Friday, June 21, 2013

Sorta Organic Gardening

It's raining again today, which means all my lovely roses in the height of their June flush of blooms are drooping and sad and wet.  The vegetable garden is, well, plenty wet, and the luscious peonies and perennials are splayed almost flat on the ground from the pounding rain we had all day yesterday too.

Sad Golden Celebration, hanging its head
Centifolia Fantin-Latour, pounded flat

Carefree Beauty, waterlogged
So…I sit inside and I wait.  And write :D

But it makes me mad because I know, I just know, that when I go back out, the rose problems that I fight all year, my Big Three of rose problems (powdery mildew, black spot, and aphids) will be fully back in the saddle and taking off without me.
If you've read my background, you know that I took about a 12-year detour out of my Real Life to start up a wedding cake bakery, which amped up my schedule and my stress level for the last 5 years and caused me to absolutely not be home to garden or maintain anything here, so the diseases have been let go.  I grew up in the hippied-out 70s, (a long story for another time), so I GET the whole "organic" thing.  I grew UP organic.  I AM organic.  Which is great, and I'm so thankful to my mom for raising us that way.  I have an abhorrence of chemicals in my food or on my plants, but (here's where the Modern Times girl kicks in), I'm not above using chemicals if I must. 

Sometimes I call the years of not going in the rose garden…an "experiment (polite euphemism) in letting things just do what they do" and see what happens.  Well, I let them "do what they do" and I was sort of pleasantly surprised to find that, sometimes without any pruning, mulching, fertilizing, spraying, thinning, deadheading, babying or special treatment of any kind, they were more or less fine.  They grew and bloomed and spread (some really, really spread…suckers everywhere on the gallicas), and the diseases were present but not debilitating, and everything's still alive.  Keep in mind, though, that most of my roses are old garden/antique roses, which are a shock to the modern rose gardener who's never raised them, because they do not NEED all the mollycoddling that today's hybrid teas need.  Don't get me wrong, I have hybrid teas, too, and I love them.  'Pascali and Love' are blooming right now, albeit soaking wet.

This year I'm *back*, so to speak.  I'm not going overboard with any special treatment, though I have deadheaded, pruned, and weeded some, and I do want to get the problems in check and clean up the mildew, aphids, and black spot.  I haven't had time yet to fertilize, and we're in the first flush of blooms, which, for antiques, means the only flush, but they are (again) fine with it. 

I remembered there was an old homemade rose spray I used years ago that consisted of water, Murphy's oil soap, baking soda (and milk? I thought there was milk in there, but maybe not…I'm too lazy to look it up, so whatever).  I mixed up a spray bottle with this (I use the 'eyeball it' method of measuring) and used it on the roses two weeks ago and again a week later, and I watched and waited. 

I'm thinking I'd like to say that everything looks better.  It…might, but the mildew and black spot have a couple of main favorite roses, and so far it is really hard to stop.  My gallica Charles de Mills seems to be the harbinger of mildew out there; that plant is covered from inside to out usually, though it blooms its head off, so I started there.  As of today, it still looks fairly clean, even with the rain.  The hybrid tea Sonia and a mini red (which sxtubsequently turned itself from a minuscule tabletop potted mini into a long-stemmed red that is about thigh high--wth?), have black spot pretty aggressively spreading, even with the "spray" I mixed up.  Maybe it needs milk, or maybe I should look up the actual recipe (duh). 
Meanwhile, I DO have a cabinet full of Ortho rose chemicals for various things, with pleasant-enough non-scary names like Rose Pride, because, you know, Daconil just does sounds…dangerous.  I'm happy to try my all-natural methods of spraying the Recipe (whatever it is; I'm calling it that from now on), and waiting, but I keep the Big Guns in that cabinet, just in case. 

As for aphids…meh,*shrug*…they've never been as big a problem, even though I hate them, too.  I do see them here and there, and sometimes  ("Oh, eww…that's a lot of aphids") I'll hit them with a stream of water or the Recipe (does the soap smother them? I don't know), or sometimes just take my chances and give the bud they're on a good *flick* with my finger so they all go flying off (aiyeeee).  Sometimes the whole bud breaks off and goes with them, so that's sort of, uh, less than desirable. 
It seems like the books always say if you flick or wash them off, they won't come back, which I don't get, because…there they are, at the bottom of the plant, or on the lower leaves, and they're all wth? Did she seriously just flick us?? Well, let's just climb back UP and start over, so I'm not convinced that flicking and rinsing does anything more than give me momentary satisfaction of feeling like Uh-huh, I win.  What they do not know, as I'm rinsing or flicking them, is that I'm thinking (and sometimes I'm saying out loud, but no one's around so you have no proof of this), Yeah, go ahead, suckers.  Climb back UP and try again.  But don't think I won't get the Ortho products out, because, oh yes, I will totally go there.

So I guess I'm just saying, I'm sitting here watching it be like 100% humidity and 50 degrees outside, and I know that I hate spraying with chemicals, but I also know that when I go back outside, once I can go out without seeing my breath (in JUNE--not that I'm bitter), I will not be surprised to see black spot and powdery mildew flourishing with wild abandon, and I will probably give up and go get the Daconil out.  It even has its own scary spray bottle that I creatively drew a skull and crossbones on, just in case anyone is mistaken.  See?  I know, nice, right?

(Gah…I can taste  this stuff in my mouth, just when I hold the bottle.  SO nasty!)
It's supposed to warm up again next week, so I have gloves and spray bottles of both organic and non-organics ready, and I've promised myself, this year, I got this.  In the meantime, I should go look up the *actual recipe* for the Recipe…

Happy gardening!

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