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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.


Slowly But Surely

A FEW ARTICLES BACK I promised I would go over a product line that we are excited to introduce to our store. The good news is this product line is available at most garden centers around town. After some experimenting in my yard last year I am 100 percent convinced Espoma Organic products are the way to go for the long range health plan for homeowners’ yards. Organic control of pests is way healthier for you as you are applying them and in the long run, healthier for everyone because it’s not as dangerous as the synthetic stuff that winds up in our water system. When we spray insecticides we are killing the targeted pests but it also kills the beneficial insects that really do the work when we are trying to minimize an insect population in our domain.

Espomas’ answer to insect control is called Neem Oil 3 in1. This product controls fungus, mites and insects. The active ingredient is clarified hydrophobic extract of Neem oil. Neem oil kills eggs, larvae and adult stages of insects. You will want to try to use this product early in the morning or late in the evening when the plants are not wilted or stressed, make sure to get thorough coverage by spraying the tops and bottoms of leaves and stems.

For fungus control with Neem oil as a preventative apply on a seven to 14 day schedule. Spray the plant until it’s dripping Neem oil. It is highly effective on black spot on roses, powdery mildew, anthracnose, rust and tip blight. I used Neem oil pretty liberally on my roses and other black spot prone plants last year because I know any runoff won’t be harmful to anything else. I sprayed those plants every 10 days with the results that I had hoped for, no black spot. I started using Neem oil as soon as I saw buds emerging in the spring and didn’t quit until late fall.

I like to stay in control of those pesky lace bugs on azaleas, mites, grasshoppers and white flies by using insect soap. I use insect soap on my indoor plants because it works and there’s no foul odor that usually comes along with the synthetic chemicals, I really don’t like using chemicals inside my house.

In my vegetable garden I use insect soap and Neem oil but to prevent tomato blight I use copper soap. I start using copper soap early in the plant’s life but especially when I see a rainy weather pattern is headed our way. I spray them every 10 days with great results. I spray them when I see a rain free 12 hour period coming to give it a chance to dry on the plant. You will have to reapply after rain. Copper soap also works very well on peach leaf curl all season long but I will also use it as a dormant spray late in the fall to give it some protection during the winter months.

Espoma even has a great weed and grass killer that is made up of ammoniated soap of fatty acids. This is not a selective herbicide meaning it will do some harm to any plant that it gets on so be careful to just get the spray on those plants that you don’t love. I like this one because it doesn’t stain concrete walkways like some of the synthetics will. Make sure you have at least a three hour window it doesn’t rain so it can enter the weed. I like to use this one on my mulched areas where a weed or two sneaks in.

MY ALL TIME FAVORITE product on the Espoma shelves is the Bio Tone plant starter. This plant food has mycorrhizae. This is what brings the soil to life. Other than all the organic nutrients that are derived from feather meal, poultry manure, bone meal, alfalfa meal and greensand (starting to sound a lot like my morning smoothie) this product is loaded with live stuff that makes healthy roots, more blooms and more produce. The label lists five different bacillus and five other species of rhizophagus. That is a lot of good stuff in one bag. I’m pretty sure I’ll be ordering some 25 pound bags for myself because I use it on every plant I transplant and I mix some into the soil of every new bed we create at our house.

This product makes the nutrients more available to the plants and aids in the breakdown of organic matter in your beds and in your compost pile. I use four pounds for every 100 square feet of soil in the top four inches of soil. I put a teaspoon full for every tulip bulb we planted down by the entrance of the nursery. If you haven’t ridden by to see this show with 2,000 tulip bulbs fronted with bright gold violas you really should see this. I’ve seen families taking their Easter pictures out there. Nothing says Easter like red and yellow tulips with dark green rye grass in front.

Epomas fertilizer line is extensive with specially formulated lines for certain plants. Using organic fertilizers is where we really have to change our thinking. We are accustomed to seeing those higher numbers on the bags of the synthetic fertilizers. Organic fertilizers have low numbers of slow release formulations. After a year of using only slow release, organic feeds I am thoroughly sold on the health of our plants. That slow release is so much less stressful on the plants. It’s the same concept of you being on a nutrient rich, healthy diet. Plants and your body know what to do with those nutrients we make available to them.

We will offer Holly Tone, an acid loving plant fertilizer to use on hollies, hydrangas, azaleas and others. Plant Tone is for generally every plant in my yard. Where I use it regularly I see more blooms and larger plants with deeper green foliage. Garden Tone is for your vegetable garden, Berry Tone is for blueberries, strawberries and blackberries. Tomato Tone, Azalea Tone, Evergreen Tone, Bulb Tone, Flower Tone, Tree Tone, Palm Tone, Citrus Tone and Iron Tone are self explanatory but shows you the scope of the specific organic fertilizers we now offer.

We will also have some single ingredient products like bone meal, blood meal, soil acidifier, garden lime, greensand, bat guano and compost starter.

One of the many rare things about this line of gardening gold is their customer support. They know there are lots of questions that come along with switching over to the organic side so they have made available a hot line that is extremely helpful and patient. I love their blogs section on their website. It’s timely and has practical information they have managed to make fun to watch. I also love that Espoma products are safe for our pets and children which I can’t say for the synthetics. It scares me that someone is going to cause some serious problems by spraying chemicals all over the place without understanding how dangerous this stuff is.

THIS IS THE TIME OF the year when lots of big and bold garden dreams are stated. It is time to get your program planned out, jotted into the calendar and implemented. I hope you can squeeze in some organic methods since they have made it so easy now. I would be willing to bet you will love the end results of going all the way organic or at least leaning that direction until you are convinced. It took me a year, but I’m never going back. I think we all wonder what little thing can we do to try to make our world a little healthier. The answer is right in your yard and you own lifestyle changes you have the choice to improve.

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