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July 2011 Newsletter

Viola’s News

Wow what a season, time flies by quicker every year (especially when it snows in May). We finally have finished our employee garden and everything is growing bigger by the day. We planted it a month ago and things are looking good.

We invite you to take a look at the garden the next time you are in Viola’s. It’s a neat little demonstration garden. We have square foot gardens, container gardens, Three Sisters (Native American gardening technique), an herb raised container with flowers and a whole lot more vegetables and flowers. So come on in and take a look.

What's Buggin?

Once again Flagstaff is overrun with a horribly, destructive swarm of creepy-crawlies that tend to eat just about everything and anything that they can get their mouths on. Yup, it’s that time of year again; the grasshoppers are back in town. Garden flowers and vegetables tend to be a favorable alternative to other sources of food, but grasshoppers are known to voraciously consume just about everything. Have you been noticing an instant and sudden disappearance of your vegetables and flowers? One day you leave with large, leafy, healthy plants, and the next day all that’s left is twigs and dirt. To a grasshopper, the garden is a veritable feast that allows for much feeding and egg-laying to produce more lil’ hoppers.

Grasshoppers have three stages of life, egg, nymph and adult. As a younger adult grasshopper, nymphs shed their outer shells in order to grow larger. Grasshoppers, locusts and other members of the family Orthoptera are the most destructive insects to small and large gardens. They hit just about everywhere in town and can significantly damage or destroy garden plants. In years with a large grasshopper population, they can considerably damage even trees and shrubs in their search for food.

What to do about these invasive critters? For grasshoppers there are two general methods used to get rid of the hoppin’ nuisances. The first method is the Viola’s Old-timer Grasshopper Eliminator, this is a method developed by citizens who have become aggravated with their grasshopper infestation. It is comprised of a mixture of wheat bran and carbaryl dust. A gallon of dry bran is mixed with a half cup of carbaryl dust, and mixed with water and spread around. The bran is used to attract grasshoppers and when they ingest the bran they eat the carbaryl dust as well, and bam! dead-as-a-doornail grasshoppers. This method does use a potent insecticide, which, when used as intended is not harmful to pets and humans.

The second method uses a single-celled parasite to infect and cripple grasshoppers. Nosema locustae is a parasite that when ingested, will work to kill grasshoppers by crippling them and allowing the natural cannibalistic tendencies of grasshoppers to pass the parasite along to the next generation. Pre-packaged mixtures of the parasite and bran (called NoLo Bait) are sold in different quantities, depending on how big of an area needs to be treated. This method is an organic alternative that can take up to 4-6 weeks to be effective.

Petal Pushing

The monsoons have arrived! It seems plants really dig the extra water and sunshine combination that happens during this time of the season. Veggies and flowers seem to go from itty bitty to gigantic overnight. The extra moisture is a great time to be putting in new plantings of just about everything. Perennials, shrubs, trees and seeds are the best to try at this time. Seeds sprout easier and quicker with the extra moisture. And although our planting time may be quickly evaporating, there is still time to put in last minute veggies and annuals for the Fall. Lettuce, greens, and any vegetables (some varieties of beans, peas, squash, and broccoli) that have a growing time of less than 65 days can all be put in right now. So don’t worry if your Spring lasted a little longer this year, you can still have a vegetable garden.

Back To Basics

This month’s organic fertilizer is the Hickman’s Chicken Manure; this manure is the product of the local Arizona Hickman’s Farms that produce the eggs by the same name that are sold in the supermarket. Chicken manure is the richest domestic animal manure in terms of the N-P-K content and is considered by some to be far superior to chemical fertilizers, since the organic material content in the manure helps build the soil so it can feed the plants. The Hickman’s Chicken fertilizer is compacted into an easy-to-handle pellet form that can be spread over just about everything, the flower garden, vegetable garden and even trees and shrubs will benefit from a dose of chicken manure. This manure is also a really good fertilizer for lawns; in fact a couple of golf courses around Flagstaff use it. It comes in a 20 lb bag which covers about 1000 sq. ft, and for $19.99, it’s a great value for the lawn. Hickman’s Chicken Manure is even OMRI approved, which means that this manure is carefully processed to destroy pathogens.

Monsoon Maintenance

The extra rain that characterizes the monsoons gives us a little more maintenance-wise to keep up with. During a particularly intense downpour, flowers and veggies with larger petals and leaves might need to be cleaned-up and trimmed, once the clouds disperse. Trust me I know we do a lot of cleaning at the nursery after one of those storms.

Another maintenance challenge that arrives with the higher moisture is fungi. Plants during this season can develop small whitish or grey speckled dots on the leaves and stems, called downy or powdery mildew. Mildews are borne from spores that travel through the air and like to germinate during the wet parts of the year. They infect many plants but can be seen on petunias, columbine, tomatoes, melons, squashes and much more. Copper fungicide will clear up the spots of mildew and help keep plants from ending up in the compost bin.

Water Wise

With the arrival of the monsoons, it’s easy to bypass the daily watering when the skies are dark and foreboding. But just remember guys, with great rain comes great responsibility! That means simply, don’t trust that the monsoon showers have effectively watered everything in your garden. A quick downpour might only saturate the topmost layer of soil, leaving roots thirsty and plants droopy. Checking the garden every evening after the daily showers is advisable, and a watering can will become your best friend as you search for dehydrated flora in the garden.

Also, on day when the monsoons decide to take the day off, make sure that watering systems are still up and working. Checking that flower and vegetable beds are well-watered makes for happier plants and a healthy garden. A layer of mulch will help with keeping the much needed moisture retained longer. And don’t forget about planters that lie under covered porches and overhangs, the rains will have trouble getting to these areas, so they will still require watering.

What to do?

  • Keep up with perennial maintenance, trimming broken branches, deadheading flowers, and cutting-back suckers will keep everything looking great.

  • It is time to fertilize your veggies, flowers and perennials, to make sure everyone has a boost to keep fruit and flowers going into the Fall.

  • Enjoy the summer, with the monsoon’s arrival, plants seem to double and triple overnight!

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