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Archives for June 18, 2017

My Yard: Tips on where to place your plants





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Tips for dealing with garden pests

We’re getting lots of phone calls, emails and residents coming into the office with samples of diseased or damaged plant parts, soil to be tested for pH, spiders and a variety of insects in jars that have been found around or inside residences. Our busiest season has arrived.

Some of what you are finding are the same things I’m finding in my garden. I check my flower and vegetable beds every day just to see how things are doing, and these are some of the things I’m seeing. I have slime mold — not on my person thank goodness — but in one of the flower beds. I have also seen flea beetle damage, spittle bugs and mysterious little gold-colored snails that I have yet to identify, and have followed my nose to where stinkhorn mushrooms are growing.

You might think I have my work cut out for me, but it’s not a big deal. I consider slime mold a gift to enjoy seeing for as long as it lasts. It fascinates me, does no damage and will disappear when the weather conditions are no longer favorable to it. The same for the stinkhorns. I can’t call them a gift, but they are interesting and aren’t doing any harm. They too will disappear almost as quickly as they appeared.

If you notice a white, frothy substance on your plants, you have spittle bugs, aptly named because the immature bugs hide inside what looks like spit. They can be washed off with a strong stream of water.

Flea beetles have made an unbelievable number of small buckshot-like holes in my dianthus. I don’t have any crucifers, which are their favorite foods and include broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. I just plant tomatoes, basil and peppers.

The rabbits got the peppers, so those will have to be replanted, after I have a stern talk with them, of course. Peppers are a small price to pay for having the rabbits to entertain me. Besides, fencing would be the only way to keep the rabbits away from my vegetables, and I would never do that.

Almost all the pests in our gardens seem to appear out of nowhere, and we don’t notice them until we see damage to our plants. That’s nature for you. Full of surprises as we watch our plants thrive, only to find them damaged one day.

How we choose to deal with insects, rabbits, deer or any other garden pest depends on our tolerance for damage and is different for everyone. If you have a roadside stand at which you sell produce, your tolerance for damage will be much lower than if you grow for the joy it brings you.

Combined, pest pressure, a measure of how severe the problem is, and tolerance, determine what, if anything, you want to do about any pest problems you may be experiencing. Our goal at the extension office is to help you identify the problem, and give you options for dealing with it. Sometimes doing nothing would be an option, like with the slime mold and stinkhorns. Other times, you may need to take action to save your garden.

We tell you what actions would be most effective to accomplish your goal, while being mindful of the environment and the overall health of your garden. No judgment, just research-based information you can use to make decisions.

We are here as a resource for you, so keep those samples and questions coming.


Jolene Wallace is the consumer horticulture educator for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County. Contact her at 561-7450 or

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5 garden tips for the week starting June 17

Battling whiteflies

Continue an aggressive defense against those nasty giant whiteflies, the tiny white moth-like creatures that produce a thick mat of sticky white “hairs” on the underside of leaves of many plants, as their larval nymphs suck out plant juices. Leaves die and fall off, and plants become weaker and weaker. Control with strong water sprays on the undersides of leaves, every other day or so for one or two weeks, or until they give up and leave.

Daylily care

Daylily beauty can be prolonged by feeding with a complete fertilizer, first in spring then between now and midsummer, and irrigate with ample water. After the flowers fade away, new plantlets will develop on the stalks. In autumn remove the barely-rooted plantlets and put them in the ground for even more flowers next year. And if you don’t want more plants, remove the stalks after they finish flowering.

More mulch

Mulching makes a huge difference around landscape plants and in vegetable gardens. It holds water so the soil has a more uniform moisture level. It permits better availability of soil nutrients. It reduces weed germination, and helps to keep plant diseases from spreading. It looks good, too. However, it must be kept at a depth of about 3 inches or more and needs to be replenished at least once a year. Any mulch that does not contain redwood is ideal for roses and most other plants. Redwood mulches are best for pathways.

In the tall grass

Set your lawn mower blades to cut at 3 inches high. With longer blades of grass, the lawn will use less water and will be less likely to burn or die back in patches. Also, the longer blades will help keep out weeds.

Next step, guacamole

Now is a good time to plant an avocado tree. Make sure the soil is loose and well-drained. Irrigate immediately after planting, then let the soil dry out a bit before watering again. Overwatering drowns the roots and kills young trees. With proper care, your new tree will settle in and grow — and it may begin bearing avocados within two or three years.

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