AT GARDEN WORKS we have two rooms available to garden clubs to hold their meetings. When Covid came around the clubs were not able to meet monthly. Garden clubs are in just about every town in Mississippi. The meetings are a great way to socialize but are mainly important for people with a common interest to get together to talk about gardening at home and projects for their communities. Garden clubs started in the south in 1891. That’s a long time ago. Someone in Athens, Ga. realized that garden minded people need to get together to share ideas, host flower shows and steer community beautification projects. Each club is as varied as their town. There are many reasons to join a garden club. If you have a green thumb you can offer tutorials to the group. If you don’t have a green thumb, it’s all about appreciating gardens and the desire to enjoy garden spaces in all their shapes and sizes. If you enjoy learning, you will be astonished at how much you might learn when you attend these events and get to know fellow garden club members. A vast accumulation of knowledge gets passed down from garden club members through the years, and you’re sure to learn something new, whether it’s how to change the color of your hydrangeas or the best way to fend off garden pests. In recent years the clubs have helped continue conversation of environmental conservation. More and more garden clubs are raising awareness about protecting the environment with programs to combat the decline of pollinators and other issues that affect our gardens and our world. Gardens bring people together. If you join, you’ll have a whole club of new friends bound together by the love of gardens and gardening. Garden Works has hosted a garden club several times over the last few months. I see all ages, from beginners to the grand poohbahs of gardening. These garden clubs are made up of women and men, and while some are more experienced, all are there to help each other. The club usually conducts their business meeting first, such as collecting dues and going over the last meeting’s minutes and then refreshments are usually served.
I HAVE PRESENTED the programs for the last few meetings, but Mimi has done some and Mark Patrick and Justin Branton offer their expertise on different subjects such as container gardening or making quick arrangements. The presentations I have given have been about fall gardening. It occurred to me that I should share some of this information with you, as it might be helpful to anyone with a yard. October is the month that spider mites really turn on the breeding and egg laying to build up their population before winter comes. This is the time to get on top of this so they don’t overwinter and cause real problems next spring. I see spider mites on some of the more susceptible plants, like lantana. Spider mites are attracted to plants that have a phosphorus deficiency for some reason. The way to combat that is to use triple super phosphate. It’s widely available at garden centers, is inexpensive and will push more blooms on the plant the following spring. After you’ve applied the triple super phosphate, you can use Neem oil or horticultural oil. These are natural pesticides that work by coating the exoskeleton of the pest with an oil that smothers them, so it’s important to get the entire plant coated with the oil. Spray the top and under sides of leaves as well as the stems and stalks until they are dripping. The important thing to remember is to mark your calendar for four or five days later to reapply because the oils don’t work on the eggs. Four or five days later, these eggs will hatch and you’ll get these mites before they have reached the stage they can begin to lay eggs. It’s very important to remember that mites have eight legs… not six like an insect. I believe many people make the mistake of using an insecticide when they see the mottling on the leaves mites leave behind from piercing the foliage. Insecticides make the mite population stronger by killing the natural predators that would help deter the mite population. Insecticides kill insects, and miticides kill mites. If you’re not sure, take a few leaves showing signs of mites to your favorite garden center to make sure you are using the correct method for the correct pests.
ANOTHER SUBJECT I’m going over in the latest garden club talks is addressing the black fungus attendees question me about. That black stuff is usually the byproduct of aphids which are living on a tree that hovers over the plants with the black stuff. Aphids excrete a honeydew full of sugars down onto the plants beneath them. That honeydew is a petri dish for the black fungus. It can get bad enough to do some damage to the plants below, but mainly it’s just unsightly. The first step to getting rid of aphids is to get rid of any ants first. Ants live from the sugars that aphids excrete. The ants actually farm aphids in order to keep the sugar mill going. They will pluck the aphid eggs from the tree, carry them to the mound, nurture the eggs until they hatch, and then carry the baby aphid back up the tree so it can produce their precious sugar. It is a pretty amazing relationship they have. Once the ants are under control, there will be fewer aphids. Then you can finish them off with Neem oil or horticultural oil which will mean less sugars falling on the plants underneath and less black stuff on your plants. The next important topic of conversation is keeping deer off of your fall plantings. I believe a deer’s mineral needs change over the months and that’s why you’ll notice they go for certain plants some of the time then suddenly start eating other plants in other months. There is a period when they are gestating that they eat certain plants. Then when they give birth and begin nursing their babies, they desire other plants. No matter the case, we have to keep them from eating up all those fall plants that we spent good money on and worked hard on.
THERE IS A GREAT product called Liquid Fence that works really well. It is a concentrate to be mixed with water and sprayed around and on the plants that need to be protected. When it rains I reapply, trying not to get it on myself or my boots because it stinks to high heaven. The concentrate is made of garlic, rotten eggs and some other foul smelling things. Mimi has not let me back in the house until I get my spray clothes and boots off because it stinks so bad. Liquid Fence also comes in a granular form, meaning no mixing and no wind drift to cause you to have to sleep in the doghouse until the smell goes away. I don’t reapply the granular type after a rain because instead of the rain washing it off the plant, it seems to activate the effective ingredients. I reapply every 10 days and it works. Our son, Max, has the best idea ever, and if he develops and patents it, he will be the superhero in the garden world. His idea is to make a deer repellent that enters the plant systemically, making all plants taste bad to them. Then all of our plants could be safe, and the deer could go back to the woods. I have run out of space for this week’s article. Garden centers have all of this information and more. They can act as your garden club, but there is not much better than meeting with people who garden and talk about matters such as these. We invite any type of club needing a beautiful place to meet. Our gathering area is spacious and you can safely distance and hold presentations. You can bring your own presenter, or we are always happy to speak. We have to think of ways to keep socializing and being able to talk about the issues that interest us while the pandemic continues to make everything so much more difficult.