Five things I won't miss about summer

Mums remind a gardener of five things about summer she won't miss.

Courtesy of Lynn Hunt
Mums have been popular for 2,500 years, but not at my house. They're a sign of fall -- and I'm not ready. But I won't miss some things about summer.

I’ve never been much of a chrysanthemum fan. For starters, they smell funny. Many of the colors tend to be gaudy. And the blooms don’t age gracefully.

This time of year I really get annoyed when I see hundreds of them lined up in front of roadside stands and garden centers. I know what the mum sightings
mean: I am being pushed into fall when I’m not ready to let go of summer.

Still, even though I am a chrysanthemum curmudgeon, holding on to the last few warm days as tightly as possible, there are some ugly garden nuisances I won’t be sorry to see disappear.

1. Blackspot

Due to family illness, I was away a great deal of the summer and wasn’t able to keep up my usual spraying routine. Needless to say, this nasty fungus took up residence on the leaves of many of my roses. Black spot is really a demoralizing sight, so I pruned out most of the bad sections, then cleaned up and destroyed damaged leaves. Now, the new foliage is looking shiny and healthy.

However, like many gardeners across the country, I’m thinking about curtailing the spraying next year and trying more organic approaches to disease prevention. I’ll be investigating several different techniques over the winter and will lay out my grand plan here in plenty of time for spring.

2. Slugs

I love the Far Side cartoon that shows a family of slugs in their car heading for the Great Salt Lake. The caption reads: “Slug vacation disasters.” If only we could round up all the slimy creatures in our gardens and send them to Utah.

I don’t like the idea of sprinkling salt on them, and my husband thinks setting out pans of beer is a big waste, so next year we may try a couple of other remedies I’ve heard about involving crushed egg shells and wood ashes.

3. Fruit flies

According to the University of Kentucky entomology department, fruit flies can be a problem in some areas all year, but they're especially common in the late summer because they are attracted to ripened or fermenting fruits and vegetables.

Duh. I am still trying to get rid of them in the kitchen where everything from a fading rose in a vase to bananas hidden in the microwave seems to be fair game. In the bathroom they are drawn to discarded Mint Medley tea bags.

4. Spider mites

In doing some research, I’ve learned that spider mites are not insects at all, but minute arachnid relatives of spiders that take up residence on the undersides of foliage, including roses. Unfortunately, hot dry weather is an invitation for a mite bonanza.

If I suspect I have a problem, I shake a leaf over a sheet of white paper on a sunny day. If little critters start moving on the paper, I have mites. I pull out my trusty water wand and spray the undersides of the foliage daily until the problem disappears.

5. A zillion zucchinis

Remember last summer when you vowed not to plant too many squash, tomatoes -- you fill in the name of the vegetable -- ever again? I personally don’t have this problem, but lots of my friends do.

Here’s a tip: Take a photo of the stacks of stuff you can’t give away and post it on the fridge come planting time next year. Maybe modern science and common sense can help us can get rid of blackspot and spider mites. But there is no known cure for overplanting.

PSSST from The Rose Whisperer: During the three most recent rose shows I’ve judged, I’ve been impressed with a charming floribunda called Lady of the Dawn. I may have to place it on my “must have” list, but that means another rose must go since there is no more room in my garden. Maybe I’ll nominate a few possibilities and let you vote on which one should be shovel-pruned. Stay tuned....

Lynn Hunt, the Rose Whisperer, is one of nine garden writers who blog regularly at Diggin' It. She's an accredited horticultural judge and a Consulting Rosarian Emeritus for the American Rose Society. She has won dozens of awards for her writing in newspapers, magazines, and television. She grows roses and other plants in her garden on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. To read more by Lynn, click here.You can also follow her on Twitter.

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