Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.

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Garden Clubs Are The Best


AT GARDEN WORKS we have two rooms we have made available to garden clubs to hold their meetings. When the covid came around the garden clubs were not able to hold their monthly meetings. 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 gardening projects for the communities that they are from.


Garden clubs started in the south in 1891. That’s a long time ago when someone in Athens, Ga. realized garden minded people needed to get together to share ideas, host flower shows, and host community beautification projects. Every garden club is as varied as their hometown.


There are so many reasons to join a garden club. If you have a green thumb you can give 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 more you will be astonished at how much you learn when you attend these events and get to know fellow garden club members. There is a vast accumulation of knowledge that garden clubs pass down from members. 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 garden clubs have helped to continue the conversation of environmental conservation. More and more 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 up you’ll have a whole club of new friends bound together by a love of gardens, gardening and people who love gardening. I have had a club use our place every week for the last few months. Some of the groups are from small towns, some from larger but all have been very lighthearted and fun. I see all ages from beginners to the grand Pooh-bahs of gardening. They are made up of women and men. While some are more experienced, all are there to help each other.


The club usually conducts their business such as collecting dues and going over last meetings minutes and refreshments are usually served. I have presented the programs for the last few meetings. Mimi has done some. Mark Patrick and Justin Brandon offer their expertise on related subjects such as container gardening or making quick arrangements.


THE PRESENTATION I have been conducting the last few meetings has been about all season gardening. I thought the information might be helpful to anyone with a yard.


October is the month the spider mites really turn on the breeding and egg laying building 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 this 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, 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 horticulture 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 sides and underside of leaves, 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 that 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 that 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. Mitacides kill mites. So bring a few leaves showing signs you suspect are 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. Club attendees question me about that black stuff. It is usually the byproduct of aphids which are living on a tree that hovers over those plants with the black stuff on them. Aphids excrete a honeydew that is filled with sugars down into the plants underneath. The honeydew is a petri dish for the black fungus that appears. 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 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 carry the baby aphid back up the tree so it can produce their precious sugar. It is a pretty amazing relationship that they have. Once the ants are under control there will be fewer aphids. You can finish them off with Neem oil or horticultural oil meaning less sugars falling on the plants underneath, less black stuff on top.


The next important topic of conversation is keeping deer off of your winter plantings. I believe that a deer’s mineral needs change over the months and that’s why you’ll notice they go for certain plants for some of the time, then they will suddenly start eating other plants in other months. There is a period when the does are gestating that they eat certain plants. 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 we spent money 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 it stinks so bad.


Now liquid fence comes in a granular form so there is 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 rain because instead of the rain washing it off the plant, it seems to make the ingredients reactivate. I reapply every 10 days and it works.


My son Max has the best idea ever and if he patents it he will be the hero in the garden world. His idea is to make the deer repellent enter the plant systemically. All of our plants could be safe and the deer could go back to the woods where they belong.


I have run out of space for this week’s article. The garden centers around you have all of this information and more. They can act as your garden club but there is not much better than meeting monthly with people who garden and talk about matters such as these.


WE INVITE ANY TYPE of club that needs a beautiful place to meet where you can safely distance and hold presentations. You can bring your own presenter or we are always happy to provide a presentation for your group. We have to think of ways to keep socializing and talking about the issues that interest us while the pandemic tries to make everything so difficult. Come visit us and connect with fellow gardeners who can help you with your questions about getting your yard ready for spring.

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