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Three Lessons

by Norma Boswell, Tri-City Rose Society, Master Rosarian


Lesson #1: PROTECT THE POLLINATORS.

I stay reasonably healthy by eating fresh fruits and veggies like peaches, cucumbers and blueberries. They are yummy natural “medicines.” But I know that these delicious additions to my diet would not be available without bees!


Pollinators are responsible for one-third of the food that humans eat. Pollinators are precious! Despite their vital role in keeping our planet thriving, bees are under attack by pesticide use, habitat loss, and climate change. The fact is crystal clear...we must protect our pollinators!


Over the past 15 years, bee colonies have been dying at an increasing rate. Last year alone, there was a nearly 40 percent decline in the honeybee population. Because colonies are dwindling, research and action are vital. We need to do something about bee-killing pesticides (neonicotinoids) and environmental threats.


At the very least, we must read product labels and reject bee-killing pesticides.


Lesson #2: PROTECT THE ROSE GARDEN IN A GENTLE WAY.

Plant some herbs that contain natural substances in their leaves, flowers, or roots which repel certain insects without the use of chemicals.


For example, garlic (Allium sativum), ornamental allium (Allium sativum), and chives (Allium schoenoprasum) exude strong scents which confuse and deter aphids and other pests.

Mint (Mentha), dill (Anethum graveolens), cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), parsley (Petroselinum), thyme (Thymus), feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium), sage (Salvia), oregano (Origanum), and anise-hyssop (Agastache) deter pests, especially aphids.

Lavender (Lavandula) and catmint (Nepeta) deter rabbits from eating roses. Yarrow (Achillea) attracts ladybugs, which are natural predators of aphids.


Lesson #3: RESPECT THE SOIL.

It’s amazing! A single teaspoon (1 gram) of rich garden soil can hold up to one billion bacteria, several yards of fungal filaments, several thousand protozoa, and scores of nematodes, according to Kathy Merrifield, a retired nematologist at Oregon State University.

Good soil contains networks of insects, worms, fungi, mycelium, mycorrhizae and thousands of one-celled organisms...including protozoans, some smaller flatworms, nematodes, rotifers, and tardigrades (eight- legged invertebrates)...most of which benefit plant roots. These networks allow roots to convert organic and inorganic materials into accessible nutrients.

We can’t see most of these valuable creatures just by looking at the soil, so we must imagine their presence...and do no harm to the soil.


Plant and soil biologists recommend disturbing the soil as little as possible. When you dig a hole, dig it no bigger than it needs to be. Plant the smallest size rootball that will achieve your purpose. The smaller your plant is when it goes into the ground, the better chance it has to adapt and grow strong, and the less damage you will do to its living soil-support system.


Keep your weight off wet soil. When you need to work in a wet garden, place boards down to distribute your weight, thus avoiding soil compaction.


Always mulch, preferably with organic materials, because organic mulches will eventually be broken down and eaten by that interconnected network of soil workers.


If the leaves are healthy, let the leaf litter from your plants stay in place. Those leaves contain nutrients the plant needs for next year’s growth.

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