Broken hearted organic gardener

abrodie(z6 ON)May 26, 2012

I am an organic gardener working on my third garden in 20 years. I have had very few pest or disease problems (except rabbits!)It's now in its second year and for the most part I am very pleased. I`ve always had roses but haven`t bought any for a while. I used to order them from Pickering but those are just not big enough to last even a weekend with the bunnies. Last year I put in 3 Graham Thomas roses and they've done really well, I will reluctantly give credit to those pesky rabbits for the pruning job they did over the winter! Two weeks ago I bought 3 David Austin roses (Heritage and LD Braithwaite). I planted them last weekend. All three are now COVERED in powdery mildew. I`ve been using the milk and water solution which has worked once before but it`s been four days or so and it`s getting worse. I am contemplating ripping them right out, don`t want them to pollute my otherwise healthy garden, but I think that is probably overkill and they were a considerable expense. The gardeners I know strongly suggest a chemical solution, but that`s not an option.

Just venting.

Now I know there`s something worse than bunnies.


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donaldvancouver(cool wet z8)

The only effective organic solution for mildew that I have found is to mix a capful of neem oil, a few drops of dish soap, and a quarter cup of rubbing alcohol in a one litre spray bottle. Spread thoroughly, spray often. Omit the alcohol if you wish but don't be stingy with the neem. Good luck.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2012 at 5:14PM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

I'm so sorry, Brodie, about mildew - I HATE THEM TOO. This year is drier than normal, hot days and cold nights, plus less rain encourage mildew.

This is what happened in my garden ONLY, and in my heavy clay soil ONLY: I suspect plants get diseases because they are stressed. Chemical fertilizer is a stress factor here esp. with the summer heat.

Last year ALL 10 Austins were 100% healthy, zero blackspots nor mildew. I topdressed with alfalfa meal, then mulched with horse manure, and ZERO chemical fertilizer. Horse manure is very high in potassium. Potassium is needed to fight diseases. Last year my 10 Austins sailed through the dry and hot summer, and were blackspot free during late fall's constant rain.

I water like crazy this year, and can't get rid of mildew in the bed with chemical fertilizer. The other bed without chemicals, just some alfalfa meal and horse manure have ZERO mildew. I'm going scrape off the chemical fertilizer pellets from that mildewed bed - the weather is too hot and too dry for further stress from the salt of the chemical fertilizer.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2012 at 6:43PM
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(new to posting)

I have bunnies (2) that live in a hutch in the yard and that I allow to roam about (I do protect some things with rabbit fencing). The other good thing I wanted to let you know about them is that their droppings are great fertilizer and does not need to be composted, they can be directly added to the garden, under the roses. I know this doesn't help your angst much but I thought I would let you know that they do bring a few other benefits to the garden besides pruning.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2012 at 12:51PM
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abrodie(z6 ON)

Thanks all!

I've tried to remind myself how great rabbit droppings are for the garden, but sometimes lose perspective. This year is not as bad for rabbit damage, perhaps because the "salad bar" has much more material so I don't notice. They seem to have stuck to one or two hostas. I sprayed everything in very early spring with my egg/water/soap mixture, seems to have been effective (touch wood).

Regarding the roses, the mildew damage seems to have stopped progressing. I cut off the worst affected leaves on the weekend. The plants look healthier, they're still covered with white stuff but I think it's more dried milk than mildew. It does make the leaves look nice and shiny! I did water quite heavily on the weekend ... it has hardly rained here in weeks. Forecast for 15 mm on Friday, can't wait.


    Bookmark   May 29, 2012 at 10:54AM
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Hi Brodie,
Just to commiserate with you...several weeks ago I put in 3 David Austin roses, "Fair Bianca" and two of them have powdery mildew on the leaves. I've been spraying the leaves every few days with 1 part 2% milk to 9 parts water, in my spray bottle. I have no idea if this works, but like yourself, I don't want to use chemical sprays.

Just this past week after some internet research, I've also used some epsom salts mixed in with my water: 1/12 teaspoon in 2 quarts. I'm going to try this once a month.

I must sheepishly add that I am new to gardening and I don't know what made me think I could grow roses the first time;(

    Bookmark   May 31, 2012 at 8:52PM
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abrodie(z6 ON)

Hi Clax, yes you can grow roses! Once they're established and you keep your garden free from chemicals they look after themselves. I do a few things ... top dress with compost several times a season and water, water, water, I also keep a close eye on them so I can pick off voracious insects, Japanese Beetles are disgusting but I knock them off into a tupperware container of hot soapy water. GOOD LUCK! I'm not broken hearted at the moment. It's pouring rain so that will help with powdery mildew. I upped my milk solution to 50:50 and that made a huge difference. The milk dries up and looks mildewish but the leaves have stopped looking sick, I think I might have won this battle (touch wood).


    Bookmark   June 1, 2012 at 12:55PM
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This is a little bit OT, but I'm curious how successful other organic folks have been in growing Austins. I have a few that have done well so far (The Nun, Bow Bells, Cymbaline) and am considering adding more but don't want to battle disease. I live in zone 8B/9A. Thanks for any suggestions about cultivars that might do well.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 5:16AM
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strawchicago(zone 5a)

I'm not in your zone, but I hung around Roses forum for 1 year. What type of climate do you have? dry and hot? or dry and foggy? or humid with rain? Pat Austin has glossy foliage and Florida folks like her. So do I with over 40" rain per hot summer. She doesn't get blackspot nor mildew IN MY GARDEN ONLY.

Other diseases-resistant that blackspot-prone folks like are: Teasing Georgia (she gets huge and thorny), Tess of the d'Urbervilles (red and thorny), William Shakespeare 2000 (deep mauve/purple). Jude the Obscure is disease-free for most folks. Lady Emma Hamilton has glossy leaves, but best in partial shade (her blooms get scorched in the sun). Christopher Marlowe has glossy leaves, likes it hot, but he's a rambler and like a flower-carpet. Molineux is disease-resistant and does well in hot climate.

If you tell me what diseases you are prone to: rust, mildew, or blackspot - I can name a few which are liable and best to avoid.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 2:46PM
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I grow a number of Austins in my no-spray garden, and while they do get blackspot, this does not diminish vigor or hardiness. They are outstanding roses, I love 'em.

I've found that organic fertilizers build the soil to create an environment where the roses thrive, even with blackspot present in the garden.

I've noticed more powder mildew this year than I typically see, probably something to do with the weather. It's not a concern... the roses will grow new leaves.

Immature roses seem to be more prone to powder mildew, as long as they are planted in a sunny location with good drainage they should be OK.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 3:47PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I've been growing a very limited number of roses organically. I have two David Austin roses. One is 'Golden Celebration' and the other is 'Harlow Carr'. The jury is still out on Harlow Carr, because I've moved it twice and waiting for it to settle in before evaluating. The GC rose does develop some foliar problems. I have planted perennials around the rose to disguise the foliage. I get a pretty good first flush of blooms and if the foliage is looking unhealthy, I have resorted to cutting it just about to the ground after the first flush. It always grows back over the hottest part of the summer and has very healthy foliage at that point and I sometimes get a second flush of blooms. Not ideal and certainly not what is recommended, but that is how I live with it and keep the foliage problems in check. I have lots of other plants to enjoy while it is out of bloom.

I also have a 'Julia Child' which is very easy and healthy in a no spray garden for me. It has a lot of rebloom and I really enjoy this rose.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2013 at 5:29PM
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