Curb Appeal: Aphids, fungus, and other garden war stories

It’s getting colder, so maybe we could all use a glimpse of summer before it’s over: Aphids, fungus, and other garden war stories

Curb appeal-improving renovations topped the list of what most appeals to buyers this year, and what will get you the best return on your initial investment. One way of boosting curb appeal is to have a thriving planted or potted garden.

I started a potted garden this year. Organic basil, mint, thyme and dill and parsley sprouted from seeds that I planted myself while dreaming of homemade pesto from my own garden. I tended, watered, weeded and acidified with special mixes purchased at garden centers in order to provide the plants with everything they needed.

Watering the family household planters was a chore my sister and I would fight over or rather, argued over who should have to do it, spending a half hour each day pulling around a heavy watering can in and out of the kitchen sink. But watering my own potted garden each day was something I enjoyed.

Pots, unlike standard in-the-ground gardens generally need daily watering and properly aerated soil that makes up for the lack of drainage ordinarily provided by the natural soil. And, they can add a low-maintenance and inviting splash of colour to any patio or front porch.

An inquisitive bumblebee stopped by to say hello and to visit our hanging basket of pansies, my absolute favourite flower, soon after we installed a bracket strong enough to properly hang it from the wall. With their oblivious smiling little faces and vibrant colours, they were the first to go. My garden was thriving, abundant and enjoyable for approximately three days, until the pansies and several other plants were absolutely infested with aphids.

Despite having a mother with a degree in horticulture and decades of gardening experience, I turned to the one resource which would offer the most accurate information on how to wage war against these little pests – the internet. The internet told me to use a mixture of vegetable oil, dish soap and water in order to suffocate the aphids. However, the oil and the sunlight mingled a little too enthusiastically and turned the leaves of the treated plants black and crunchy, having effectively fried. Apparently, just water and dish soap is a far better alternative that will kill soft-bodied bugs like aphids without harming the plants themselves. Alternatively, bags of ladybugs can be purchased online or at garden centers. A foggy childhood memory recalls once seeing them in the grocery store produce section, but I’ve been told I’m making that up. These ladybugs can then be unleashed to create a localized yet savage massacre in your own garden, obliterating pest insects with no chemicals or poisons. After which, the ladybugs will simply fly away.

Aside from aphids, several herb plants developed strange black spots that the internet tells me is a fungus. It’s slowly spreading to other plants, and a trip to home depot and the strongest fungicide I can find will possibly render these herbs far from organic, but salvageable.

The struggle continues, and my current focus is on keeping my infomercial blueberry plants from dying in a giant pot of garden soil, which as I’ve been told, should have been potting soil with chunks of perlite or vermiculite mixed in to create spaces within the soil for airflow.

Gardening is far more than placing seeds or plants in dirt and watering them when needed. It’s a constant learning experience and battle against pests and the elements but is a thoroughly rewarding experience, the effort of which will pay for itself in added curb appeal.

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