SIDNEY — Ann Heeley presented a program, “Beauty and the Pests,” to fellow members of the Rainbow Gardeners during their recent meeting.
“Ninety-two to 95 percent of all visitors to our gardens are beneficial,” she told the group. “It’s the other 5 to 7 percent that drive us crazy by eating our fruits and vegetables, damaging our flowers, trees and shrubs, and spreading diseases. The ‘good’ guys, the beauties, include many insects, bugs, worms, birds, frogs and toads, bats, snakes and microscopic organisms. It’s important to remember that unless impending damage is severe, indiscriminate spraying can kill many beauties along with the bad guys.”
Heeley advised that practicing good gardening habits is important.
“Grow the right plant in the right place,” she said. “Remove diseased plants and buy only healthy, disease-resistant varieties. Walk through your garden frequently to monitor its health and growth. Disinfect tools to prevent the spread of disease. Use drip irrigation to keep leaves dry and disease-free, conserve moisture and put water where it is most needed.”
Compost and leaf mold are great fertilizers, she noted, and gardeners can save money by making them.
“Clean up debris at the end of each growing season to avoid harboring over-wintering pests and prevent the spread of disease,” Heeley advised. “Never compost diseased plants and many weeds. The heat inside a compost pile may not be high enough to kill weed seeds or disease organisms. Healthy soil produces healthy plants, which in turn encourages beneficial visitors to the garden. The results of a soil test can help you make good decisions in terms of what you need to add to your garden soil.”
To attract beneficial visitors to a garden, Heeley suggested planting a variety of flowers, fruit-bearing shrubs and trees, vegetables and herbs.
“Plants that bloom or produce nectar at different times of the year will ensure a constant food supply for our garden friends. Consider adding a water source such as a pond, fountain, or bird bath to encourage birds and frogs. Plants are never absolutely perfect, so expect a little damage at times, and don’t obsess over a few bug bites. Learn to appreciate the beauty of your garden in whatever form it takes,” Heeley said.
Hostesses for the March meeting were Patt Van Skiver and Carole Carruthers. It was reported that the theme for the 2016 Shelby County Fair Flower Show will be Shelby County Treasures. Specific design categories will feature landmarks and places that represent Shelby County.
The spring plant sale will be May 28 and June 4, at the farmers’ market on the north side of the courtsquare.
Nancy Morgan is planning the next design study, scheduled for the last week of April. Multi-rhythmic and transparency designs will be taught. The cost of the three-hour lesson will be $10, and students do not need to be members of a garden club to attend.
Julie Gilardi provided the following gardening tips:
• Start feeding and repot houseplants.
• Avoid walking on wet soil in the garden.
• Get soil tested.
• Start some seeds indoors; check the seed packet for start dates.
• Cut back tall grasses if you haven’t already done so; tie clumps together first with heavy rope or a bungee cord; use electric hedge trimmers for thick grasses.
• Check shrubs for winter damage and prune if necessary.
• Spray fruit trees.