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Gardening: Dealing with challenges the weather brings


The rock and roll weather we have been experiencing this spring and over the winter  has really taken its toll on the trees and some of the perennials in our gardens. 

Pulmonaria,  aka lungwort, is pretty much a carefree shade garden plant when it gets enough moisture and decent drainage. But this spring we were short on rain and the irrigation system in the Stonehouse garden in Rochester was on the fritz and now the plants  are covered with powdery mildew. That’s a first in the eight years I have stewarded this garden. 

 While this fungal disease won’t kill the plants, the leaves are permanently scared so the best bet is to cut the plants back hard and in a few weeks they will produce a flush of new growth that will last throughout the summer. After the haircut, I’ll spray the whole area with an organic bio fungicide and repeat the application weekly until I’m sure the plants are clear of the disease. 

The fungicide I use from ARBER (growarber.com)  is an OMRI listed organic beneficial bacteria that won’t damage the beneficial organisms in the soil or the birds, bees and other pollinators we want to attract. It’s a new product available at English. Gardens. ARBER also makes an organic pesticide that can safely be used indoors or out  and can be used on most edibles and houseplants. 

After cutting back the plants I’ll wash my hand pruners and wipe them down with Clorox wipes,  so I don’t spread the disease to other plants. Lysol wipes also work. The cuttings will be bagged up and sealed in a plastic garbage bag and thrown in the trash. Do not put diseased plants or plant material in the compost bin. When working with diseased plants I also wear disposable latex gloves which will also go in the trash.

Cleaning and disinfecting your tools including shovels and rakes is also recommended after moving sod, bulk soil and amendments,  such as mulch and compost to prevent the spread of the dreaded Asian jumping worm. (Amynthas agrestis). The worms only live a single season, but their tiny cocoons are winter hardy. They make it through Minnesota winters. When cleaning your tools don’t forget  the soles of your garden shoes or boots. Be sure and get all the dirt out the ridges. 

Timely  tip: To find out more about the Asian jumping worm and other invasive threating our ecology  Google the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network at http://www.misin.msu.edu/states.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to Yardener.com and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.