What’s In Your Garden Potpourri?

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Last winter, I brought one of the frothy egg masses of the praying mantis into the greenhouse. 

Within three weeks, 100 wee mantes emerged from foam, each with an appetite larger than its body. One tackled a sowbug 20 times its size the day it was born. The brawl was intense, but the mantis won.

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My greatest worry was appeasing their prodigious appetite. The mantises started eating each other when the sowbugs, aphids, millipedes, and flies were completely eradicated. 

Before the weather arrived warm enough to make releasing them out-of-doors safe, cannibalism had accounted for 35 of them.

Removing The Egg Clusters

Have you ever seen a more unpleasant sight than a wild cherry, apple, or hawthorn devoid of foliage in June and encased in millions of yards of dirty white webs extruded by thousands of tent caterpillars that desecrate much of the countryside each spring?

I’ve been chagrined that garden clubs, both men’s and women’s, have passed up the opportunity to make the elimination of this scourge a project.

Collecting the egg masses before the caterpillars hatch in late winter is a satisfying and stimulating activity. 

Both children and adults will benefit, for a while, by peeling off egg clusters; they will also be discerning things in nature never before seen by them.

Then they will be publicly rewarded for doing what every property owner should consider their annual chore. It’s a pity the buck must be passed to organizations.

Fertilization Of Lawns

Last year, a few oil distribution companies, anxious to keep their tank trucks busy during the summer, cleaned out the tanks and filled them with soluble fertilizer and water, ready to devote the summer to tank truck fertilization of lawns at so much a square foot.

This year many more companies will do the same, hoping their heavy investment in oil delivery equipment will earn money the year around.

Whether this becomes a good business or a racket remains to be seen. Concentrated soluble fertilizers, now generally accepted by the public, must be applied in solution. 

Oil tanks hold water, so what is more natural than their use for dosing lawns at so much a gallon?

If this catches on, fuel oil men will pinch-hit as lawn specialists. More importantly, all fertilizers must meet state labeling requirements when packaging sales. 

Lahiri, the transaction takes place at the end of a hose; who will determine whether the formula is as stated and whether it remains constant for the five or ten lawns fed from one tank load?

Before signing a contract to have your lawns so fed, it would pay to investigate carefully and perhaps hesitate until more is known about the value of such fertilization.

Dead Snail Tape

Dead snail tape is the name of a new device for controlling snails and slugs in the garden, Coleraine, or greenhouse. 

A strip of heavy paper contains metaldehyde in a gelatinous bonding matrix. As the snail or slug travels over it, some chemicals are absorbed through its feet, soon finishing the beast.

The nursery workers of the St. Louis area are cooperating with the Missouri Botanical Garden in setting up a landscape counseling service to benefit new homeowners of fast-growing suburban St. Louis. 

I can think of several other sections where such a service is needed.

Fungus In Cinnamon Trees

Root rot of many plants is caused by Plifiophthora cinnamon, a fungus first discovered on cinnamon trees in Sumatra. Research has isolated it in boxwood, rhododendrons, azaleas, pine, yew, chestnut, viburnum, and many other trees and shrubs.

It is more often found on plants that have been moved than on natural growth and, most often, on those plants that have been set deep or are growing in poorly drained soil. Though P. cinnamomi is common, every precaution should be taken to prevent its spread.

Nurserymen should be on guard to prevent contamination of propagating and plant beds. The use of light, well-drained soil is important. Control is difficult. 

Improving soil drainage helps. Planting at the proper depth is most important. Removing heavy accumulation of leases around rhododendrons, laurels, and azaleas will reduce the chances of injury from Phytophthora.

Sweetgum Blight

Die-back of sweet gum, also called sweetgum blight, has pathologists stymied. The first symptoms often appear in mid-summer. 

The infected tree may die the first year after being attacked or live for several, gradually deteriorating. Over 50% percent of the sweet gums in some areas have died within six years.

I speak of infection, yet there is no definite evidence of infection. No fungus that might be responsible has been isolated. 

Suppose it is a virus that has not been verified. Feeding has not been effective in checking die-back, nor has the removal of dying branches.

44659 by H. G. M.