GardenDishes

dishin' the DIRT on hit and myth landscaping

Archive for the category “disease”

Best fertilizer? Holy crap, BATMAN!

We’ve put in some new plants this spring and wondered what type of fertilizer you’d recommend.

Depends. What type of plants? What type of soil?  The best fertilizer for all plants and all soil types is rich soil. Don’t have that yet? Here’s my favorite fertility Rxs for the plantings here in my Texas garden. Here goes:

Crap happens. And when it does, let it rot and put it on your garden!

Crap happens. And when it does, let it rot and put it on your garden. Great soil is the best fertilizer for ANY plant!

ALL: Add 1-2″ composted manure over the whole landscape at least once per year. I try to do this Valentine’s Day. Why Valentine’s Day? It’s important this process occurs in cool months so plants or lawn won’t burn. The other reason for that date is I can remember it…fertility & Valentine’s go hand-in-hand…. or, well, you get the idea. For how long? I plan to stop with my annual cupid compost ceremony when I die, move, or my soil morphs into a rich loam yielding not only great produce, but also a shovel full of earthworms every time I effortlessly dig a hole. By the way, this is NOT mulch; it’s besides and underneath a spring application of mulch.

Osmaco&MedinaVEGGIES, FLOWERS, ETC. – Used as a foliar spray or poured-on soil activator, I keep a jug of Medina’s MEDINA PLUS  handy for monthly after-planting-pep-ups. This is also what I put into my compost to heat it up.

My double compost tumbler also boasts a spigot and container on bottom for an easy compost tea treat.

My double compost tumbler also boasts a spigot and container on bottom for an easy compost tea treat.

Speaking of which,  COMPOST TEA is a cheap – as in FREE – fertilizer. At my house, making compost tea is easy because of the composter I use: a double barrel tumbler with tea spout in the bottom. Never heard of compost tea? Here’s how to make it happen.

A local company (in Houston) called MICROLIFE has come up with great all-around organic fertilizers in several formulations for the different applications in the garden. They also have specialty formulations for specific plants, like azaleas and citrus, as well as for problems in the lawn, like brown patch. Their nifty online chart tells you what to use and when. I buy MicroLife by the 40 lb. bag, I’m such a fan.

When I tuck in just about any flowering/fruiting plant, I often add a dash of Osmocote for Flowers & Vegetables. This slow release, balanced (14-14-14) formula feeds the babies without burning or giving too much nitrogen (the 1st number in the 3 part formulation numbers, N-P-K), which makes it develop gorgeous green but few flowers. NEVER use lawn fertilizer in flowerbeds with blooming plants or they’ll spend all of their energy on the leaves and none on the blooms.

Another commonly used fertilizer that has no place in my garden is a “weed and feed” product. I absolutely hate these for many reasons, only one of which is how destructive it can be to plants other than lawn grasses. So if you have a grudge against me, you now know the chink in my armor!

NOTE: I am not paid, nor do I receive these products to endorse. I buy them at my local garden center just like you will.

Weeds or Woes? Choosing an Organic Method COULD Save Your Life!

Recently I heard you speak and you mentioned using RoundUp could hurt more than the weeds in my yard.

Can you explain?

New research shows WEEDS are not the only thing killed by Roundup....

New research shows WEEDS are not the only thing killed by Roundup….

Happy to expound on this one. A few weeks ago a neighborhood association asked me to look over their contract with a local lawn maintenance company. Immediately I redlined a problem: it specifically asked that RoundUp ®, a widely advertised glyphosate used in home and commercial gardening, be sprayed for weed control. I freaked, mainly because this is my HOA spraying next to my garden! I’d discovered genocide was going on in the neighborhood shortly after I moved in last fall when I drove up to a masked man, spray wand in hand in my front yard. I jerked open the car door, jumping up and down, screaming at the poor guy to get him to stop. I told him I’m an organic gardener and NEVER wanted to see his sorry spraying self in my garden again. He shrugged and moved the 4 feet over to my neighbor’s and began misting his poison again. 

So what’s the big deal? If you aren’t growing edibles – which I do throughout my entire landscape – you might not see any harm in using glyphosate as a short cut to weed eradication. Let’s face it: easy helps. Weeding is the toilet cleaning of gardening, in my opinion. And like toilets, it very seldom gets noticed… unless it does NOT get done. More and more research on what glyphosate does to our environmental systems AND our body systems should give us the heebie jeebies, even more than a nasty toilet. Just as it does with plants, glyphosate messes with our hormonal balance and cellular production. And since it’s designed to kill ALL plants, new findings show it does so IN us as well as around us, decimating the good bacteria needed for our intestinal health. And in September, the National Institutes of Health linked glyphosate to breast cancer. Here’s the article on their website. photo 1The stuff is especially dangerous to small children and pets. That means your little one playing in the lush lawn, or your pooch taking a poop where glyphosate has been applied exposes them to incredible danger, according to the National Pesticide Information Center, who offers some of the symptoms you can expect to see.

So what’s a healthy alternative? I’ll offer a few of my favorites – including cinnamon and white vinegar – in an upcoming article.

Many of the health issues we experience link unbreakably to our determination to travel easy street. The use of glyphosate is just one of the many toxic trails we find ourselves following when searching for a magic pill to perfection. I’m praying that as the public becomes more informed, getting rid of weeds the easy way won’t be as enticing to home gardeners and consumers as will good health for our loved ones and the planet we love. If we’ll insist commercial growers and maintenance companies ditch the poison completely, we might see a turn around in our generation. One neighborhood at a time.

Living with Low Spots

After it rains, our back yard takes forever to drain. It’s so discouraging to plant things and they drown. How can we get rid of the water without flooding our neighbors?

Drainage dilemmas plague many folks, either with seasonal sinkholes where water collects after a rain or a spot that’s always spongy and nothing grows well but weeds. Now we are talking shallow depression in the yard here, not hole-big-enough-to-eat-the-house-Florida-style.

raindropsLike a leaky roof, you probably don’t even think about drainage until it rains.

Landscaping professionals may disagree on HOW to solve drainage issues, but most agree the best solution financially and physically is to work with what you’ve got. Obviously if muddy waters rage through your yard like the Mississippi at flood stage – and you’re not interested in water-front property – you might need to a more comprehensive remedy. However, if your problem is periodic or simply a nuisance, here are a few inexpensive or even FREE ideas to try.

GRADE: Lawn grass responds best to a minimum 1/4″ drop vertically for every foot horizontal distance. That grade should point AWAY from your house, meaning soil at your home’s foundation should be the highest point. (Unless you live on a mountain, but that’s another post for another day.) Why? Constantly soggy soil means constantly soggy grass which means a lawn in constant distress. Expect diseases, especially fungal infection, and the pests that follow to become the dominant feature of your landscape if the slope’s too slight.

While pleasant to view, moss on a walk-way spells D-A-N-G-E-R! Raise the walk a couple inches and backfill with sand.

While pleasant to view, moss on a walk-way spells D-A-N-G-E-R! Raise the walk a couple inches and backfill with sand.

DRAINS: A “dry river” can be installed to quickly wick water away from your low spot.

River stones, if used in a dry river, must be large enough that they won't wash away in a down-pour.

River stones, if used in a dry river, must be large enough that they won’t wash away in a down-pour.

A bit of river rock, making sure it’s headed DOWNHILL, is an easy fix. But if the stones block instead of remove water, might as well invite the neighborhood over for a  pool party next time a black cloud hovers. Water gushing  down your river?  A large boulder or clump of ornamental grass strategically located slows the flow. If the runoff is more than a dry river can handle alone, or if the area is not conducive to such a feature, consider a French drain instead of or besides. There are plenty of how-to’s online for French drains. If you hire drainage done, you might take the advice of a landscaper friend of mine when interviewing installers: “If you call in somebody to help with drainage and they don’t have a level in their truck, run ’em off!”

PLANTS: If the area is wet for a short time and not a nuisance, consider planting natives that thrive with wet feet, soaking up the extra moisture. Or how about creating a wildlife or bog garden, or even a water feature to take advantage of your problem? Check your local native plant society for a list of appropriate ones for your area.

One of my favorite plants for low spots is our native river birch, Betula nigra with its gorgeous peely bark.

One of my favorite plants for low spots is our native river birch, Betula nigra with its gorgeous peely bark.

Duel purpose, this container also holds rainwater runoff to irrigate the nearby veggie garden.

Dual purpose, this container also holds rainwater runoff to irrigate the nearby veggie garden.

RAIN BARREL: At my house, rain barrels are going in at the gutter downspouts. When I build my new porch, I’m planning the roof based on collection of rainwater so my garden is self-sustaining when irrigation limitations come back, as they surely will.

Before you head for the big guns, be sure your plumbing or irrigation isn’t leaking and you’re watering properly.  Then next time it rains, look for your low spots. Choose a remedy that will turn your problem on its head, making the area the HIGHlight of your landscape. Not so discouraging after all, is it? cc:

IF YOU HAVE A LANDSCAPING CHALLENGE, SNAP A SHOT AND LET ME KNOW. WE’LL FIGURE IT OUT TOGETHER!

Top 3 House Plants To Improve Indoor Air Quality

Feel free to mix plants with similar needs in one pot. (This one came as a gift and I'll have to remove the beautiful moss covering the soil to help keep mold from hiding.)

When you walk into a beauty salon, do your eyes begin to water?  How about the perfume counter at Macy’s….do you see double for a few minutes after passing by it or a man with a bit too much foo-foo water, as my grandmother used to call scented after-shave?  When you put in new carpet, paint, or exterminate your home, does your spouse/child develop a horrible headache? Chances are pretty good those symptoms signal a chemical bomb attacking your system.  Whether it is the combination of gases or a personal sensitivity to a specific one, a strong reaction might be your body’s way of sending up a white flag in surrender to something it fears.

HIT: Many houseplants are environmentally friendly HOUSECLEANERS!

Sometimes the reaction is too subtle to notice.  Or we blame an exterior source such as ragweed or pollen instead of the actual culprit.  Over time the reaction may become more severe.   If you note a correlation between a PLACE and an allergy related SYMPTOM – like itchy eyes, runny or congested nose or sneezing, skin rash, headache, sore throat – you might want to look into the root cause.  Other reactions that can be a result of poor air quality are nausea, depression and drowsiness.  And while we can’t completely avoid indoor air pollution, it is possible to lessen the impact with houseplants in your home.  Both NASA and the Soviet space program found plants invaluable for cleaning an airtight room. Recent studies from India have isolated the top THREE PLANTS  at mitigating a “sick building” so YOU don’t become the one ill. (Watch this short TED video of the Top 3 Houseplants for Removing Toxic Air in India and which room to put each in for best results or use this website to see how many/where/which plants to use.)

GOLDEN POTHOS/POTHOS IVY/MONEY PLANT: super easy, even under artificial lighting; trails, so either give it support or locate it on top of a bookshelf;

MOTHER-IN-LAW TONGUE: another super easy; great architectural, grass-like form to it for a more contemporary setting;

ARECA/CANE PALM: this one’s a little trickier for me because it needs good sunlight and takes up quite a bit of space, but great tropical feel.

A few more of my favorites are:

CORN PLANT: more tree-ish, but very easy with enough natural light, like an east or west facing window

SPIDER PLANT:  this is another one that does well on a shelf, but it needs a more direct light source than the ivy; also a variegated form

peace lily

PEACE LILY: this the mascot of my office (thanks to my friend Brenda Dickinson!) with southeastern light coming in from the atrium; nice white flower and upright, even when large it stays relatively compact

Moss may look nice, but it can mean a not-so-fun-guy on the soil of houseplants....

Mold is a killer for my allergies and indoor plants in soggy soil can be a huge source.  I try to set my plants into the bathtub once a week or so for a nice long drink, then put them back into their water-proof tray afterwards.  There are specific household products that will curtail mold growth, but I just try not to use anything like that. A periodical bath outside works great, too.  DO NOT cover the plant’s base with moss since it will encourage fungal growth.  Plants like pothos ivy and airplane are quite happy growing in WATER and might be a better choice.

Also be aware that some houseplants are poisonous to pets or when munched on by toddlers.

MYTH: All plants are GOOD for us....beware of plants that might be toxic to toddlers or pets.

If you’d like more info on growing any of these plants, check out this article on Dave’s Garden and this one, too if you send up a white flag because of your brown thumb!

Tree Trimming for Dummies

MYTH: tis the season for tree trimming....

The Christmas season has everyone talking about trimming trees.  Oh.  Not that kind?  What if you have trees than need pruning, though?  Can that be done NOW?  HOW?

Since Edward Scissorhands wasn’t available (his blades were full), here are my quick tips on pruning trees and shrubs.

WHEN? There are several reasons to trim woody plants and a corresponding season to do it.  My memory sucks, so I’ve come up with ways to remember based on those seasons.

Fall’s for the fallen.  Spring’s sprung anew.

If you have dead branches, autumn is a great time to get them off the plant so it doesn’t have to carry that dead weight into winter.  Literally.  Cold weather means most insects that would harm exposed cuts are gone, too.  Take this opportunity to trim away any obviously lifeless limbs.  (If you don’t know how to tell what’s good wood and what’s not, check out my previous post on trees.)  Wait until spring before pruning trees for shape or size.  Cutting can send a signal to the tree that causes new growth, which is not a good thing going into winter since tender new shoots are susceptible to injury in freezing temps.  The addendum to this rule regards blooming trees and shrubs.  They should usually be trimmed just after they finish blooming so you don’t miss out on seeing the flowers.

HOW? The go-to guy for prunology is plant pathologist Dr. Alex Shigo.  Texas A&M’s website goes into big-time detail for you anal type, but for me, a picture is worth a thousand words so here’s his diagram for where to trim branches depending on whether they’re living or deceased.

figure 6, Shigo's method of pruning

HIT: trim your trees for the right reasons in the right seasons by watching a how-to video from The Garden Girl @ http://youtu.be/1vTkaRc-C6M

So while the ladder is still out, channel your inner Edward and whack away those dead branches.  It’s a  gift to your trees that will come full circle by giving you a healthier landscape.

Lawn laments

What do you do when ‘take all patch’ keeps attacking your St. Augustine even after you have diligently applied fungus control, fertilizer, appropriate water, etc?   Skip

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY______?” begins most conversations pointed in my direction anyway, but  this year folks seem particularly desperate to find a prescription for landscaping woes.  While turf is not my real expertise (as soon as I move into a new house, I start working on ways to get rid of all lawn before the boxes are even opened!), hopefully I can point you in the right direction.  But 1st, let’s make sure the diagnosis is correct.  

Take-all patch in St.Augustine (http://www.plant-shed.com/ )Several grass ailments resemble one another.  Texas A&M University is my go-to place and their “Diagnostics Flow Chart” is a great place to begin the search.  (Many other universities throughout the U.S. have resources as well, but I’m an Aggie, so that’s where I usually start. I receive no compensation from Texas A&M.  In fact, our honor-grad daughter – a 3rd generation Aggie – did not even receive scholarships from them! However, I’ve found universities’ research programs to be cutting edge, although I check to see if specific companies are sponsoring the research…..)  

Go next to Aggie Turf’s Answers4You/diseases page to see the broad range of things that CAN go wrong (which is why I opt out of turf in principle).   

If you are unable to determine if the issue is fungal or an insect, you might want to send in a sample to get the proper diagnosis from a turfgrass lab such as the one at Texas A&M.  My friend SKIP RICHTER shows you how to do this

HIT: diagnosing turf grass ailments is easier than ever

Assuming you have determined take-all root rot (TARR) is your grass’ ailment, let me warn you: this fungal disease can be a nightmare to eliminate.  Effecting most warm season grasses, the only way your lawn can be “taken” is if there is already a problem.  In my case, this year’s drought highlighted the lack of water delivered to a part of my lawn from the automatic sprinkler system.  (I’m saving up my $$$ for a pool, so YES, I still have a sliver of turfgrass.)  As an organic gardener, I’ll not use prescribed fungicides.  They’ve not proven terribly effective in any case for take-all.  

MYTH: big problems require BIGGER drugs!

New research out shows a simple pH remedy on the area of infection one of the best solutions.  Peat moss.  Yep.  In another YouTube video from SKIP RICHTER, you  see step-by-step exactly how to manage your patient and the dosage of peat moss needed to encourage your turf back to good health.  I’ll be following the doctor’s orders today and will let you know how it works at my house.  Love to hear other folks results, too.  


Trees Need Extra Love in a Drought

We just bought a new house and it was empty for some time.  I use my irrigation system a couple of times a week, but should I water my mature trees more than that this summer? (pecans, oaks)  We haven’t had much rain for the last 6 months.   Anthony S.

Most of the nation seems to be in feast (flood) or famine (drought) mode, doesn’t it?  While hard on people, too little or too much water is devastating for plants that cannot escape their environment.

If you have a rain gauge – which I STRONGLY RECOMMEND – you’ll know exactly how much natural rainfall has occurred and whether or not supplemental water is warranted.  Depending on the tree’s age/size and variety,  you might need to apply more water several times during the growing season to keep it healthy.  If the drought continues, consider a regular schedule for watering your trees.  Texas A&M University offers insight into tree care through their EARTHKIND® website, giving a number of tools to both prevent and curtail damage to your landscape due to lack of rain.  Here are some of their suggestions, along with some of my own.

  1. Look to your trees to tell you they are thirsty.  Premature foliage yellowing and/or leaf loss over the whole tree, leaf margin (outside edge) burns and curling, and eventually loss of canopy beginning with the inner, lower branches.  How do you save a dead tree?  You don’t, so watch for early cries for help.
    Drought-stressed elm tree (from Austin American Statesman)
  2. Remove grass and weeds under trees –  which compete for available water – and replace with mulch.
  3. Do NOT use fertilizer on drought stressed plants.  Encouraging new growth is the last thing they need.  And NEVER use weed ‘n’ feed products near trees.  (I suggest there is no reason to use these products at all!)
  4. Know what kind of trees you have and then treat them according to their needs.  (The Smithsonian released a NEW APP for that – LEAFSNAP. Don’t depend on it, though.  It is still a work in progress….) Just as with people, each variety of tree has specific requirements.  Your mature pecan will require a significant amount of water, but certain oak trees (like bur oak) need less than others (like water oaks).
    HIT: 10 gallons of water per inch of trunk diameter for each watering. Measure trunk diameter at knee height. General formula: Tree Diameter x 5 minutes = Total Watering Time. from City of Boulder, CO
  5. A soaker hose set out under the ENTIRE canopy of the your mature trees is the most efficient way to water deeply.  Watering only at the trunk not only doesn’t help, it could HURT your tree, encouraging a fungal infection where the water sits.  (I’d add you might want to see exactly how much water is coming out of the hose. Put a tuna can under a section …..how long does it take to get an inch of water standing in the can?  For you engineer types, here is a WEBSITE that helps you convert the inches to gallons, the most common measurement.)
    6.  If you are planting a new tree in your landscape, GO NATIVE!  You will save precious resources – including water and YOUR TIME – if you install a variety that already will feel at home at yours.
    Whether a plethora of patio plants in pots, an oversized orchard or a standard suburban site, know what plants you have and what their preferences are in order to help them THRIVE in any weather.  Plants are integral to OUR health, but they depend on YOU to keep them healthy!

    MYTH: SOAK YOUR TREE’S TRUNK – against the trunk only, a soaker hose can cause more harm than good!

     

a C.S.A. subscription doesn’t get you a new magazine…..does it?

Several months ago, I visited my oldest daughter in Arlington, VA and realized I’d had a little more influence on her than I knew:  she’s a farmer.  However, living in a 3rd floor condo with only a small balcony, she’s pretty limited in her crops.  Herbs and micro-greens in the south-facing windows limped through the winter, but her seeds for heirloom veggies were already thriving under a homemade hothouse on the balcony.

last of fresh brussels sprouts from my garden

Boy was I PROUD!  Then when the fridge opened, I saw she had a garden there, too…….all kinds of greens and other winter produce.  But she didn’t grow them in the Fridgidaire.  She’s part of a C.S.A. that delivers a couple times of week to locations in her area.  She hops on the D.C. Metro to pick up her “share,” including various fruits and vegetables and herbs, eggs, meats, including fresh fish and oysters, artisanal breads and cheese, even “kitty milk,” which is raw milk.  C.S.A.’s, or Community Sustained Agriculture is a growing trend, especially in urban areas where land is scarce and valuable.  Families band together and promise to buy from local growers as a subscription, either monthly or annually or by the season.  They then will receive FRESH, seasonal produce, often with recipes and ideas how to use these ingredients of a healthy diet.

HIT

HIT:  GOOD FOOD = GOOD HEALTH

My physician is convinced nutrition is the key to wellness and last year she asked me to start a C.S.A. with home delivery for our area.  We have a great little farmer’s market already, but many of her patients are unable to make it the few hours on Saturday morning it is open because of soccer games or other conflicts.  Thank goodness, my friend (and formerly my editor at Houston House and Home Magazine) of AUTHENTIC LIVING Donna Mosher let me know she’s taken up the slack. THANKS, DONNA!  Jolie Vue is one of the local farms now offering home delivery of produce.

MISS

MISS: HOME DELIVERY OF FRESH PRODUCE CAN BE A STRAIN ON YOUR GROCERY BUDGET.

Next week I’ll introduce you to the owners of a C.S.A. – Home Sweet Farm – I visited working on the next book in my HEIRLOOMS series, HEIRLOOM EDIBLES FOR TODAY.  Their motto?   “We grow righteous FOOD,” and boy do they ever!  I think their love of the land and the people they meet sharing their bounty will inspire you, as it has me.  Going to pick up your produce weekly at a designated drop-off (or your local farmer’s market) might be a more affordable alternative to home delivery.  Even better, folks were out at the farm, helping to pick their OWN produce while I was there.  They were actually enjoying the task, laughing together as they picked their peck of peppers, as yet un-pickled. (Which, by the way, I’ll give you FARMER BRAD‘S recipe for those next week, too!)  So maybe the combination of laughter (“the BEST medicine”) and sweating together in the near 100 degree temps will count  as my aerobic activity for the day.  What do you think, Dr. Davis???

heirloom sweet bell pepper ripening on the vine at HomeSweetFarm

Want a NO-MAINTENANCE ROSE?

Sally asks:

“Do I have to dead-head my Knock-out roses, or should I just leave them alone?  I know they are supposed to be low-maintenance, but are they NO-maintenance?”

Knock Out roses in partial shade, Ft.Worth Botanic Garden (photo by Cherie)

The Knock Out ® rose  (Rosa ‘Radrazz’ KNOCK OUT) is the fastest selling “new” rose ever.  Since being sent to the Conard-Pyle Company for testing in 1992 by Wisconsin rose breeder William (“Bill”) Radler, it has been amazing the growers. Radler says. “I wanted to breed the maintenance out of roses so I wouldn’t have to cut (them) back as the years passed.”  Although bred to weather cold winters, Knock Outs proved resistant to disease, pests, heat and humidity as well, making them a great rose for the South, too.  These hardy shrubs, now come in several colors and are touted as a great alternative for those who want beautiful roses without all the fuss.

HIT: no deadheading necessary

Knock Out ® roses do NOT require the old blooms to be removed, called “deadheading.”  Repeat blooming will occur regardless, even in partially shady areas.  However, cutting, or “pruning” your roses back each spring (I do it Valentine’s Day here in my Texas garden) will keep the shrubs tidier and at a manageable size, if you garden in a small space or prefer hedging at 3-4′.  (My Knock Outs get over 5′ in a season if I don’t trim them….which I don’t.)  Another reason to deadhead is if you prefer not seeing the spent blooms dangling.  WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE ROSE?

MISS: a rose by any other name....

photo from Robin McBurney Fruia

A dear memory to me is the scent of my grandmother, Nana Dodson, who bathed in rose-water.  While some say the Knock Out ® rose has a scent, I’ve not noticed it.  Instead, I prefer low maintenance antique roses such as ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison,’ which emits a TRUE rose scent, in my opinion.  It might not boast a perfect, unblemished bloom every time, but the fragrance fills my entire garden and takes me back to my childhood.  I also worry that, as with other plants, Knock Out roses could be over-planted and should a disease or pest start to attack it, entire landscapes would be wiped out overnight.  Besides, I love plants too much to have only ONE kind, even if it is a low-maintenance, pretty one!

fragrant 'Souvenir de la Malmaison' rose, which comes as a climber or shrub (photo by Cherie)

Periwinkle problems solved?

Gena asks me:

“I PLANTED WHITE PERIWINKLES 2 WKS AGO. THEY LOOKED GREAT AND NOW ONE BY ONE IN A ROW EVERY DAY THEY LOOK WILTED . I AM SO MAD. WHAT COULD IT BE? 

infected periwinkle (photo from http://www.plantanswers.com, Dr. Jerry Parsons)

Annual periwinkles or vincas (Cathaaranthus roseus) are susceptible to a fungal disease.  A great deer-resistant annual color plant for sun or partial shade, periwinkles have been plagued by this fungus for several years, although it effects only the periwinkles and not other plants.  But once it gets in your soil, anytime you plant periwinkles in that spot, water mixes with the soil and it splashes back up onto the new plant, it will be re-infected.  There have been steps suggested to reduce the chance of re-infection, but in my experience periwinkles simply aren’t worth it, rotting before your very eyes as you watch all your money go down the drain.

HIT

The Texas A&M University horticultural team rides in once again to save the day.  My friend Dr. Brent Pemberton has found a solution while doing a trial of a specific variety of periwinkle seed –  ‘Nirvana’ –  from Goldsmith Seeds, Inc.

“The results were UNBELIEVABLE!!!! During the fourth wettest spring and early summer in San Antonio weather-keeping history!!, not a one of these plants died of the disease. These plants were planted in the contaminated beds rather than *clean* beds. The deer walked all around the flowers and did not touch a one!”  (from www.PlantAnswers.com)

MYTH

You no longer have to give up on annual periwinkles in your garden, even if you lost them in years past.  Look for varieties that are resistant to the Aerial Phytophthora fungus, like ‘Nirvana.’  But don’t be afraid to try other great annuals like white dwarf zinnias or even our American native perennial, desert zinnia (Zinnia acerosa).   Now you can have your flowers and deer won’t eat them, too!

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