Gardener's Grapevine 2014.01.22

Well I am sure you all can agree that our weather has gone mad lately. Cold is beautiful if it stays cold and warm is ok if it fluctuates a little, but these crazy temperature swings are not good for anything, including our sinuses or plants. It can stress trees and plants if it turns warm for too long then swings back to freezing and below temps. I don’t remember a winter such as this one in a very long time.

As I sat in the front room Sunday playing on the floor with my eight-month-old grandson Max, I looked out the bay window and saw the snow blowing down Main Street. All I can say is cold shiver down the spine. My grandson pulled himself up to look out the window, looked at me and started yelling. I kinda felt the same way.

I’ve been thinking about phlox a lot lately. It is easily one of my favorite perennials. I’ve said before that I have about seven or eight varieties of the tall phlox and two or three of the creeping. The tall phlox is so very pretty and blooms for a long time. The most fragrant is the white. My favorite is the pink swirled. Phlox is one of those plants that will propagate itself, but not at an alarming invasive rate. I use it to hide the chain link fence that protects our vegetable garden. I love walking down the brick path by it and getting a whiff of the sweet fragrance it produces.

Phlox is not difficult to grow, but it does however have two enemies. The first and most prevalent is powdery mildew. It is a mildew that grows on the plant itself. It looks exactly like the name implies, like someone dumped powder on it, and can kill it if not treated correctly. To kill this killer mildew, spray the plant with wettable sulfur every two weeks.

The second enemy is nematodes or roundworms. Once they attack the plant they are very hard to get rid of and there are only two treatments I could find. The first is to use a pesticide designed specifically for this type of nematode or you can use organic mulch which usually has nematode predators in it. Organic mulch is usually best anyway, because it rejuvenates your soil in many ways. If the nematode problem does not resolve with these two options you will have to dig up the plant and soil and dispose of it or your entire garden will be infected.

As I sit here looking at the cold frozen north all I can think is that spring can’t come soon enough. As I said last week, January is the month to plan and I am thinking of the changes I will be making out in the gardens. Either next week or the following I am going to start some of my seedlings. Whatever​  you are planning have fun.