Thursday, June 9, 2016

Teetering on the Edge

I have been worrying lately that I make gardening seem like it's all sunshine and butterflies. It often is that, but I don't want to give the impression that there aren't some disappointments and sacrifices. Beautiful low-maintenance gardens may exist, but I'm not personally aware of them. In fact, I tend to subscribe to the legendary Christopher Lloyd's maxim that "low maintenance is low braintenance." A garden needs attention--sometimes a great deal of attention. In the last few weeks, for example, we've been coping with yet another drought. While we watch the margins of the pond recede rapidly yet again, I carefully monitor how dry the soil is around the plants. I watch for signs that they are under stress as a means of minimizing any damage they might suffer. Pests and diseases most often attack plants that are struggling.

Even under all of my fussing and care, the garden has begun announcing that it is under siege, and I am now springing into action. The first worrying signs appeared on my purple verbena and my thyme. They seemed to be bleaching in the sun, their leaves lighter and spotty. Leaning in for a closer look, I discovered the culprit--spider mites. For the organic gardener, the only thing to do is reach for the Neem oil.

Study the leaves carefully, and you'll see that the one in the
center is showing the signs of spider mites

Luckily, the damage is not catastrophic just yet, and armed with my sprayer of Neem oil and water, I will be doing battle with those dreaded mites. 

The lower leaves may be damaged, but I'm encouraged by
the condition of the new leaves

The other pest that is attacking a wide array of plants is the loathsome Japanese beetle. When I first saw them on my David Austin rose 'Olivia,' I picked them off and stepped on them. This was when there were just a few. Now they are absolutely rampant. 

Here's 'Olivia' with her unwanted guests tucked away within
her petals

It's turned into a dirty Japanese beetle condo!

They, too, will get an evening spray of Neem oil, but as there are so many of them, I have to employ a two-pronged attack this year. In the mornings, I go out with a jar of soapy water, pick off the beetles, and drop them into their sudsy, watery grave...with great satisfaction.

One seems to be a little heavy...

Since I don't want to struggle for years to come, I will be spreading beneficial nematodes and an inoculation of milky spore. They proved very helpful when we had this problem before, which was when we lived in this area 10 years ago.

It's not all bad news this week, though. As I carefully comb over the garden for the unwanted pests, I have found so many other wonderful creatures.

A tiny frog rests amid the Hydrangea 'Limelight' foliage

I love watching the flowers of Gaura 'lindheimerei' bending and bouncing as a bumblebee grabs on for a taste of nectar.

These fellas are hard to capture on camera

Even though the garden is teetering on the edge of greatness or disaster at present, I'm feeling like we're still leaning toward greatness. The first blooms of Leucanthemum 'Becky' and the wonderful, showy heads of Allium sphaerocephalon are keeping my hopes up and encouraging me to fighting the good fight.

Hello, 'Becky'!

As soon as these opened, I ordered a
bunch more!

No comments:

Post a Comment