Monday, August 30, 2010

2nd Neem Application

It's been about a week since I treated my tomoato bushes and rose bushes with Neem Oil. Typically, the treatments should be applied every two weeks in the growing season, but can be applied once a week in severe cases. I found a baby tomato horn worm this evening on one of my bushes and applied a second treatment.

Neem Oil is a summer oil which acts as an insecticide, fungicide and miticide. After picking off a bushel of worms, the tomato leaves are slowly growing back. But I'm unsure if this is a result of my labor or the effectiveness of the first treatment. I do however see a slight improvement on one of my rose bushes. The leaves are healthy and shiny and green, the blooms are robust and plentiful, and new growth and old growth are existing together for the first time ever. My rose bushes also got a second treatment. We'll see how the other six do in another week.

Woodland Creature Sightings

I guess my little rabbit friend forgave me as my kids and I spotted him behind one of my hydrangea bushes this afternoon. He's a brave little bugger as he happily posed for us for about 10 minutes. Long enough for me to get the camera and take tons of shots.

Right before that, we found a frog on the patio. This thrilled my one-year old daughter who tried to climb up to reach it. My two-year old son was intensely curious and studied it for a very long time. Then he asked 'squash it Mama?'. (I should mention that he helps me squash the bad bugs and catepillars that eat our plants.) Of course we didn't squash it and I explained to him that frogs eat those bad bugs, which is why we need them in the garden. He seemed happy with this answer and went back to look for the rabbit.

That inspired me to create a few toad abodes around the garden. [Stop reading here honey.] As I didn't have the opportunity to buy any yet, I half buried a few clay pots sideays in the spots I normally find them. That should do for now.

If I spot anything else, I'll be sure to let you know.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hare Today, Gone Tommorow

I'm currently dealing with an internal conundrum. This morning, my family and I found a rabbit hole/nest in our front yard behind some flowering bushes. After poking around a little, out hopped the cutest little rabbit ever. I've actually seen this little bugger around my flower beds before, especially early in the morning. (And I've recently had to chase it out of the garage so it wouldn't meet the same fate as an old toad and sprightly hummingbird who both got trapped in there. Ewwwwwwww.) Instinctively, I covered the rabbit hole as a means of protecting my home (as it was right against the wall), only to face constructive crisicism from my husband. 'What's the point of working toward the NWF recognize our home as a national wildlife backyard habitat if you go around destroying wildlife homes?' Point taken.

I'm all for celebrating little critters living, procreating and any other 'ings' in my yard, as long as they don't destroy the house in the process. Since I'm higher up on the food chain, I figure I have the right to call the shots on this. Maybe I'm overreacting due to my Dad's insistence on keeping the perimeter of my childhood home clear of any living thing, flora and fauna, because it's just too expensive to repair foundations. But then how much damage could a family of rabbits do, other than eat my produce and croton plants?

Anyway, to asuage my guilt, I reopened the rabbit hole and fluffed up the lint (yes lint) they used for bedding. Maybe my little buddy will come back and forgive me. When my Dad comes in a few weeks, I'll have him evaluate the situation and advise us how best to proceed.

More More More

A day later, I found another five. That makes the total 37!!!

After the rain storms, I did treat the bushes with Neem Oil and that seem to do to the trick. It's about time for a second treatment, but of course it's raining again. We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This sucks!

Would you believe it...I found another 5 tomato horn worms today. They practically stripped my bushes on one side of the house. AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Rose Bush Results - Finally!

Ok, here's what my report from the Diagnostic Lab said verbatim:

We found two diseases on the sample you provided, blackspot and Botrytis blight.

Blackspot, caused by the fungus Diplocarpon rosae, was found on the foliage. This disease will cause the leaves to drop prematurely and heavy leaf shed will reduce flower production and vigor. If severe drought conditions further stress blackspot-damaged roses, the plant may die. To control blackspot on roses, start with regular fungicide applications. For effective season-long disease control, begin fungicide applications shortly after spring bud break and continue at a 7 to 14-day interval until the first hard frost. Also, collect and destroy all leaves on the ground. Prune diseased or weakened canes at bud swell and replace the soil mulch in late winter or early spring.

Botrytis blight, caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea, affects buds, flowers and peduncles. The disease usually starts in the flower bud, decreases the longevity of the flower, and may move down to the stems. Cankers may form as a result of Botrytis infection and are similar in appearance to those produced by other stem canker and dieback fungi. Sanitation practices such as the removal of spent blossoms as well as the collection of fallen leaves and petals from around the base of the plant should reduce the risk of Botrytis blight. Immediately prune out blighted blooms, canes, and buds. Fungicides used to control blackspot are also effective against Botrytis blight.

For more information about rose diseases see ANR-505 at This publication will also give you a list of fungicides labeled to control blackspot and Botrytis blight.

So I thought about it, and my decision is to treat my bushes since they hold sentimental value. And it gives me a reason to continue this blog. lol!
Here's a really cool fact...after my training session at MG school, I came home and told my husband that my roses had some sort of fungi. See, told you I paid attention. :)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Hate Tomato Horn Worms!!!!

This year, I was a little distracted by installing new flower beds, and didn't spray my vegetable gardens as often as I should have. After being away for a few days, I went out to admire my backyard yesterday morning, and noticed a few tomato bushes looking less than stellar. Upon closer inspection, I noticed a rather large lime green catepillar moozeying along. It was a tomato horn worm. Just like mice, if there's one, there's more. So I broke out the garden gloves and tweezers, and went hunting.

From my 18 tomato bushes, I extracted (and smooshed) 27 tomato horn worms!!! There were babies, adolescents and morbidly obese adults. All disgusting and all happily eating away my hard labor. Do you know one even had the nerve to raise its head and observe what I was doing!?! Sick, sick, sick! Putting up with a cute little rabbit is one thing, but this is ridiculous.

After this horrid chore, I went to task spraying my bushes with Neem Oil. Of course there was a rain storm yesterday afternoon so that was in vain, but I tried.

I'll be back out there this evening equipped with garden gloves, tweezers and my handy dandy spray bottle. If those little buggers know what's good for them, they'll moozey on to the next house.

Auburn Master Gardening School 2010

I had a fantastic time on Tuesday at MG School. We learnt how to:
  • incorporate native plants into the landscape
  • identify plants by their scientific names, and the benefits thereof, primarily referencing the plant outside the home area
  • attract and maintain wildlife in the garden *my absolute favorite session*
  • identify plant fungus and appropriate treatment
  • install water gardens step-by-step
  • install a drip irrigation system
It was a very long day but well worth it. The presenters are all Auburn lecturers, but I didn't feel lectured at. Some presentations were hands on and informal enough that questions were addressed during the sessions rather than at the end.

One of the most interesting things that stood out in the Gardens for Wildlife session, is how to apply for your home to become a Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation. Essentially, you must have 2-3 sources in each of the following sections:
  • Food
    • Providing a variety of fruits, nuts, seeds, nectar, pollen, and supplements like feeders and suet
  • Water
    • e.g. birdbaths, ponds, butterfly pudding area, stream, etc
  • Cover
    • protected areas from weather, predators e.g. bramble patch, rock pile wall, shrubs, etc
  • Shelter
    • safe places to raise young e.g. trees, nesting boxes, toad abodes, birdhouses, host plants, bat houses, etc
  • Go Green
    • mulching, less turf areas, native plant use, drip irrigation systems, rain barrels, use of composting, reduced use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, etc
You can learn more at

To do it right (i.e. not staging rock piles and erecting bird and bat houses all over the place) I have a few seasons to go. A few trees need to mature and a few more shrubs need to be planted, but this is definately a medium-term goal for me. I'm so excited.

Master Gardeners of Pike County are required to receive 20 hours of training each year, although as I understand it, some volunteer work counts toward this. In any event, last Tuesday's training counted for 6 hours. I didn't know this, nor had I planned to generate any 'real' hours this year (being unofficial and all), but now I'm considering going for the other 14. I'll have to discuss this with my two-year old and one-year old of course, so we'll see how it goes.

P.S. I didn't have to harass any Auburn agricultural professionals about my roses as I received my report from the Diagnostic Lab in record time. More on that later.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Utilize Your County Extension Office

For the last few months, I've been hearing references for County Extension Offices in the tri-state area. I briefly thought about contacting them regarding my roses, but I figured if Paul James was 'stumped' I probably would't have much luck with these folks either. (See very first post.) In an unrelated event, I saw an episode of HGTV's Curb Appeal: The Block and learnt that most states offer free compost to its residents. A few weeks ago, I began calling (nearly) every state agency in Alabama about this, when I stumbled across the number for my County Extension Office. Unfortunately they had no idea about the free compost. But since I had them on the line away, I figured I didn't have anything to lose and segued into a diatribe about my rosebush dead stem dilemma. That, they could handle.

This was most serendipitous. I was put in touch with Rachel Dykes in the Ozark office. She is a wealth of information and an excellent resource to have. And even though the County Extension Office is closely tied to Auburn University, they actually returned telephone calls and e-mails about my lowly rose bushes. Who would have thought.

Turns out, the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology to which Paul James referred me, is not the department that deals with stay-at-home moms' sickly plants. Rather, there is a Plant Diagnostic Lab where, for a small fee, plant, soil and bug samples can be sent for analysis. When Rachel suggested I send a variety of cuttings and an entire plant, I jumped at the opportunity. It helped that the plant is probably dead (since cutting it back a few weeks ago, I haven't seen any new growth), otherwise, I might have done that as a last resort. In a few weeks, I'll receive my report and will hopefully be on the right track to fixing whatever problem is hindering my roses.

The process, although straight forward, requires adhering to a few rules. Rather than bore you with an executive summary, I'll attach the guidelines and necessary form for submission as soon as I figure out how to attach files on In the meantime, here is the Alabama County Extension Service's website:

I have to say I'm really pumped that I'm finally making progress with my roses. But as for that free compost, no such luck. Not to worry though. I'm still on the hunt.