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Gardening with Laurie: Horticultural cornmeal can prevent fungal problems

By Victoria Advocate
July 7, 2010 at 2:07 a.m.

Laurie Garretson

By Laurie Garretson

It's the first week of July, and we were blessed with several inches of rain. Most of it was a slow steady rain, the best kind to get. Gardeners where needing rain, in fact many had been complaining about large cracks in the ground.

Rain is good, but several days of humid, rainy weather can lead to fungal problems. To prevent fungal problems, apply some of the horticultural cornmeal. Cornmeal can also be used on any other plants that might be susceptible to fungal diseases.

With rain comes weeds. Be sure to keep all flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, and any bare soil mulched at all times. A couple of inches of mulch will help to keep the weeds to a minimum.

This is a good time to fertilize your lawn with an organic fertilizer. An addition of some Greensand can help to green-up anything, as well as add trace minerals

Now is the time to plant those pumpkin seeds if you want them ready by Halloween.

If your crape myrtles have finished blooming, go ahead and trim off the flower heads to encourage a second flush of blooms. Keep a watch out for powdery mildew. Even the mildew-resident varieties are prone to fungal problems. Remember, cornmeal can help you with this problem.

With rain, also comes mosquitoes. Walk around your yard and make sure there's no standing water. Mosquitoes only need a tablespoon of water to produce more than four dozen larvae. Empty all standing water or use the mosquito bits or dunks in ponds or bird baths to safely kill all the larvae. Dry garlic products can be spread around your landscape at one to two pounds per 1,000 square foot, to repel mosquitoes.

This is a great time to apply beneficial nematodes to your landscape. They will help keep out fleas, grubs, chinch bugs, chiggers, ants, and to some degree, even ticks. For tick control, I'd also suggest using Diatomaceous Earth and orange oil along with the nematodes for the best results.

If your vegetable garden is between crops, now is a good time to solarize it. Solarizing is a good way to get rid of pests that are in the soil and weeds. July and August's hot weather is needed for this task. To kill common weeds and grasses, you'll need to first water the area thoroughly. If you are after tougher types of plants, such as Bermuda grass, you should first spray down the area with some orange oil and 20 percent vinegar right before solarization.

After soaking the area with water or the orange oil and vinegar solution, cover the entire area with clear plastic. Using 4 mil to 6 mil plastic is best. Secure all edges with bricks, rocks, boards or whatever you can come up with. It is important to get all the edges held down well to help keep the soil really hot and to create a greenhouse effect. As the sun shines on the clear plastic, heat will build up underneath and that will bake the weeds and the top layer of soil. Leave the plastic in place for at least a couple of weeks. Then you can remove the plastic and work the soil to bring any roots to the surface. Once again, water and cover the area for another couple of weeks. This process can be repeated for as long as you see weeds and the weather stays hot enough. After solarizing is completed, add compost and natural fertilizer back to the soil.

Until next time, let's try to garden with nature, not against it, and maybe all your weeds will become wildflowers.

Laurie Garretson is a Victoria gardener and nursery owner. Send your gardening questions to laurie@vicad.com or in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77902.

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