GARDENING ... AND MORE: New ideas on how to handle mites
by Ronella Stagner, Columnist
Jun 18, 2014 | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It seems that you CAN teach an old gardener new tricks. I have had many calls about problems with Knockout roses. Two complaints this week are that the leaves are eaten except for the stems and veins or cannibalized. The affected leaves are mostly on the lower part of the rose and you can’t see any insects. This, I discovered by research, is caused by a little green worm, which eats from the underside of the leaves. It is the larvae of the sawfly, a type of little wasp which you may see flying around in the garden. Spraying the rose with water to get them to fall off can destroy the little worm and then you kill them. Another remedy is spray with a solution made of a cup of loose tobacco in a gallon of water, which sets until the water gets dark. My garden center has a spray called Rose Shield, which can be effective.

Another problem that the Knockout is having is mites. The spray Rose Shield definitely works on the mites and is said to kill those little green worms. The lesson learned here is that the perfect Knockout rose is not so perfect after all.

The newest Knockout rose is going to be more popular than the old one since it is much smaller. The original one just gets out of control.

A new reader who has just recently moved to western Kentucky told me about a treatment for roses, which I had never heard. This reader is a Master Gardener and told me about this treatment, which prevents both some insects and also mildew or black spot. It is so simple that you may find it hard to believe. You spray your roses with milk. That’s right, just plain old milk, 1%, 2% or whole milk; it doesn’t matter. She mixes the milk with a little water and sprays weekly, especially after a rain. You must spray at night or early in the morning so the milk dries before the sun gets hot on them.

I did a little research on this idea of milk spray and discovered that many gardeners use it. I’m just late in hearing about it. It was suggested in one article to use one part milk to two parts water. It is a very effective fungicide and harmless to the environment, which is an important factor. It also prevents damage from most insects. The milk spray can be used on a variety of plants including cucumber, tomato, squash and zinnias. It seems that I keep learning something new about gardening.

A reminder: never spray roses with an overhead sprinkler. Never wet the foliage. I like to use a diffuser wand attached to a hose. Then you only spray the soil. This cuts down greatly on mildew on roses and also other flowering plants.

The enthusiasm of dedicated gardeners continues to amaze me. I have come to believe that this enthusiastic gardening contributes to long life.

In a chat with Ms. Amy from Harrodsburg this week, I was amazed at what she accomplishes for a 90-year young lady. She told me that she did hire a young man to till up her garden but that is the only help she has. She grows several different vegetables and is quite innovative. When the birds attacked her young tomato leaves, she put a gallon jug, with the bottom cut out, over each young plant. Then she cut windows in the jug to give the plant air. When the tomatoes grew a bit, she took the jug off and the birds left them alone. Someone suggested to me that the birds were using the young tender leaves to line their nests. Whatever the reason, they leave them alone when they grow a bit. Ms. Amy admitted that when she was driving stakes in the ground around her tomatoes, she had to rest a bit after driving two stakes.

When I talk with some of my older readers, I am reminded so much of my Ma. Ma always found a way to work around a problem without asking for help. She learned to patch a screen door with a tiny patch of screen and it was hardly noticeable. She tried many different vegetables, especially from seeds that her sister Rose sent her from Texas, some of which she had never seen. I especially remember the yard-long green beans. Then there was the time Ma decided that she could grow cotton and if it did well, she could use it to line her quilts. It was a little before my time but she would laugh about it when she told me. Her cotton did well, she learned how to pick cotton and even found that she could stretch the fibers to make a lining. However, it didn’t wash well so all her hard work was wasted. That didn’t deter Ma; it just set her aback a bit.

I am convinced that this enthusiasm for life, and especially for gardening in Ms. Amy and Ma’s case, contributes to a long and happy life.

Please feel free to call me at 270-522-3632 with questions, suggestions or just to tell me your experience in gardening.
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