had a problem with birds in her garage and couldn’t get rid of them. As fast as she tore down their nests, they built more. They soiled her car and her floor. Then she read in my book, or an old column, about using a fake owl so she bought one at a garden store and hung it up. No more birds. A friend of mine tried putting an artificial snake up in the top of his garage to scare the birds away. He forgot, however, to tell his son-in-law who climbed up to that loft looking for some tool, spied the snake, and fell backwards, thinking it a big, real snake.

Most calls this week have been complaints about leaves turning yellow on roses and a few other plants. On closer inspection, those leaves had black spots, which quickly identified the problem as that fungus which attacks many plants in summer. That form of fungus can spread to other plants so it is important to pick off all the affected leaves and burn them. You must even pick up all leaves that fall to the ground.

Many gardeners are wondering about transplanting. The answer varies with the plants. For instance, to transplant Oriental poppies, you must move them soon after they bloom when the foliage is wilting a bit. But if you wait too long, they disappear to come up again later. When to move peonies is always a question. The answer is that you never move them until mid-October. If moved too soon, they go into shock and won’t bloom for several years. But you can move daylilies almost any old time. They are so hardy, or tough, that I move them anytime during summer, being careful to keep the roots wet during the move and afterwards. I have always separated them with a sharp shovel and move them when the notion hits me one fine day.

If you haven’t already done so, mulch all your plants now. A good two inches of mulch will keep the soil moist and your plants thriving all summer. Before laying down the mulch, scratch the soil lightly with a metal rake and then wet the mulch after it is in place.

My son asked me recently why I have such a morbid fear of snakes, good ones or venomous ones. To me, a snake is a snake. I give my Ma the credit for my fear of snakes. Ma had to live on that hill that abounded with rattlesnakes and a few copperheads. The rattlers were because the hill behind their old house was covered with limestone with a few limestone caves where they denned. I remember very vividly an incident when we were sitting on the front porch. All of a sudden, Ma said, “Oh, Mercy, go ring the dinner bell, Honey. There is a rattlesnake crawling under the porch”. I flew out back and gave that old bell several pulls, which brought Pa running from the field. Meantime, Ma had a long stick, trying to push the snake back from the porch. The two of them were in a battle. Pa killed the snake with a long hoe and then, for the first time ever, I heard him fuss at Ma for trying to push that snake back. He knew that it could strike the length of its body and also straight up. She and I knew she would do it again under the same circumstances.

I also remember a copperhead snake in the corncrib. Their crib was built several feet off the ground, as were all cribs, and you had to get up into the crib by going up a few steps. Ma couldn’t climb up so she would boost me up to get the corn and hand her the basket. I had started filling the basket of corn for her chickens when I spotted the snake and when I pointed it out to her, she said it was a copperhead and to climb down at once and I sure did. That is when Pa found a pair of king snakes to put near the crib and stable to kill the copperheads. I guess they did the trick because we didn’t see any more copperheads in the crib. So I would say those incidents, and many others, caused my snake phobia.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions or comments.
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