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Summer Solstice, when we experience the longest day of the year, is upon us. Midsummer, popularized by no other than Shakespeare, is a time when human civilization has paused to honor the all those aspects of Nature that support Life as we know it. It is time for all of us to consider, contemplate, and act on our responsibilities of correct stewardship of our world. This can begin so simply with all of us united in the pursuit of gardening, bringing forth the bounty of the earth. It is so simple really.
Consider how we approach the most mundane of gardening activities, weeding. After the recent 2.5 inches of rain we had in this area, everyone has by now noticed the the amazing germination of a carpet of life where there was bare earth just days before. Before reaching for any of a number of available post emergent herbicides, try a quick scuffle of the hoe first. It will just as effectively remove the unwanted weeds and provide the opportunity for a close interaction in the garden to inspect for any other issues.
We may find the beginnings of aphid colonies moving in. Quick get out the pesticide! OR....a strong stream of water from the hose will remove the pests, solve the problem, and avoid destroying larval, juvenile, and adult stages of many predatory insects that provide significant help in eliminating the garden pests.
Consider that pests and diseases will usually first colonize stressed plants. Be aware of that from purchase of the plants through installation and care in the landscape. I had a gentleman hand me a yellow leaf from a gardenia plant, one of many similar yellow leaves and want to know what he could spray to control this problem. Well....after the first step of identifying the plant in question (host), we discussed the current location of the plant and how long it had been there, specifically had it been outside during the recent and unseasonable cold snap. I specifally asked this because I had happen to witness a shipment of gardenias (a topical plant by the way) delivered to a "box store" the afternoon before the predicted cold. No effort was made to cover or move them inside. Over the next several days I had the opportunity to watch the plants all develop the exact same symptoms shown and as it turned out it, he had purchased his plant from that same shipment (small world!?). So the treatment in this case was to remove the damaged foliage, relocate the plant into a more protected site while it recovered and to watch for the possible arrival of pests because it was stressed. Which in this case, is likely to be mealybug. I shared the more benign treatment for that is to use a cotton swab to place a drop of rubbing alcohol on each mealybug to kill the bug, not harm the plant, and not broadly "treat" the surrounding area.
This is the time to get up early, and welcome the sun as it dawns Wednesday morning, June 21. Contemplate and consider the bounty that is possible and our absolute and necessary responsibility for correct stewardship of our intricate living web on this Earth. Happy Solstice!