Zinnias – My Favorites

While I have grown zinnias for many years, almost all of them suffer from bad mildew at some point in the season. Many times, they look so bad that I end up pulling them from the garden.

I have found three versions which seem to be resistant to mildew.

Zinnia – Forecast from Burpee.com $5.99 for 50 seeds.
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I started these in mid-June and they not only have been blooming ever since, but even though they have been surrounded by plants with mildew, these flowers have not caught the disease. They claim to have different colors, but most of mine are shades of pink. I direct seeded these into the garden.

Zinnia angustifolia – Yellow – Summerhill Seeds. $2.50 for 50 seeds.

zinnia-angustifolia-800These zinnias only grow 12-18 inches tall and don’t develop mildew.
They seem to come true from seed and they are easy to germinate.  I planted some seeds in my beds and they came up just fine.

 My final favorite is Profusion Zinnia.

zinnia-profusion-800Park Seed or your favorite nursery will probably have these. They have larger flowers than Angustifolia, but are about the same height. You can see the difference in the above photo.

 

 

 

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2% Make It

I have received a couple of emails recently wondering why their caterpillars were not doing well or dying.

One of the experts,Dr. Karen Oberhauser, in a recent Monarch program says that only 2% of Monarchs make it from the egg to butterfly stage. She mainly talks about insects and parasitoids, but there are also diseases and even the milkweed liquid can kill the small caterpillars.

If you do want to increase the odds of the Monarchs, you can raise them yourself. It’s a fun process and fairly easy to do.

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Soil Mixes

kellogg-web2

I noticed that Home Depot is carrying a number of Kellogg brand soil mixes, so I decided to buy all three and see what the difference is between them.

  1. Raised Bed and Potting Mix – $8.27/2cu.ft. – This mix had 2.5 cups of large wood particles out of 12 cups. Other than that, it is similar to #3 – the Premium Potting Mix.
  2. Garden Soil – This is not Top Soil. At $6.97, it is the cheapest, but is more like a nice mulch, not a soil for planting. it has 4 cups of large wood chips out of 12 cups. It does not contain perlite.
  3. Potting Mix – Premium Mix for Outdoor Containers. This seems like a nice mix for use in a pot or in the garden. Out of 12 cups, it only had 1 cup of large wood chips and perlite. This is my favorite and at $6.47/1.5 cu.Ft., it seems like a good buy.

All three contain tiny amounts of fertilizer, so you will have to add your own fertilizer to these mixes.
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Kellogg – All Natural Topper – a new product I just discovered. Unfortunately it contains 4 cups of large particles out of 12 cups. $6.27/1.5 cu. ft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

natures-care-600

Here is another brand from Miracle Grow – Natures Care – organic raised bed soil. Unfortunately, it is about 40% wood particles. It would make a nice mulch. It has a little nutrition, but not much. It also doesn’t have perlite.

 

 

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Aphid Video

Here is a video on aphids done by the naturalist and videographer Jo Alwood.

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Aphids – Dead as a Doornail

It always amazes me how I can have thousands of aphids on my milkweed one week and ten days later, they are all dead and gone.

August 11th I wrote about our aphid infestation later in the summer.
August 21st, I went out and found them all dead or gone.
Most people give the credit to predators, but I have never seen that many ladybugs and lacewings in my garden to complete the annihilation of the aphids.

My theory is that since the aphids are all genetically identical, that all it takes is one disease to come in and wipe them out.

Netflix has a great video on aphids if you’re interested.
David Attenborough’s Natural Curiosities | Season 2 – Episode 1.

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Monarchs and Climate Change

This recent video is by Dr. Karen Oberhauser, one of the leaders in Monarch butterfly research. It’s a bit technical at times, but she does explain topics so that most people can understand. Please FF to the 8 minute mark.

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Aphids and Monarchs – Don’t Panic!

monarch-aphids-600

St. Louis has been blessed over the last few weeks with lots of Monarchs flying around our gardens. There are plenty of eggs and caterpillars to keep the next generation going and with milkweed also comes aphids.

If you look at the recent picture, you will see not only a beautiful Monarch butterfly, but also lots of aphids. This happens every year, but this year the aphid population has waited to explode. Normally, they come out in June and are gone by July. This year they waited until July and August.

The normal response of most gardeners is to rush to their local big box store and get the most deadly pesticide they can find. They then spray their milkweed over and over until every aphid is dead.

If you love butterflies, this is exactly the WRONG thing to do. Any pesticide that will kill aphids will also kill Monarchs in the egg and caterpillar stage. I’ve recently heard of people spraying their milkweed with Insecticidal Soap. While this will certainly kill the aphids, it will also kill any Monarch caterpillars who are trying to make it into the butterfly stage.

You could try and use a high power water hose to wash them off, but that is only a very short term answer and they will quickly find their way back to your plants.

The response I have is to do nothing at all. Aphids, while not aesthetically pleasing are not hurting the plants or the caterpillars. Aphids are also food for goldfinch and hummingbirds.

When you do find yourself getting upset over aphids in the garden, take a deep breath and try to relax – this is all part of Mother Nature’s plan.

 

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