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Fighting suburban (garden) blight

Ah, summertime, and the weather is hot.  The garden is growing and so are the fungus diseases like mildew, rust, black spot, fire blight, early and late blight on tomatoes.  The list goes on and on, but don't get discouraged.

There is light at the end of the tunnel.  If you have followed my advice on laying out your garden using drip irrigation and silver plastic mulch, you will have approached the realization of every gardener's dream: to garden in such a way that you have no problems at all.  You are free to fully enjoy the beauty and bounty of your garden.

Reports from area gardeners give glowing results of their efforts using the silver plastic mulch.  what I am hearing over and over is that their gardens never have done as well as this year.

In my garden in Buellton, the use of silver mulch has eliminated all aphids, cucumber beetles and 75 percent of cabbage looper and flea beetles.

At this time, research is on-going using the silver plastic mulch to curtail the glassy-winged sharpshooter's devastating impact on the on the grape industry.

The research is being conducted at four state universities and is showing promise of being as successful in deterring insect infestation as on row crops.  If this is successful, there will be a large sigh of relief from all grape growers.

In the 10 years I have gardened at this location, my plants have never looked healthier.  I have eliminated spraying to control insects.

Now, don't throw away your sprayer just yet, as there is no magic bullet for controlling the above mentioned fungus diseases.  But progress is being made.

Genetically engineered crops have the ability to switch on a plant's natural defenses against disease.  A protein produced from genetically engineered bacteria is one of a growing number of sprays that either trigger or strengthen plant's natural defenses.  The Environmental Protection Agency said the protein poses no harm to humans or animals.  It degrades so quickly that it cannot be detected within tow hours of application.  Some 500 field trials have been conducted worldwide, so the future is bright

But you, the gardener, has to be able to determine what your plant's problems are and treat them.  I encourage all gardeners to purchase the book "The Ortho Home Gardener's Problem Solver."  It is available at book stores and garden shops.

Gardens Alive is a catalog with expert advice on how to prevent and combat garden problems environmentally with safe products.  You can request a free catalog from Gardens Alive, 5100 Schenley Place, Lawrenceburg, IN 47525.  You may call 812-537-8650.  It is much easier to prevent diseases than to cure them.  

Tomatoes are the number one crop of the home gardener.  Late blight on tomatoes can be devastating to plants.  The affected plants look as though they were killed by frost.  This happens over night and the entire plant is killed.  There is no cure when this happens.  The solution is to spray and prevent it. 

Organic growers cam use Shop Shield from, Gardens Alive as a spray, or use a multi-purpose fungicide called Daconil 2787 plant disease control.  Follow label directions on all products and wear protective gear when spraying any product, organic or broad spectrum spray. 

Early blight on tomatoes is not as severe, but will eventually kill the plant.  Symptoms are irregular brown spots showing on lower leaves first. Then lower leaves fall off and the disease will stop production of tomatoes.  The solution is the same as for late blight or use copper dust.  If late or early blight is a problem, begin spraying at transplant time and continue through harvest.

The use of silver plastic mulch has eliminated spraying for insects.  Genetically engineered plants will eliminate plant diseases.  The use of Pheromone strips has stopped spraying for doling moth worms in fruit trees.

I received a call from Dave, who lives in the Valley, inquiring about the use of the pheromone strips in apple trees.  Dave majored in orchard management and said he was unaware of these strips.  This old farmer was glad to assist a college-educated farmer on the benefits of using organic products instead of spraying the whole tree.  (I didn't, though, get Dave's last name.  So: Dave, please call me as I need some help on other problems I have on apple trees.)


You can grow your own disease-resistant pollinators.  The threat of African Bees swarming over people and causing severe harm or death and the honey bee mite killing off all wild bees and may hives for beekeepers has prompted me to research other pollinators that I will share with you.

The number of European honey bees has decreased dramatically.  This is due to Tracheal and Varroa mites.

Fortunately, we have alternatives.  The Orchard Mason Bee (OMB) is native to the U.S.  It is resistant to predator bee mites.  The OMB is one of the original pollinators of fruit trees, before the introduction of the European honey bee.

Some of the interesting qualities of the OMB are:

  1.  The male OMB cannot sting and the female rarely does.

  2. The OMB does not live in a nest like other bees.  It lives in wooden blocks, but does not drill holes.  It uses holes that are already made.

  3. The OMB pollinates at a rate of 93 percent to 99 percent efficiency.  The European honey bee is only about three percent efficient.

  4. The OMB starts pollination at 55 degrees Fahrenheit.  The European honey bee will not work at this low temperature.

  5. The OMB will work during light rain and wind, whereas the European honey bee will stay in the hive.

  6. It takes only 250 to 750 OMBs to fully pollinate an acre of fruit.  It would take about 60,000 to 120,000 European honey bees to do the same job in the same time.

  7. Each female is a queen and will produce as many as 50 eggs during a season before she dies, if there is a habitat available.

I built 15 OMB house from scrap four-by-four lumber.  I drilled 16 evenly spaced 5/16 inch holes three inches deep and scattered them throughout my garden on the south side of buildings, fence posts and trees with openings facing south.  We will have to wait and see what the results are. Photo of the OMB house

You can get further information by calling 540-728-7611 or 540 236-8930, or fax 540-728-4767 and request information on OMB houses.  Or you can drive by and inspect my OMB houses. 

If you have questions or let me know when you would like to visit while in the valley : Email

Gardening with Ed first article. [article 2] [article 3] [article 4] [article 5]  [article 6]  [Article 7]

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