In the Garden

Q: My roses are inundated with aphids. Is there anything safe I can spray?

A: There are two totally safe ways to rid your roses of aphids. The first is to apply what I call modified “el kabotski” pest control.

Full “el kabotski” is the form of pest control where you insert the insect between thumb and forefinger. Hence the modified “el kabotski” technique consists of using your fingers to rub and squish the aphids to turn them into aphid marmalade.

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Just as effective, and less messy, is to blast the aphids off with a hose-end nozzle. Start with a gentle spray and then increase the force, making sure to support buds and fragile plant parts with your free hand so you don’t blast them off as well.

Aphids are so soft bodied, if you blast them off, it does them in; however, aphids are little baby factories, and every aphid you miss will produce lots more of the troublemakers, so repeat sprays will be needed. I find that three or four sprays, timed two or three days apart usually ends the problem for the rest of the season.

Q: Something is notching the edge of the leaves of my pea plants, giving them a scalloped appearance. I’m worried it will kill the plants. I am in a community garden and so need to treat with something organic.

A: It sounds like your peas are being attacked by pea leaf weevils. These are small (around ¼-inch long) grayish brown beetles. I call them Jimmy Durante bugs because they have a long snout. They come out at night and occasionally on dark rainy days and chew u-shaped notches on the edges of the leaves.

High populations of these weevils can defoliate the plant, rendering it much less productive, or in the worse case, kill it outright. Fortunately, they rarely build up in high enough numbers to do serious harm.

The key to defeating this pest is to prevent the weevils from building up high populations and to get your peas growing rapidly. For some reason, once peas reach about a foot tall or so, the weevils usually stop causing damage. Hence the best defense is to get your peas off to a rapid start to allow them to grow quickly before they receive serious damage.

Plant your peas in well-drained soil and work a cup of organic-vegetable food and a ½ cup of bone meal per five row feet before sowing the seed. Make sure there is a trellis available for climbing and support, and mulch and water as needed to keep the soil evenly moist.

Next time you plant peas, choose a new location. The weevils overwinter in the soil where the peas were growing, and if you plant in the same location, populations will soar. On the other hand, if you plant your next crop far enough away, hopefully the weevils won’t find them, and deprived of a food source their numbers should dwindle rapidly.

I should add, by the way, that going out with your flashlight at night to apply the above mentioned “el kabotski” pest control, especially when weevil damage is first noticed, can help keep populations from reaching damaging numbers.

Ciscoe Morris: ciscoe@ciscoe.com. “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING 5.