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THE GARDEN FANATIC:Bugged by June gloom

“And through the shady gloom...The sun himself...hid his head...”

“And what is so rare as a day in June?”

A garden (and most of us) can take only so much May Gray... the darkening of our generally sunny skies. I have little tolerance of this weather pattern, associated with the Catalina eddy, if the marine stratus doesn’t give way to at least some hazy, afternoon sunshine.

If your roses and dahlias are plagued by powdery mildew, encouraged by the cloudy days, try the remedy below. Once dedicated to warding off fungal problems, however, a gardener is committed to weekly applications of the benign recipe. While a hose is in hand, it’s also possible to dislodge aphids, spider mites, and thrips with bi-weekly washings.

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Read on, and let’s get back to the garden with the Plant Man.

Q. Help, please...can you tell me about the magic formula of baking soda that wipes out mildew on roses?

A. It is almost magical the way 1 1/2 tablespoons of baking soda, 1/2 tablespoons of Ultra Fine horticultural oil, and one gallon of water will eradicate powdery mildew. Repeat the spray at intervals of 7 to 10 days if mildew reappears.

Q. How can I keep cats out of my garden?

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A. Why would you want to? Our feline friends do little damage to a garden; however, they can sometimes be deadly to birds (although cars kill more birds than cats). Don’t forget that cats aid the gardener and homestead by controlling rodents and rabbits.

Q. Should I be fertilizing my cymbidium orchids now?

A. I would recommend a high nitrogen fertilizer like Grow More 30-10-10 every two weeks until the end of August. I would then switch to a 6-30-30 fertilizer, through February, to help initiate flower spikes.

Q. Is there danger of breeding insects and fungus in my compost pile?

A. There is a chance, so it is prudent to dispose of infested or diseased plant material in the trash, rather than the compost pile.

Q. Should I prune my tomato plants?

A. No. As long as the tomato plant is kept well fertilized and watered, there is no need to prune. The side shoots help to protect the fruit from sunscald.

Q. I have holes in my flower garden. What should I plant?

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A. A list of hardy summer annuals begins with petunia, vinca, and marigold.

Warmer weather would allow you to plant zinnia, verbena, and gloriosa daisy. Coreopsis, ageratum, nicotiana, and dahlia also deserve consideration.

Q. Does the type of fertilizer affect the taste of fruits or vegetables?

A. I was taught no, however, my experience has proven that poor soil fertility will affect the flavor of fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes and melons.

Will gloom continue to bloom in June? For the curious, I recommend following the temperature of the ocean... if it doesn’t begin edging into warmer territory soon, Laguna could be in for a prolonged period of shady gloom (and ample opportunity for Catharine to visit the sunny skies of Loreto). See you next time.


  • STEVE KAWARATANI is happily married to award-winning writer Catharine Cooper and has two cats and 10 dogs (one just had puppies). He can be reached at (949) 497.8168, or e-mail plantman2@mac.com.

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