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Help Me! Help My Garden! #3 Bugs and Berries

Today we tackle aphids, and planting strawberries and blueberries.

Bugs on my roses!  Q: My roses are starting to bud, and I can’t wait to see them bloom, but now the buds are covered with tiny bugs. What are they, and how to I get rid of them?

A: I am afraid your roses have aphids on them. The tender buds are these insects’ favorite treats, and if left untreated, they will suck the life out of the buds. These soft bodied insects are usually pale green or brown and will suck the sap from almost any plant. There are several non-chemical/less toxic methods to controlling them.

  • A good blast with a hose will easily knock them off the plants. Do this in the early morning so the leaves will have time to dry. You will need to repeat this often.
  • Lady bugs LOVE to eat aphids. Most nursery centers sell little containers of lady bugs. Sprinkle them on the affected plants at dusk (so they don’t fly away), and let them enjoy the buffet. Be warned though, the containers hold hundreds of lady bugs, so if you have a small yard, share some with a neighbor.
  • Insecticidal soap spray. Insecticidal soaps are great at controlling soft bodied insects and you can safely use them on vegetable gardens as well. Purchase a pre-made product or make your own by mixing 1 Tablespoon of liquid soap or 1 quart of water in a spray bottle. Spray the leaves and buds once a day until the infestation is gone.

No space for strawberries? Q: I love fresh strawberries and want to try to grow them, but I don’t have a yard. What do I need to know to grow strawberries in pots?

A: You can definitely grow strawberries in pots or raised beds as long as you have full sun, water, and a high quality potting mix. Pots are also great as they encourage the berries to spill over the sides instead of sitting on damp ground getting moldy. Try a traditional strawberry pot like the one pictured above, which usually come in terracotta or glazed ceramic. It’s important to ensure adequate water gets to the cups in the sides of the pot. You can have a piece of PVC pipe cut a couple inches higher than the pot, drill holes up and down the length of the pipe and insert it into the pot prior to filling with potting mix and strawberry seedlings. Water the the pot through the pipe, which will ensure the water gets distributed throughout the pot. Add a bit of organic all-purpose or berry specialty fertilizer every 3-4 weeks during the growing season. Pick your berries as soon as they are ripe and enjoy!

Blue for blueberries. Q: I tried to plant blueberry bushes in my garden last year but the leaves all turned yellow and died. What did I do wrong?

A: Yellowing leaves (also called Chlorosis) is the result of iron deficiency in the plants. Blueberries need iron just like people. Most soil has plenty of iron, but blueberries need acidic soil with a pH of between 4 and 5 in order for the plant to take up the iron from the soil. You can buy a soil testing kit from a garden center or have your soil professionally tested by a soil testing lab. If the result shows that the pH of the soil is too high, you can add peat moss or an acidic fertilizer to amend it. If you only have a couple of bushes to plant, why not plant them in containers. Choose an acidic potting mix (usually intended for camellias, azaleas, and gardenias), place the pot in a sunny area, and ensure the bush is watered regularly.

How can I help you help your garden?

Aphids can suck the life out of roses.Don’t let potted strawberries dry out!Blueberries thrive on acidic soil.