Organic soil | Organic Fertilizers
Alternative Sprays |Dealing with Pests
17 Tips for Going Organic
Common Rose Diseases
What Is Organic Gardening?
Many gardeners wonder what exactly organic
gardening means. The simple answer is that
organic gardeners don't use synthetic fertilizers
or pesticides on their plants. But gardening
organically is much more than what you don't do.
When you garden organically, you think of your
plants as part of a whole system within Nature that starts in the soil and includes the water supply, people, wildlife, and yes even insects. An organic gardener strives to work in harmony with natural systems and to minimize and continually replenish any resources the garden consumes.
Organic gardening, then, begins with attention to the soil. You regularly add organic matter to the soil. And everyone has access to raw ingredients whether it's your grass clippings, fallen leaves, decaying plants, and even vegetable scraps from the kitchen. All this can be the building blocks of a compost pile. Or, your local garden center always has organic soil amendments for anyone that doesn't have their own compost pile, and that is usually a lot of us. If you add compost to your soil, you're already well on your way to raising a beautiful, healthy garden organically.
You could say that building soil is the defining act of organic gardening. By regularly replenishing the nutrients your plants use, you keep the soil productive By mixing organic matter into the soil whenever possible, you mimic Nature's cycle of birth, decay, and rebirth. Ideal garden soil is dark colored, smells kind of sweet, compresses into a lump in your hand when moist, and is full of earthworms. If you are trying to "Go Organic" in your garden, the general consensus is that it usually takes 3 years to turn around the damage done by synthetic and toxic chemicals. It's pretty easy to control all or most of the marauders that attack your precious rose garden without the need to poison your environment.
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The Organic Garden Soil
The most frequently forgotten factor in the rose grower’s agenda is the soil that the roses are growing in. This oversight is perpetuated by the large chemical companies that are advertising their products to feed the rose bush, kill the bugs and wipe out the fungus. What they fail to tell you about is the toxic runoff and degradation of the soil structure wherever these products are used. They also fail to tell you that the pests you are trying to kill WILL develop a resistance to the insecticide, the fungi will find a way too, and then where are you?? A TOXIC SOIL that took care of your problem short-term! An alternative to these routines is to spend the time now to begin to go organic in your garden.
Where do I start? The first thing is to clean up all spent blossoms, fallen leaves, and deadwood on the bushes. Keep the area clean. Trash in your garden harbors bugs of all kinds! Be sure you are mulching with an organic mulch. It is the mulch that is the secret food for your soil so be sure to get a good product such as Worm Gold. Use organic fertilizers. There are more and more available every day. Talk to your garden center about their recommendations and talk to members of your Rose Society to see what is working in their garden. And, be sure that you are watering enough!
What do I do when I see a bug or fungus attacking my roses? If it’s just a few, no big deal but if it’s out of control, I go to my garden center and get an organic remedy. Hopefully, though, my preventive measures are working and these problems don’t escalate.
Eighteen months ago I started “going organic” in our garden and we are seeing less problems this year than last. We’re also beginning to see earthworms in the soil and better blooms. A very good sign. It takes time but I believe it is worth the effort.
Some excerpts taken from the San Diego Earth Times, written by Dan Trotter, Ph.D.
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Primer on Organic Fertilizers
Sheila's Perfume, introduced 1982, is below. ...............
In a nutshell, most fertilizers contain a mix of the big three plant fertilizers – nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Nitrogen stimulates development of strong stems and lush foliage. Phosphorus builds superior plants and large blooms. Potassium (potash) promotes root growth, plant vigor and colorful blooms. It should be noted that many fertilizers might also contain .nutrients calcium (Ca), sulphur (S), and magnesium (Mg). “Ca” strengthens plant cell walls; “S” is utilized by the plant to manufacture essential proteins; and vitamins and “Mg” are the center of the chlorophyll molecule that makes leaves green.
All of these essential nutrients are found in organic fertilizers and they are residues of formerly living things. There are some excellent premixed organic fertilizers on the market. They contain such materials such as fish, cottonseed, alfalfa, bone and kelp meals. They are generally long lasting, releasing their nutrients slowly and evenly to the plants when they are decomposed by soil organisms. They should be applied on the surface of the rosebed one to three times a growing season and watered in,. They reactivate tired soil, create an earthworm paradise and almost never burn tender feeder roots.
Excerpts from Tommy Hebert’s Beginners’ Column in the ARS magazine, May 2004
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If you must spray something, be gentle. Foliar feeding with compost tea, alfalfa, or fish emulsion and seaweed, will give the roses a vitality boost that may help them throw off a pest or disease problem on their own. A simple hard water spray that washes above and below the leaves can knock off a lot of pests and even powdery mildew spores. Try the baking soda solution for general fungus diseases (1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon lightweight horticultural oil to 1 gallon of water), applied late in the evening or very early in the morning, the day after a thorough watering – the foliage needs to be dry so direct sun won’t burn it. If you use this mild spray for fungus diseases, make sure that you to so on a regular basis: haphazard applications don’t seem to produce reliable results.
Sulfur spray is also effective for fungus, long-lasting on the foliage (it leaves a slight, grayish residue) and safe to use, though much smellier than the baking soda. The rotten egg scent dissipates as the spray dries. Safer makes a commercial fungicide that uses sulfur as the active ingredient and is properly labeled for rose use. For insect problems, Safer insecticidal soaps labeled for roses are very effective for knocking back high levels of many pests while waiting for the beneficial insects to arrive. You may want to avoid garlic spray, or use it just for spot treatments – it’s safe for humans and helps with fungus, but it’s a broad spectrum insecticide that will kill beneficials as well as pests.
Spraying can be a chore, but it also ensures that you spend quality time with each rose bush and learn more about its individual habits, quirks, and beauties.
From “The Organic Rose Garden” by Liz Druitt
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Dealing with Pests
Here are some things you can do to naturally control insects in your garden:
1. Interplant repellant crops and flowers. Certain plants produce strong odors or cause abnormal insect development. Planting repellant vegetation close to vulnerable plants is believed to offer protection. Examples of repellant plants include marigolds, onion, garlic and hot peppers.
2. Provide food, water and shelter for birds. Birds can help keep your insect population in check.
3. Use beneficial insects to counterbalance insect pests. Lady bugs, lacewings, trichogramma wasps and praying mantis can all be effective.
4. Try using some of the organic sprays now available.
Source: Heirloom Gardens & InteriorDecor
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17 Tips for Making the Switch to Gardening without Chemical Pesticides
By Linda Buzzell-Saltzman
The rose below is Black Cherry, introduced 2006.
If you’ve had it with the bottles of scary stuff in your garage that sport skull-and-crossbones logos, you may be ready to transition to earth-friendly gardening. Perhaps you’re concerned about kids, family members, gardeners, wildlife or pets getting poisoned. OR maybe you’ve begun to wonder where all this stuff comes from and where it goes after it leaves your property — the creeks, the beaches? Or you’ve started reading labels and have noticed that the rocketing price of oil (and everything made from it is making those pretty containers at the local nursery look rather expensive............
Whatever your reasons, now is a good time to start weaning yourself from fossil fuel-based pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Here are some steps you can take towards a safe, beautiful and tasty garden.
1. Easy Does It! Take the pledge: commit to only put in plants that are easy to grow in our area. Native plants are wonderful, and Mediterranean climate plants work too. But don’t assume that your local nursery only carries stuff that does well here. You’d be amazed at how many truly inappropriate plants turn up in our stores — for example, bare root trees and shrubs that need more winter chill than Santa Barbara is ever going to get.
2. Don’t go for the tough guys. Look around town to see what does well. Ask gardening neighbors or knowledgeable folks which plants aren’t fussy. No need to reinvent the wheel here.
3. You don’t have to give up roses! There are many disease-resistant roses that are strong enough to thrive without chemical pesticides and pampering, such as Cecile Brunner, Lady Banks (both big climbers that can cover garage or wall with ease), Rosa Mutabilis, The Fairy, Iceberg, Old Blush, Brandy, Queen Elizabeth and many more. Helpful hint: go for tough older roses designed for pre-pesticide gardens (usually before Work War II) or recently developed disease-resistant roses developed to survive without much care.
4. Put in right-sized trees. The biggest mistake many gardeners make is putting in a cute little tree that turns into a four-story monster. Take time to consider more appropriate-sized trees for your location. Consider some of the wonderful fruit trees that do triple duty, offering flowers, shade and yummy fruit. Some that belong in every Santa Barbara garden: lemons, oranges, pineapple guavas, loquats, plums and avocados.
5. Shrink your lawn. If you feel brave, deep-six your grass and replace it with pavers surrounded by beds filled with pretty, non-thirsty plants. Add a softly gurgling fountain, a small or medium-sized shade tree and you’ve created a refreshing retreat.
6. Let go of the wimps. Some plants — esp. those bred since the advent of pesticides — are drug addicts, unable to survive and thrive without their fix. They’ve been developed to be fussed over and sprayed without end. It’s sad, but some must go into the compost or be given away.
7. Speaking of compost. Compost is the organic gardener’s secret weapon. You can buy organic compost or make it yourself. It’s a lot easier than you might think. The bins come with complete instructions, or check out the web site: www.mda.state.mi.us/citykidz/Compost2. Just save your kitchen trims (even cheese, pizza and meat, if you’re earthworm composting), add green matter (grass clippings, etc.), some soil, and let it cook until done.
8. Be water wise. Let’s face it: we live in a dry climate. Since water is scarce and expensive here in S.B., use it where it counts. Young food-bearing trees, shrubs and annual veggies are at the top of my list. I don’t worry too much about our lawn in August and September — we’re in the Golden State and it’s natural for grasses to be dormant during the hottest months of the year. The lawn pops right back at the first rain in October. Permaculture designers Larry and Kathryn Santoyo offer a few other recommendations: “Divert the water that would have gone to irrigating less-functional landscape (i.e., lawn and pure ornamentals), to irrigating a multi-functional food forest. And design the garden to harvest and store rainwater, using prodigious use of mulch and laying our beds on contour to catch water and nutrients and lessen erosion.”
9. Plant edibles. As the Santoyo’s recommend, if you’re going to be spending money on water, why not enjoy some local organic food while you’re at it? Nothing tastes better or is more nutritious than fresh organic goodies right from our garden. One tip: because of our strong light here in S.B., we can grow many sun-loving veggies in the shade. For example, we now plant greens under our fruit trees, which lets us water both at the same time. This can work with squash as well.
10. Mulch where you trim. Even though we have those green trashcans that will haul your green waste away, why not use it right where you are? As you trim, clip up the waste and let it lie: instant mulch. In our dry area we need three to six inches on the soil to hold in water. Only put things in the green cans that you want off the property like thorny growth, invasive roots or plants full of seeds you don’t want spreading.
11. Put in herbs. We highly recommend growing herbs in every chemical-free garden in S.B. Many of the Mediterranean herbs grow very easily here. Oregano, basil, garlic chives, Mexican oregano and rosemary are some of the our favorites. We also use the lacy tops of fennel in place of harder to grow dill. And we eat lots of edible flowers from our herbs, veggies and other plants.
12. Don’t pull up a weed until you’re sure it’s a weed. A weed is often a plant you haven’t yet figured out a use for. Take purslane, for instance. Once considered a nuisance, it’s now recognized as a delicious edible full of Omega-3 fatty acids. Even the lowly dandelion has now been recognized as an important green, packed with nutrition. Also, some “weeds” turn out to be natives that can happily coexist with other plants in your garden.
13. Encourage bio-diversity. Monoculture — big stretches of land with only one or two types of plants — is downright unnatural. To keep these austere designs looking nice requires endless weeding out of all the other plants that would like to share the space. Nature likes to mix things up, so you can too. Think of the beautiful English cottage gardens for inspiration.
14. Hire green gardeners. SBCC Adult Education is now training earth-friendly gardeners who are way beyond the “mow, blow and go” guys. Hire one if you don’t do your own gardening, or to help when things get a little out of hand.
15. Go for the birds and bees! Speaking of garden help, smart organic gardeners work at attracting bug-eating birds and pollinating bees to their garden to help with the gardening. Keep cats inside as they discourage and can be detrimental to the birds.
16. Buy some good bugs. You can also buy beneficial insects. We like those from Rincon –Vitova (www.rinconvitova.com). We put in a carton of ladybugs a few years ago and they did a great job of keeping things spic and span. Their offspring are still with us.
17. Use an organic nursery. We’ve found that the folks at Island Seed and Feed in Goleta have all the organic sprays, fertilizers, non-toxic snail bait, etc. you’ll need and they’re also glad to answer any questions you have.
Reprinted from Santa-Barbara News-Press, Sep 4, 2005
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Heaven on Earth
Common Rose Diseases and Their Prevention
by Will Funk
There are many factors that come into play when spinning the roulette wheel of rose diseases in your garden. Some years you may not have much of a problem with blackspot, rust and mildew; the next, you’ll struggle all season to rid your garden of these nuisances. Let’s briefly examine our opposition and our plan of attack.
Blackspot – Appropriately named for the dark-colored spots that appear on leaves. As the disease progresses, the leaves turn yellow and fall off the plant. Blackspot often appears in humid areas or later in the summer in areas known for July and August thundershowers. Leaves exhibiting evidence of blackspot should be removed (remember to clean up any leaves that fall around the base of the plan). You may need to cut back areas of the plant.
Mildew — Powdery mildew appears as a whitish powder on the leaves and stems of the plant. Left untreated, it will spread along the canes. Powdery mildew is common to areas with warm summer days but cool and damp nights (like Santa Barbara!). Thin out congested areas of the plant to increase air circulation. Clean around the base of the affected plants as well.
Rust — Another aptly named disease, rust shows up as orange spots on the underside of leaves. Rust can spread throughout a plant, defoliating the leaves and possibly killing the rose. Although rust can be treated by some sprays, not all will be effective. Remove affected leaves and areas of the plant. Thin canes as well to promote better air circulation within the plant. Rust appears on plants in humid or damp areas so if you are watering with sprinklers you may want to check into other method that doesn’t leave the upper part of the bush wet. Remember, it’s best to water early in the morning.
Overall prevention — You may have noticed a pattern to help prevent many diseases common to roses. Poor air circulation mixed with damp foliage affects both the onset and spread of disease. If you are constantly fighting disease in your rose garden look at the spacing between the plants and see if there is any way to increase the air circulation in the area. Sometimes fences or thick plants bordering the garden can be opened up to promote more air movement. Although you can’t do much about a damp climate you can check to see if you are watering the leaves instead of the roots. Although roses like water they need soaking at the base not in the areas prone to disease.
Natural Disease Resistance — Many roses are more susceptible to certain types of disease. The good news is that there are also many new roses which are naturally disease resistant. There are several varieties that are not only beautiful, heavenly-scented bloomers but they are also easy to care for because of their inherent ability to fight off these rose maladies. Recent All-America Rose Selections (AARS) winners Julia Child, Strike it Rich, Memorial Day, Livin' Easy, Hot Cocoa and About Face are all examples of stunningly beautiful roses with a natural resistance to disease. If you have one or more older roses that repeat the disease cycle each year you may want to consider some “shovel pruning” and replacing them with new, more disease resistant varieties.
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