A mistake about to happen. Note the TakIron stake to the right of the lily (center of picture). The stake is a good 2 feet shorter than the lily stem, and a storm could easily break the stem just above the green horizontal tie. It did. Bad me. ANDREW MESSINGER
A heavier-duty 6-foot stake used to support this fallen lily was strong enough, but it should have been an 8-foot stake with two ties instead of the single tie visible about 18 inches below the top of the stake. Since the stem only bent and didn’t break, the flowers remained in tact and in bloom. ANDREW MESSINGER
Note the browning of the leaf on this Echinacea purpurea. This was one of the first clues that a disease issue was taking hold. ANDREW MESSINGER
As the Echinacea disease progressed it resulted in the shriveling of the foliage, striations on the stem and the collapse of the flower. ANDREW MESSINGER
Where the disease was more advanced on a few Echinacea plants the stems were totally browned while surrounding foliage shows the initial sigs of infection. ANDREW MESSINGER
Fully infected, this purple coneflower stem is collapsing as the lower foliage browns and the flower slumps. Are you seeing this on your species coneflowers? Let me know. ANDREW MESSINGER
Insect repellents that I’ve used with great success for the past few years. The DEET product (left) will be great for ticks, mosquitoes and horse flies and should last all day. Not to be used on the face though. The yellow trigger bottle and aerosol can contain permethrin, which is applied to clothes and shoes as a repellent. It will last up to a month. On the right is Repel’s brand of lemon eucalyptus, which can be used on the face (not in the eyes) and is plant based but only effective for about an hour. ANDREW MESSINGER
Under the Element brand, this 10-foot hose bib leader hose seemed like a good idea. The underside of the package revealed that it was a Swan product, but the tiny print was seen too late. ANDREW MESSINGER
And here’s why Swan is a hose brand to stay away from. On the first use, the extender kinked and proved its near uselessness. ANDREW MESSINGER
A friend dropped by a few weeks ago while I was using a 1-quart hand sprayer to spray pyrethrin on the Hibiscus sawfly adults that had infested one of my perennial Hibiscus plants. I explained how the pyrethrin only kills what it hits on contact (a contact insecticide) and that it had no residual effects as well as becoming less effective once temperatures get into the mid-80s.
He texted me a few weeks later saying, “I’ve got something eating the foliage on my butterfly bushes. Where can I get that stuff you were spraying?”
I told him what it was, reminded him that it only works on contact, and he said he was going to pick some up. Then I panicked.
The answer and instructions I’d given him were right, but not for his plant and not for the problem he had. We should always be aware to identify the pest and use the least harmful solution. The dangers are that using the wrong product can result in not killing the target insect but possibly killing everything else (as in bees) and damaging the plant. As it turns out, his problems were on a Buddleia, and he’d never seen the insect that was chewing the foliage.
Luckily, he came over the next morning, and we sat in front of a computer where we discovered that it was probably a caterpillar that was feeding on the leaves and in all likelihood that caterpillar would turn into a beautiful butterfly. Now, did he really want to kill it? And if he did, he’d have to find an effective spray, not any spray. In the end I suggested Bt or Spinosad, but I think he wanted the butterfly.
Then I read a column written by a retired extension agent where he noted that his tomato plants had all recently died of some mysterious disease. The disease couldn’t be found, and as he thought back, he remembered he’d sprayed his lawn, about 50 feet from the tomato plants, with the herbicide Diquat a few weeks earlier. Sure enough, his tomato plants died from spray drift while he applied the weed killer to his lawn. So even the professionals screw up. Another learning opportunity for the rest of us: Always beware of even the slightest breeze when applying pesticides.
So, once again: know your target. That’s the insect, disease or weed you’re trying to go after. Use the method least likely to cause damage to nontarget organisms. If your target is Japanese beetles and you use something like Sevin to kill them you’re probably also killing a host of other insects that are beneficial. And Sevin can last for days. Other insects killed would be pollinators as well as insects that eat other insects, aka beneficials. Also know what can cause the chemical you’re using to become more toxic or less toxic. High heat is always an issue when using sprays (and chemical fertilizers) but some chemicals can even be effected by spikes in the pH of the water you use. Three words: read the label.
Another case of do as I say and not as I do: Just before dinner each evening I wander around the property and make mental notes about what has to be done in the gardens the next day. I’d noticed that several of my Lilium were now taller than their 6-foot stakes and needed to be restaked and tied. I either forgot or procrastinated. Sound familiar?
A couple of days later there was a very brief but violent storm. You know, the kind where the sky darkens to a foreboding dark gray, the clouds seem to boil and yet everything goes totally still just before the deluge. There was about 10 minutes of torrential rain accompanied by winds blowing one way then another. Several of the lilies had their main stems broken just above where they’d been tied to the stakes about 5 feet off the ground. The stems, however, continue to have some vascular circulation to the flowers, which are now upside down but intact. Not a great loss, but very embarrassing.
The stems didn’t break at the point where they were tied, but the wind gusts were just so strong that something had to give. And they did. Hopefully, lesson learned. But because I used soft ties instead of rigid ties the damage was much less than it could have been. Also, since it was only the top foot or so of the stems that got damaged, cutting the flowering tops was painful but not harmful to the plant. In fact, with the flowers removed, the plant will probably go into recovery mode and send much of its energy back into the bulbs for hopefully another great display next year.
Early in the morning I do another walk around. The lawn is too wet to mow until later in the day, and it’s another chance to see who’s eaten what, let the dog chase the rabbits and set up my day’s work. Near the house, at the end of the driveway, there’s a small bed about 6 feet wide and 15 feet long where I have a mass planting of traditional coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea). A few of them were wilting with leaves turning brown, the tips of the flower rays slightly toasted, the stems discolored and the plants clearly in decline.
I took a few pictures and sent them to the plant pathologist I work with, and as expected, she was very excited. To each their own. She wanted samples the next day. The nearest FedEx office that could do overnight was 45 minutes away but the post office was just around the block. She pleaded to do FedEx since she thought they were more likely to get the overnight done — overnight. The USPS was $26 while FedEx would have been over $70. Late the next morning the samples, in great shape, arrived at the lab.
So far there are some suspicions about what disease may be taking hold, but if you see similar symptoms on your purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) please let me know by email.
Some independent garden centers are still reporting difficulty getting in hose supplies, especially the Gilmour and Flexogen brands. These are the two brands of standard garden hoses that I always recommend and the brands that have done consistently well in our testing.
Earlier in the season I saw some 10-foot hoses designed to be used as hose bib extenders. We use these so we don’t always have to find the spigot at the house, behind the bushes, to turn the water on and off. Just attach one of these handy extender hoses to the bib, put the hose out to where it’s accessible and attach a timer (with and on/off function) or on/off valve to the end. I did.
I had to run nearly 100 feet of hose to water my new perennial area, and I simply attached the long hoses to the short supply hose. All set up with the sprinkler in place, I used the valve between the two long hoses to turn on the supply water to the sprinkler. I turn it on and — nothing. Walk back to the house and sure enough, the 10-foot supply hose is kinked. Damn. A kinked hose never recovers and will always be an issue.
I tried to find out who the manufacturer of the short hose was before I bought it, but it wasn’t clear. I did like the strong metal couplings and hose-end reinforcements. But wait: What does this say on the hose? It says “Swan,” the one hose that I know always kinks and always lets me down and I swear never to buy. Never again.
If you’re considering a personal weather station for your home and garden and you’re looking for advice on the best choices, you may want to hold off for a few months. I’m currently testing five stations ranging in price from $300 to $1,500. So far I do have a favorite, but my full review of these stations will be out in December. If you need immediate advice drop me a line. There are major differences and options with these so shop carefully — or wait. I think these weather devices are really helpful for serious gardeners and the information you can gather is the most local you’ll find.
A reader recently asked about mosquito spray options. I’m not a big fan of spraying an entire property for this insect as it can fly in from the neighborhood just as easily as from the marsh or wetland next door. My arsenal for personal protection starts with permethrin sprayed on my shoes and pants every few weeks. Just before going out into the garden I apply a layer of 40 percent DEET (Repel Sportsman Max) to my clothes and sparingly to my exposed skin but never on or near my face. Face areas get treated with Repel brand lemon eucalyptus. No tick bites, no mosquito bites and no horse fly bites.
Remember, the permethrin will last on your clothes for at least a month and through several washings. The DEET at a 40 percent concentration should last up to six hours, but the plant-based lemon eucalyptus Repel will only last an hour or so, then needs reapplication. All three good to have and better to use. Keep growing.
One fine body…