Garden Talk: August 18, 2005

From NGA Editors

Protection for Spring Bulbs

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Fall is right around the corner, and for gardeners that means planting spring-flowering bulbs, such as tulips, hyacinths, and crocuses. Unfortunately, mice and voles love to munch these newly planted bulbs, often leaving bare spots in your bulb bed come spring. Although repellents may work for a while, the only sure solution is to create a barrier between your bulbs and these pests.

Placing homemade wire cages around newly planted bulbs is a good way to protect them, and a new cage system makes it even easier. The Protecta-Bulb cages are made from galvanized wire sheets that can be bent into a cage form. Simply dig a hole 3 inches deeper than the cage depth, add fertilizer mixed with soil, set the cage in place, and add the bulbs. Then fill up the cage with soil and secure the top. There are various sized cages for large and small beds.

The Protecta-Bulb cages will last for years in the soil. The bulb roots and shoots grow through the holes in the wire cage, yet the holes are too small for rodents to squeeze through. The cages come with marker tags that sit aboveground so you can find the cages when planting other flowers or when digging and dividing bulbs.

The cost per bulb of using a Protecta-Bulb cage is between 10 and 20 percent of the cost of an average bulb. That’s not a large investment to insure your bulbs bloom for years.

For more information on these bulb cages, go to: Protecta-Bulb Cage.

Mist n' Pour Sprayer

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Once the weather starts cooling and drying out, misting plants is a good way to raise humidity levels and keep indoor plants healthy. Misting also can help prevent infestations of insects such as spider mites. While on the watering and misting rounds, instead of carrying separate bottles for misting and watering your potted plants, why not use one to perform both functions!

The Mist n' Pour bottle is a misting spray bottle with a spout for easy watering. The mister’s design allows you to wrap three fingers around the trigger, resulting in less stress on the hand. It delivers 40 percent more spray than conventional misters. The clear bottle has a comfort grip and contoured handle for easy filling and carrying. It even has calibrations on the side for measuring and mixing fertilizers.

For more on the Mist n' Pour bottle, go to: Take 5.

Award-Winning Lavender

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For the past 35 years, the Dutch-based horticultural organization, Fleuroselect, has been testing and promoting new flower varieties around the world. Each year they trial new varieties in 30 test gardens throughout Europe. The best varieties receive the Fleuroselect Gold Medal Award or the Fleuroselect Quality Award recognizing progress in plant breeding and performance.

One of the 2006 Gold Medal Award winners is a new color of lavender. Lavandula angustifolia ‘Ellagance Sky’ is a light violet-blue variety of Lavandula angustifolia. This perennial lavender is unique because it flowers the first year you plant it. It also has improved growth and performance over the traditional ‘Munstead’ lavender. ‘Ellagance Sky’ grows 18 inches tall but stays compact. It is hardy in USDA zones 5 to 9 and produces flowers from June until October. ‘Ellagance Sky’ complements a line of Fleuroselect-winning, first-year-flowering perennial lavenders that includes ‘Ellagance Ice’ (ice-blue flowers) and ‘Blue Scent’ (dark blue flowers).

For more information on this new 2006 award-winning plant, go to: Fleuroselect.

Worm Compost Suppresses Insect Attacks

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It’s been widely known that mixing worm compost or "vermicompost" into soils growing flower and vegetables will reduce plant diseases and add significantly more nutrients to the soil than regular compost. Now, research at the Ohio State University Soil Ecology Laboratory suggests that vermicompost can suppress insect damage as well.

Researchers grew tomatoes, peppers, and beans in a greenhouse; some of the plants were grown in pure potting mix, while others were grown in potting mix containing either 20 or 40 percent vermicompost. All plants were exposed to aphids, spider mites, and mealybugs. The plants grown in the vermicompost pots showed significantly less insect damage than those grown in plain potting soil. Researchers speculate that the vermicompost may change the composition of the plant tissue, making it less attractive to the insects.

While more research is needed to further understand the mechanism of vermicompost’s effect on plants, it’s clear that adding worm compost to your containers and garden will aid your plants in many ways.

For more information, go to this article about the vermicompost research.

 
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