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           Now that the gardening season is fully upon us, the questions are flying in. Some people leave there gardening questions on my message board, but most e-mail me and there are those days there seems to be no limit to the e-mail I get.
          Many questions have to do with the identification of garden pests.  I’ve heard all kinds of stories of strange looking bugs destroying one vegetable or another, but my favorite story was from a lady in Michigan, her 75-year-old husband had been the gardener for years. Last summer, two years after his passing she decided to give it a try.
          It was her husband’s hobby, and she had nothing more to do with the back yard garden than cooking up the vegetables he brought in. In her heart this was a way of feeling closer to him, so she employed her grandson to till, ready and plant the small garden plot, soon things were growing.
          Around the beginning of August, she found these large ‘ladybugs’. Remembering that her husband had said that these bugs are beneficial to all plants, she took a jar and went around collecting them, leaving enough behind to protect the plants she was taking them off.  In no time she had spread them everywhere.
          A few weeks later, her sister and brother-in-law arrived for a visit; they are farmers from Iowa.  She proudly took them on a tour of her garden, everything was doing fine, except for the small, almost wiped out potato plants, covered with ‘ladybugs’.
          She said they rolled over laughing when her brother-in-law explained that those were potato bugs, not ladybugs.  I bent over laughing reading her e-mail.
          The truth is there are more questions asking how to identify and destroy garden pests than any other kind of question. It’s so encouraging how many people are becoming aware of the difference between organic and chemical choices and are looking for organic remedies to their problems.
          The first thing to remember is that most insects are beneficial and that gardens that have healthy living soil produce strong plants that do not attract destructive insects. A tour through a garden will quickly reveal which plants are weak and undernourished, these will be the ones covered with sucking insects, such as aphids.
          There are white aphids, black aphids and some that look almost clear. Round and soft, they live on plant stems and under their leaves.
There are some varieties of ants that actually raise aphids for the sweet, milky substances they produce, somewhat like humans raise cows for their milk. When there are a lot of large black ants running around your garden, there is a good possibility there are aphids being farmed for their ‘milk’. For years, I fought an invasion of black ants in my greenhouse, once the ants were gotten rid of, so were the aphids.
At the time I was growing eggplants and sweet pepper, plants favored by aphid colonies. By coating the last five inches of every plant with Vaseline, and removing all lower leaves, making it impossible for the ants to get up the plant and the aphids to get down, the ants were unable to reach their ‘cattle’ and the aphids were not able to descend the plants without getting trapped in the Vaseline.
          Also by keeping the ground well weeded, and extremely dry between plants, it became an inhospitable hot spot in hundred degree temperatures; making running from plant to plant a real effort, the ants gave up and moved out.                                                                  
          Remember that often all you need is a strong blast of water to dislodge aphids from most plant leaves and stems.
Can you grow an organic rose?
          Roses are a challenge to grow in our moist, often wet climate. Black spot, a fungus, appears on wet foliage and can be controlled by reducing the amount of water and adjusting the time you. When rosebushes need a drink, water ONLY at the base of each rose bush, avoiding the leaves altogether. If you must use a hose and spray them down, do so only early in the day, giving the plants a chance to dry out quickly.
          At the end of the growing season, to prevent black spot from over-wintering, rake up and burn all the leaves that have fallen around your rose bushes.
          Here is an insecticidal soap that works real good  on rose bushes;
          1-gallon water
          1 tablespoon rubbing alcohol (helps dissolve soap flakes)
          2-3 tablespoons Ivory soap flakes
Mix together at least 24 hours before using to allow time for the soap flakes to dissolve, shake well, let settle and spray.
          Never spray roses or other plants with soap or oil sprays when it is above 85 degrees, it’s best to spray in the early morning hours.
Is there an organic remedy for Moles and voles?  
          Yes, there are even organic ways of controlling voles and moles.   This organic spray can be used on lawns; the critters hate it.
          Mix together;
          2-ounces of urine
          1-tablespoon of alum
          4-ounces of castor oil
          1-cup of Murphy’s Oil Soap
Now dilute with water in these ratios:
          1 tsp. per quart of water
          1 tbsp. per gallon of water
          1 cup per 20 gallons of water
Place into a lawn sprayer and spray the areas suspected of being infected.