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Hamptons Life

Jun 29, 2018 1:16 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

July Ramble: Course Stewardship, Boxwood Knowledge, Bad Sprayers

The Solo one-hand sprayer was a great idea but the due to the poor design and lack of a positive shut off you may find some unintended consequences. ANDREW MESSINGER
Jul 2, 2018 10:59 AM

A number of short topics to cover this week, but as I get into the July ramble don’t mistake short with unimportant or insignificant. These are simply topics that don’t merit an entire column but they are still important garden and landscape considerations.

Last month, one of my columns was about golf courses and how they’ve changed in terms of environmental stewardship. One reader wrote to remind me that there are fairly strict environmental controls at the Sebonack Golf Club in Southampton. I was remiss in not mentioning this club as it’s a spot I used to live near and frequent before the course was built. According to the information in the reader’s note, the club uses only 1.8 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year. That’s pretty remarkable. Even better, according to his note, is the fact that the town-required monitoring that’s been done over the years shows that it seems to be having little to no effect on the groundwater.

This certainly gives me hope and a bit of optimism, but I still go back to my premise that it’s up to the residents of Eastern Long Island to make sure that this trend continues. I also hope that at some point the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is funded to the point where they can get back to their environmental charge and get back to monitoring what’s going on at golf courses.

I was on a site walk of a recently sold property with the landscape architect and the builder who hopes to renovate the property. The last spot they showed me was a secret garden secluded to the side of the house that had a large above-ground garden pool that looked like it once had water lilies in it. I could imagine the frogs sitting on the lily pads—but it’s been years. The rectangular pool that was about 10 feet by 20 feet and maybe 2 to 3 feet deep was surrounded by a lawn path then terraced layers of boxwood and perennial beds that had long since been tended. The top layer of boxwoods were on a terrace about 8 feet above the pond level below, and the boxwoods up there were old, healthy and magnificent. The two lower terraces had been re-planted recently with newer and smaller boxwoods and just about every one of them showed signs of the dreaded boxwood wilt.

I didn’t delve into this with the landscape designer. If I’d found that she was the one responsible for the new boxwood plantings in the same area as the older healthy ones, I would have fired her on the spot. The situation with boxwood blight is just getting worse and not better. When you talk to those who know the disease, one of the very first cautions they tell you is to never, ever mix new, nursery-grown boxwoods with older, healthy boxwoods. Obviously, the new owners are clueless. The question remains though: Who else was clueless?

It was summer 2016 that I did a series of columns on garden sprayers and I have a follow-up. I was attracted to a pair of Solo one-hand sprayers that are small, hand-pump sprayers that have long or short spray wands that can be attached. At the end of the wand the spray head is encircled by what looks like an inverted plastic shot glass. The purpose of this attachment is to control the drift of pesticides, in particular herbicides, so you can make very precise applications of material like glyphosate and other weed killers with a good deal of control. Well, it sounded like good idea, so I bought two.

The first problem was that the sprayers are not calibrated in ounces, quarts or parts of a gallon, but in liters. Now that may work in Europe and Canada, but when is the last time you opened a bottle of an insecticide or herbicide and it gave you the mixing rate in liters? They’re all in ounces of material per gallon of water. So, I used an agricultural measure and added water to each sprayer, making a mark and notation with a permanent pen indicating quart and gallon marks. I was ready to mix and spray.

I have a crushed-stone driveway and with a driveway like this it’s critical to keep the weeds and grasses from getting established. I do two applications of glyphosate during the growing season and in between I use a propane torch to burn out the weeds and grasses that might resurface. The Solo sprayers seemed to be a perfect way to reduce the amount of spraying and to control exactly where the spray went. So, I mixed, I pumped, and I sprayed. Two weeks later, not only were the weeds dead in my driveway but there was an 18-inch path of dead lawn everywhere I walked. Seems these Solo sprayers have two other problems besides units of measurement.

Positive shut off is critical in a garden sprayer. When you release the trigger, you have every expectation that the spray will stop. In this case though, there was not a positive shut off and as I walked from one end of the property to the other the spray continued to drip, drip and drip some more. But even worse, these sprayers have a tiny push/pull lever on the trigger that can lock the sprayer on. When in this locked position, as long as there’s pressure in the sprayer, a fine mist of spray, nearly invisible at the end of the 2-foot-long spray wand, continues to flow. And it did. You may think you’ve unlocked the trigger, then two weeks later comes the surprise. These sprayers have a great concept to control the spray, but the designers or engineers who developed these sprayers may not have used them at home before they began marketing them.

I love roses. One of my very first garden memories was when I was in grade school and our art teacher took us to the village park next to the school where there was a magnificent, walled rose garden. But roses have their problems and while I’ve planted a few in recent years I’m still wary of all the varieties, choices, insects and diseases. Well, roses now have a new problem. It’s called rose rosette virus, or RRV, and it’s a virus that affects all roses including hybrid teas, miniatures and the popular shrub roses. That’s the bad news. If there’s any good news in this disease, it’s that it also seems to infect the multiflora rose, the wild one that has become invasive and can cause serious allergy problems for those who live near them.

When the disease was first discovered on ornamental roses in 2011, it was a common practice to prune out the sections that were infected. Pathologists have since found that this practice really doesn’t work. The virus is spread by a tiny, microscopic mite that can move from plant to plant, leaf to leaf and neighborhood to neighborhood in the slightest wisp of wind. RRV affects the stems, the leaves and even the flowers of roses. The stems can appear reddened, the leaves stunted and narrow, and you may also note something that’s referred to as hyper-thorniness.

The symptoms are somewhat similar to damage from herbicides being used near roses and at this point the most important thing you can do to control the spread of the virus is to get rid of any multiflora rose that might be on your property as this can be a ready and waiting source of infection. You can find out more at roserosette.org, where there are pictures and fact sheets. I’m just the Messinger. Keep growing.

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