Discover more from The Weekly Dirt with Jessica Damiano
Three things I couldn't garden without, and an easy way to save your plants from pests and diseases
After digging myself out from under aphids and scarlet lily beetles last week, things have quieted down in the garden.
The aphids were easily controlled with a couple of blasts of hose water. The beetles needed some hands-on treatment, so I knocked them off one by one into a cup of water, white vinegar and dish soap. After the third day of doing this, I stopped seeing them, so it seems I got them all, but I’m still keeping a watchful eye, just in case. You can see the damage they’ve caused in the photo above. They are beautiful, though, aren’t they?
I got a LOT of feedback after the June 25th edition about helping stressed perennials. Many of you wrote to ask for more information about the amendments I use to help new plants settle in (and also help new and existing plantings grow more vigorously).
So here are more details about the three products I always have on hand. They’re on my website’s My Favorite Things page, which you can access from the links below.
Mycorrhizal Inoculant (I use the DYNOMYCO brand because it’s highly concentrated)
I sprinkle plant roots with this living-fungus powder before planting (you can also mix it into the planting hole’s backfill). Mycorrhizae play a vital role in the soil’s microbiome, creating an environment for plant roots that stimulates their development and plant growth. My treated plants settle in faster, grow more quickly, fruit and flower better and never once have had transplant shock.
Reader Phyllis Cheskin of the Illinois landscaping firm PGC Ideas wrote that she also loves mycorrhizae, although she uses another brand called CPR: “I use [it] on both new plants and before transplanting. A small amount reduces the shock of moving from either cause, she said. “I’ve been using this for more than 10 years in my landscaping practice. My crews call it ‘magic dust.’”
Do I know exactly what’s in this? No (aside from vitamin B-1 and a mention of kelp on the label, the rest is proprietary). But this “Original Vitamin Solution,” developed to help WWII victory gardens thrive, works in my garden. Immediately after planting the mycorrhizae-treated roots, I water new plants with 1/4 teaspoon of SUPERthrive mixed into a gallon of water to give them a further boost. After that initial watering, I combine this product and Neptune’s Harvest, below, with a gallon of water, and it keeps my plants healthy and productive.
This cold-produced organic fish fertilizer is made from North Atlantic fish caught in Gloucester, Massachusetts. It helps establish roots, boosts plant vigor and production, and promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the soil. It’s available in several formulas, including Tomato & Veg and Rose & Flowering. I use the Tomato & Veg formula throughout my garden, as it’s also suitable for trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials (why buy more than one formulation when you don’t have to?) The product is concentrated, so the large, gallon-sized jug makes 256 gallons, which lasts years in my garden. I mix 1/8 cup into a gallon of water with 1/4 teaspoon of SUPERthrive, above, and apply about once a month.
📬 Ask Jessica
DEAR JESSICA: I need suggestions for more perennials to plant behind the hosta in this photo.
I enjoy your weekly emails and columns. Slowly but surely, I’m learning and am hopeful to plant some vegetables next year. —Al Quackenbush
DEAR AL: Sometimes simple is the best way to go. Three to five black-eyed Susans would look lovely as a backdrop to all these plantings (not just the hosta).
I can’t tell exactly how much space you have behind your other plants from your photo, but if you’ve got at least 18 inches, it should work. You’ll just have to move the montbretia (aka crocosmia) forward to the front of the bed (do this in the fall, after it has stopped blooming).
And I’m so glad you’re planning a vegetable garden for next year!
💡 If you do one thing this week…
Harvest green beans and summer squashes like zucchini as soon as they’re ready — the more you pick, the more the plant will continue to produce.
👏 Sunday shoutout
“My wife brought home these cannas, which have variegated and quite pretty foliage,” writes John Del Grosso of Islandia, NY. “We grow these in a large flower pot and will dig them up” at the end of the season.
I love the yellow-orange combination!
📰This week in my Associated Press gardening column
I write a weekly gardening column for the AP, so you might have seen my byline in your local paper (or news website) — wherever in the world you happen to be. In case you miss it, I’ll post the most recent here every week.
Before that: How to grow a pawpaw — the unsung, delicious, low-maintenance, native N. American fruit tree.
A week prior: How to grow a cutting garden for beautiful bouquets all season long.
You can read all my AP gardening columns here.
📚📺🎵 Random things I enjoyed this week
🚜I spent a wonderful day catching up with dear old friends while traipsing along the North Fork of Long Island. We visited a lavender farm, a winery, and shopping villages and had a lovely al fresco riverside meal.
📺I watched the entire Thai Netflix series “Delete” in one sitting! There’s just something about a foreign thriller/horror/sci-fi show I can’t seem to resist.
This week’s newsletter was made possible by generous support from Beth H. Brenner, Al Q. and readers who wish to remain anonymous. THANK YOU!
This newsletter is member-supported
I’m a freelance writer juggling various gigs to make a living. I spend hours every week writing The Weekly Dirt, answering your questions and sharing advice to help you achieve the garden of your dreams. As much as I enjoy it, I have bills to pay, so can’t afford to work for free. If you work for a paycheck, I’m sure you understand.
I considered putting The Weekly Dirt behind a paywall and charging a subscription fee, but although I am reserving that as a last resort, I’d rather not go that route because I understand that not everyone can afford even a nominal fee, and I genuinely love helping people learn how to garden better.
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📧 How’m I doing?
I welcome your comments and suggestions, so please send them along — as well as any topics you’d like to see covered and questions you’d like answered in the Ask Jessica section.