Friday, September 27, 2019

When There’s Just Too Much Water…

Close-up of a white crocus flower in the rain
Hurricanes, flooding, rain for days, tornadoes, high tides, early snow, late snow, snowmelt – whatever is causing it, it seems that people everywhere are dealing with more water than anyone wants. Even here in Southern Arizona; this week we’ve been hit with days of heavy rain courtesy of Hurricane Lorena. For anyone who has cultivated property, enjoys their yard or lovingly tends a garden, bringing it back after it’s been underwater is not an easy process. What type of damage a flood causes and how to recover (if you can recover) can depend on many factors.

pencil cartoon of two people on the roof of a house with floodwaters all aroungd; one has an umbrella and is saying" At what point does it stop being goof good for the garden?" By RoystonWhere to begin: The only actions that can be taken while the water is still present are diversion or pumping it out, both of which can be impractical at best in an active flood situation. Plus, neither can reverse damage to soil that has already occurred if it has been underwater for 12-24 hours. It is best in general to stay out of floodwaters; they can be full of contaminants and creatures. Fire Ants, for instance, form rafts of many thousands of individuals to escape floodwaters and you do not want to bump into one of those!

Once the water is gone: If there is trash or tree and plant debris, you will want to get that out of your space. If you have flood-deposited soil, you’ll have to decide if it should be removed. Although as little as one inch of silt can kill a lawn and three inches or more can harm a tree, removing it may not be the best idea. Adding and removing soil can be very hard work, is quite costly, puts you in danger of handling contaminants and is damaging to the soil (more on that below). It might be best to simply scrape residue away from some of the bigger plants and start all over.

Close up a person in red and blue rain boots and jeans walking in the mud. Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash
Assess your soil: Whatever you do, do not work wet soil – it can cause serious damage to the soil structure. Wet soil can easily become compressed, which can lead to compaction and drainage issues when it dries. Wait at least several days to weeks before digging and if you plan to rototill, the recommended wait time is 90 days. You will want to determine how your soil biology held up to all the water. Soil microbes are an essential part to a healthy soil and they need oxygen. If the soil is submerged overly long, water displaces the oxygen in it and beneficial microorganisms can suffocate and die. Anaerobic microbes, which do not need oxygen, may take their place. A foul smelling soil is an excellent indicator that this has happened and that the soil needs to be brought back to a healthy balance before any planting is done.

Close-up of a green plant in clay pot full of water.Plant viability: How your plants are affected by flooding depends on many factors: length of time they were under water, what kind of plants and how old they are, time of year and the type of water that flooded. Warm weather flooding will affect plants more than flooding that occurs when plants are dormant in cold weather. Salt water will be much more damaging to most plants than will fresh water. Determining the condition of your plants can be tricky as symptoms can take weeks, and even years, to appear. Vegetables and flowering annuals will show symptoms before trees and shrubs. Damage caused by flooding mirrors common disease problems, so the root cause is often unclear. Here is a list of symptoms that appear in water damaged plants.

Vegetable gardens: First off, any produce that has gone through a flood should not be eaten. This is an EPA recommendation and it makes good sense. With all the unknowns in floodwater, it is the only way to be sure you are not ingesting contaminants. With fruiting vegetables, any fruit on them during the flood needs to be discarded, but whatever grows later should be fine. If you wish to err on the side of caution, wash those fruits thoroughly and plant a non-edible crop for a season.

Close-up of a white crocus flower in the sunWhat to do before replanting: As with all planting, start with your soil. A soil test is highly recommended after flooding.Water is notoriously good at leaching nutrients from soil, so even a minor water issue can affect what you’re planting in. If a soil test is not for you, you should still amend your soil and lightly fertilize (no heavy fertilizer while the plant struggles to come back). You can’t go wrong with the following products: Begin with TerraClean 5.0 to eliminate soil-borne pathogens; apply BioAct™ SD to chew through organic material; use products like ROOTBiojuvant® Beny-GroEarth Alive™ Soil Activator™ or Inocucor Garden Solution® to return to a healthy microbial balance; add Earthworm Castings and, when the new plants are in, fertilize with DTE™ Liquid All Purpose or SaferGro® Biomin Starter®. Fungal diseases are common after floods and they are best controlled by applying proactively; so get ahead of the problem and plan to treat as soon as you can. Check out our Fungicides page for some excellent products to choose from.

Like fungal diseases, flood damage is best dealt with before it occurs. I will offer some suggestions on how to do that in this blog next week. Until then, stay dry out there.

Submitted by Pam

Friday, September 13, 2019

Earth's Hidden World Is Not For The Squeamish.

One Blue Marble by Nasa's Earth Observatory. The Blue, white and green Earth against a black sky.
Here at ARBICO we talk about nematodes a lot – specifically our Beneficial Nematodes. These microscopic creatures control a variety of pests in the soil through parasitization. Our customers love them because they are easy to use and highly effective. By the way, they are on sale now through the end of September.

As helpful as the nematodes we carry are, they are by no means the only kind of nematode (aka roundworm) out there and “beneficial” is not a term one would use to describe many of them. Although they are not often seen, nematodes are found literally everywhere on our planet, including intensely inhospitable places like the deepest ocean trenches (they make up 90% of the sea life on the ocean floor) and miles below the Earth’s surface. In fact, the only place they don’t seem to be is flying solo through the air, as they have no wings. Of all the animals on the globe, four out of five are nematodes. They survive and flourish spectacularly and (for the parasitic varieties) have developed fascinating ways to prey on and reproduce within their chosen hosts. While their sheer numbers are staggering, their seemingly endless variations and specializations are downright amazing.
A brown and black fish swimming along a sandy bottom in the blue sea.
Close-up of a foot with the sole caked in mud.There are 60 species of human parasitic nematodes that cause a very long list of ailments with symptoms that run from the merely uncomfortable to life-changing to fatal. Elephantitis is a particularly gruesome disease that is caused by the bite of a mosquito infected with the parasite. In this way, the nematode has hitched a ride on the insect to get to its ultimate human prey. Gastrointestinal disorders are probably the most common human condition caused by nematodes, some of which may pass through a person without them even noticing. These nematodes travel into the human gut through body openings to get to the nutrient-rich digestive system. This happens just like you think it does.According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), Hookworms infect 576-740 million people worldwide. These parasites live in the soil and are picked up through the feet. But, how do they do that? According to this article, they locate their prey by smell (insert smelly feet joke here). And then they leap.

A silver colored roundwormThe nematodes I’ve been talking about are in the microscopic world, but they can get much, much bigger. Consider, if you will, Placentonema gigantissima. This is the largest known (anywhere from 9-28 feet) roundworm and lives in the placenta of sperm whales. With such an obscure hiding place, it’s no wonder it was not discovered until 1951. Marine nematodes contain not just the largest, but the smallest nematodes as well. We know this because there are scientists who study nematode penis size.

There is no shortage of yucky-yet-cool nematodes. Sphaerularia bombi, a bumblebee parasite is one such creature. Once it has reached maturity inside its host, the female’s uterus will expel from its genital opening and swell into a massive bumpy sack outside the body. This sack, easily twenty times the size of its body, becomes a giant feeding organ gorging itself on nutrients. Learn more here.

Close-up pf a white Sphaerularia bombi roundworm with enlarged,white bulbous uterus prottuding from the body.
Sphaerularia bombi
Another nematode super-specialist is the Panagrellus redivivus. Nathan Cole, known as the father of Nematology in the US, first identified this non-parasitic guy back in the 19th century. This worm is very tolerant of acidity and alkalinity and has claimed some unique spots by feeding on yeast and living in vinegar and even German beer coasters. Although these nematodes are harmless, you may want to ensure that your vinegar is filtered.

Nematodes have been proven to be the culprit in a mystery from the Civil War. After the Battle of Shiloh in 1862, soldiers began noticing a couple of things: there was a greenish-blue glow coming from some of their untreated wounds and those that had the glow healed better than those without. With no knowledge of microbiology, they attributed this glow to a higher power and called the phenomenon “Angel’s Glow”. Fast forward to 2001, when a microbiologist and her son decided to take on the mystery. They figured out that the glow came from a nematode carrying a bioluminescent bacteria that feeds on microorganisms. As this shiny little bacteria fed on its preferred meal, it consumed microorganisms that could cause infection. Here is more on this time traveling detective story.

If the gross factor doesn't bother you, here are some videos showing roundworms in action. This one is a roundworm in a cat's intestine; this one is a large nematode eating a smaller one and this one is a roundworm emerging from a mosquito larvae.

Cartoon nematodes running to and devouring a boat
As if it weren’t enough that nematodes dominate our life on earth, scientists are working on taking them to the next planet. It really does make sense, though, since they have so thoroughly saturated every aspect of life on earth. In order to replicate our world elsewhere, it would behoove us to include those roundworms that work for us in insect control and agriculture.

If you are still not convinced that nematodes are everywhere, you should know that they live in Bikini Bottom with Sponge Bob. And apparently have a voracious appetite.

Submitted by Pam

Friday, September 6, 2019

A Busy September in the Garden

Yellow and red roses on a two-toned wooden table with a white envelope that says "September". Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash
Now that Labor Day is in the rearview mirror and all the kids are back in school, people everywhere are amping up for the busy fall season. This is especially true for gardeners. This time of year is chock-full of gardening and taking-care-of-outside chores. As most serious gardeners know, September is not the end of the season. In reality, it is the beginning. What you do between September and late November will help determine how heavy your workload is for next spring.

An assortment of leafy greens in a silver colanderMany gardeners are well on their way to having a fall garden by now. Depending on where they live, the planning and prep has been done and they have already planted or are ready to move on to planting. Those winter greens and vegetables will be very welcome as fall turns to winter. Here is a delicious-sounding salad that features Brussels sprouts, pumpkin seeds – and a surprise touch.

But what if you are not doing a fall garden this year? If you want to plant in the spring or just want a healthy backyard environment for your warm weather enjoyment, there is a lot that can be done now to make that happen. Putting in a little time now can save you time, money and worry as you come out of winter next year.

A skeletal black tree on a green and misty hillside.  Photo by Adarsh Kummur on Unsplash.
Plant a tree: If you are not up to going the whole fall garden route but still want to get your hands in some soil, consider planting a tree. Every day is a great day for a tree, but September through November is the ideal time for planting one. This will give their roots time to establish before hard freezes and allows them to concentrate their energy on growing roots before they put out leaves in the spring. The key to success with this schedule is to encourage strong and healthy root growth and to water deeply. We recommend Root Build 240 for the roots. For more information, check out our tree planting blog here.

Multicolored plants in clay pots stacked against a brick building.Apply Beneficial Nematodes: We strongly encourage fall applications of these microscopic organisms to control pests that overwinter in the soil. We have beneficial nematodes that can control a myriad of pests, including various beetles, ticks, fungus gnats and caterpillars. Apply some now and apply again in the spring to knockdown any pests that got away. These fascinating creatures do amazing unseen work in the ground. We have a ton of information on them here. And they are on sale through September!

Move your garden to containers: If you have some plants that you’d like to keep going or some favorites that you like to have around, put them in containers. It will be easier to protect them (and yourself) from the elements. Put them close to the house or on a porch for easy access and raise them off the ground; this will keep them from becoming waterlogged in the wetness of fall and winter. Here is a video with some tips on fall container planting. 

Colorful fall leaves on a lush green lawn.Lawns: Your lawn will enjoy some dethatching, fertilization and aeration at this time of year. And, while you’re at it, you may as well go after those stubborn perennial weeds. Weeds draw up nutrients in the fall to prepare for winter; if you apply herbicide now it will be drawn up as well. Corn Gluten Meal may work well for you; it will fertilize as well as kill weeds. Check out our blog on this versatile corn by-product. We also have many other excellent weed control options here.

Clean out sheds, greenhouses and cold frames: Now that the weather is cooling off (except here in Southern Arizona), get out and clear up the clutter that it was just too darn hot to deal with over the summer. If you are planting again, you will want this clean slate. If you are not, cleaning now will give you a chance to move items that shouldn’t be out in the cold and free you from spending your spring days going through debris from the year before. Be sure to empty and clean out all the compost and decaying plant matter from old pots and containers to keep overwintering pests from finding a home there.

Teardrop shaped small pumpkin on dark soil and surrounded by green leafy vines.Photo by Steffi Pereira on UnsplashTrim things up: Help your plants by maximizing light sources as we move into the darker months. Remove thick or overhanging vegetation around your garden, greenhouse or patio. To encourage pumpkins to ripen by Halloween, trim up any leaves and/or re-direct vines that may be shadowing them. If you have apple trees – lucky you – run the mower under them so you’ll be able to easily spot any windfalls.

Young blond haired boy in jeans and a blue shirt playing in a pile of brown leaves, Photo by Scott Webb on UnsplashCompost: Not composting? Start now to take advantage of falling leaves and dead plant material. If you are already composting, you probably know already that the bounty of leaves in the fall are an excellent addition to a compost pile. Check out our composting products here.

A closeup of a hand holding some daffodils and daisies. Photo by Sam Mgrdichian on Unsplash

Plan for beauty
: Now that you have a trimmed up and cleaner yard environment, and a plan for all the fallen leaves that someone will have to rake up, it's time to plant bulbs for next year’s enjoyment. Stick them in now and when they start popping out next spring you will be so glad you did.                                                                 
Above all, get out and enjoy this time of beautiful time of year. The sunny, cool days and crisp nights of autumn are something that this Virginia native gets homesick for every year at this time.

Submitted by Pam

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