Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Warning - Be Careful What You Spray For!

By Keith Markensen

Some efficiency expert is always talking about "killing two birds with one stone." I'd like to dispatch a couple of rabbits with one rock. Right now there is bountiful food for them everywhere, but they insist on nibbling at the geraniums.

Last season our neighbor found a nest of baby rabbits. They were so "cute." That no one can deny. But the other evening I heard strong muttering about what all the pesky rabbits were doing. They talk about chickens coming home to roost, but this is a case of bunnies coming home to feed.

The grapes put out last year are going to have a small amount of fruit this fall. Had I been able to find time (always the perfect excuse) to get the trellis wire strung up last year when the plants were set, I think they would have done considerably better.

I tried to start some grapes several years ago. Maybe you can learn from my experience. In spraying for bind-weed (some call it wild sweet potato, wild morning glory, creeping Jenny, etc.) I found that grape leaves are VERY susceptible to weed killers, even when the spray doesn't touch them.

Last summer I chose a perfectly calm day to spray the lawn. We fixed up a long boom on the sprayer, and put plastic around it for a curtain. In spite of this the tomatoes and watermelons at some distance from the spraying curled up. So did my neighbor's squashes.

Our rainfall during the spring and early summer was reported as a bit above normal but after so many dry years it is almost impossible to visualize just what is "normal." The season seemed awfully wet to us.

One problem it revived (one we had nearly forgotten) was that of keeping the roses properly protected with spray or dust. It seemed that it washed off as fast as it was put on.

Another problem we noticed was that on some newly set out flowering shrubs and trees, as well as on our plum trees, the aphids and mealybugs have a special liking for the tender tips. Regular fruit tree spraying didn't seem to keep them in check completely. A few application of Neem oil did the trick in controlling mealybugs and aphids .

I picked a cool day last week to turn over the compost pile. In the process I put an end to several dozen grub worms which had chosen it for a home. My faith in compost always wavers when I see all the pests that like to live in it... but I still think the benefits out-weigh the disadvantages.

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