2009-05-28 / News

Greenhouse to garden

The Island Garden
By Roger Marshall

It's greenhouse cleanout time again - time to move all the trees and shrubs out from the greenhouse and onto their summer patio.

Almost instantly, the patio is transformed from a barren stonescape that three months ago was covered with winter snow to an enjoyable area where we can sit and enjoy tropical aromas, flowers and fruits.

The Mandevilla are a bit slow this year, probably because I cut them back hard last fall when it was time to move them into the greenhouse, but a little fertilizer and some TLC will bring them into bloom in another month or so.

The lime, orange, and lemon trees are all in bloom and moving them entails great care to not knock blossoms off. The figs already have six inches of growth and will probably get a little sunburned after they've been on the patio for a few days. The flowers are out in great profusion and smell wonderful. Hopefully, deer don't think of the aroma as a nice food smell.

Talking about sunburn, it's easy to get sunburned in the garden. My wife always jokes that I get a "farmers tan" every year. And, that is after I use a heavy-duty sunscreen applied every morning before heading out into the yard. As one who, back in the late sixties, spent entire days and sometimes weeks, bare-chested out in the African sun, I've had the so-called "healthy tan" and have learned that the use of sunscreen is mandatory for all outdoor activities, especially gardening.

It is said that melanoma is the fastest growing cancer and is showing up in younger and younger people. The use of a sunscreen can help to prevent melanoma and the other forms of skin cancer. But in addition to sunscreen, you should wear a hat, especially those gardeners that are a little folliclechallenged. The hat should be wide enough to cover the tips of your ears. That's the most likely spot to get burned and means that a baseball cap doesn't cut it.

For gardeners, light-colored long-sleeved shirts can be a real help. Not only will they help to prevent burns, but the light color will also help to show up ticks and any other bugs that meander through our green acres.

Ticks and biting ants are the worst pests to find in your garden and you should check yourself all over at the end of each gardening session to ensure that you have not inadvertently inherited one or three. If you find a large deer tick, take it off carefully so that the head does not stay under your skin. If you find a tiny tick, a little larger than a pinhead, put it in a plastic bag and have your doctor check it out. It could be the tick that causes Lyme disease. If Lyme disease is caught early it can easily be treated with an antibiotic.

But sunburn and ticks are not the only risks that you run in your garden. Organic bug sprays, fungicides, and powders should not be inhaled. I've watched gardeners sprinkle organic bug powder such as Rotenone on their plants, thinking that because it's organic, it must be safe.

Most organic sprays are safe - at extremely low levels. But an organic spray works because the powder or spray is usually very concentrated to be effective. Inhaling a concentrated spray is not a good idea and you should wear, at the very least, a dust mask when sprinkling powders, and a respirator when spraying concentrated organic sprays. The beauty of an organic spray is that it degrades in the presence of sunlight or in the soil, but even though it is organic don't be fooled into thinking it is perfectly safe to spray without a mask or respirator.

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