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Cleaning Up Summer's Dirty Dozen

by Lynn Hunt

Cleaning up summer’s dirty dozen.

The scourges of summer have arrived—all those ugly garden nuisances we attempt to avoid, generally without success. I’ve dubbed them the Dirty Dozen and have put together a few tips to help banish these blights and get us back on the right gardening path.


Have your roses lost their leaves?  Similar sightings all over the country can be blamed on unusually severe cases of blackspot. Often spores survive the winter and the fungus gets off to an early start during the spring. Clean up and destroy damaged leaves, then spray a fungicide according to label directions until the problem is under control. Spray early in the morning to keep from damaging plants during hot spells.


If you’ve managed to avoid blackspot, chances are you’ve been plagued by mildew. Cool wet springs create ideal conditions for the formation of this disfiguring fungus that targets roses, zinnias, crepe myrtle and bee balm.  Remove infected leaves on the ground and prune out damaged areas. Then apply a fungicide recommended by your Growise expert to prevent further infection.


The first tendency is to launch a full-scale chemical attack as soon as beetles are spotted. There is a more sensible treatment. Mix ¼ to ½ teaspoon of Sevin with water in a quart mister bottle and spot treat problem areas. (Be sure to mark the bottle For Garden Use Only.)  This method allows you to send beetles to an early grave without harming beneficial insects.


If your cukes, squash, cantaloupes and watermelons haven’t been bugged already, they soon will be. Cucumber beetles transmit bacteria with which can kill plants. Most horticultural experts recommend controlling the pesky beetles by spraying with Sevin or rotenone.

5.      SLUGS

I love the Far Side cartoon which shows a family of slugs in their car heading for the Great Salt Lake. The caption reads: “Slug vacation disasters.” If only we could round up all the slimy creatures in our gardens and send them to Utah. Unfortunately we keep trying things like salt and pans of beer to keep them in check. Here are a couple more natural solutions that might help: try placing a ring of crushed egg shells, sand or wood ashes around the affected plants.


Uneven watering and/or a lack of calcium can be the culprits here. Tomatoes require one inch of rain per week so be sure to water deeply—don’t just sprinkle the surface.


The lack of rain, humidity and high temperatures can leave patches of lawn looking sad. Raise your mower blades during the dog days of summer.


These ugly customers can defoliate a plant in a jiffy. Seek, pick off and destroy.


Spider mites are not insects at all but minute arachnid relatives of spiders that take up residence on the undersides of foliage—particularly roses.  Hot dry weather is an invitation for a mite bonanza. If you suspect a problem, shake an affected leaf over a sheet of white paper on a sunny day.  If you see little critters moving on the paper, rush to get your water wand and spray the underside of the foliage daily until the problem disappears.  Severe cases may require a pesticide. Water early in the day so foliage has a chance to dry before dark or you will need to refer to items one and two above.

10.     APHIDS

Again, hot weather will allow these annoying pests to enjoy a banner year.  Mix water and dishwashing soap in a small spray bottle and spritz the suckers till they fall off and die.

11.     BAGWORMS

If you don’t want to see your evergreens defoliated or possibly destroyed, bag up bagworms and destroy them.


Remember last summer when you vowed not to plant too many squash, tomatoes—you fill in the name—ever again? Here’s a tip: take a photo of the stacks of stuff you can’t give away and post it on the fridge come planting time next year. Maybe modern science and common sense can help us can get rid of powdery mildew, hornworms and aphids. But there is no known cure for overplanting.

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