June is National Rose Month

Growing roses in cooler weather; saying no to methyl iodide on your strawberries

“A rose is a rose is a rose.”—Gertrude Stein

Roses are red
June is National Rose Month. In light of that, I recently had a little chat with Terry Miller, co-owner, along with his wife, Jean, of TJ’s Nursery & Gifts (2107 Kennedy Ave.). Besides stocking a large number of variegated plants (their specialty), the Millers also offer a variety of roses at their west Chico nursery.

“We’ve got climbers, hybrid teas, grandifloras, David Austins, miniatures, ground-cover roses and shrub roses,” offered Terry.

He and I quickly got on the subject of Chico’s unseasonably balmy weather and its effect on roses.

“We’re seeing more black spot and powdery mildew due to the cooler weather,” Miller said. “Especially black spot. And a lot of rust.”

Black spot, for the unfamiliar, is a fungal disease that thrives in moist conditions, and shows up as small black spots on the leaves of rose plants, causing them to turn yellow and fall off. Powdery mildew, also caused by damp conditions, appears as a whitish or grayish powder on new leaves and buds, and rust presents as raised reddish-orange spots on the undersides of leaves and yellow blotches on the top surfaces. Rust can eventually cause all the leaves to fall off of your rose bush.

Water your roses cautiously from below, Miller advised, using a hose, drip system or flat-spray sprinkler, as overhead watering will promote black spot. Additionally, the soil-dwelling black-spot fungus can be splashed onto leaves via too-aggressive watering.

Miller advises cutting down on watering roses—and all plants in general—until the weather warms up appropriately for the season.

“Plants generally aren’t putting out as much root growth as they should because of the cool weather,” said Miller, and thus don’t need as much water. And overwatering can lead to root rot.

He also cautions against disposing of black-spot-infected leaves in a compost pile, as that will perpetuate the fungus.

If you want to go the organic-fungicide route to help your roses, TJ’s has it in stock. Just ask.

When the weather heats up, as it’s bound to, and aphids and whiteflies become a problem for your roses, TJ’s stocks live ladybugs (“cute but predatory insects”) that just love dining on aphids and whiteflies. A container of approximately 100-135 ladybugs will run you $7.95.

Call TJ’s at 893-1815 for more info.

Strawberries are …
Not supposed to be soaked in poison. The California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) recently recommended a nasty new pesticide called methyl iodide for use on the state’s big-ag strawberry crops.

I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell don’t want to eat berries gassed with a chemical that is used to cause cancer in lab rats, especially since strawberries hold onto the chemicals they’re sprayed with. Strawberries are No. 6 on the “Dirty Dozen” of fruits that contain pesticides even after washing. (Peaches, by the way, are No. 1.)

Besides being carcinogenic, methyl iodide is also a thyroid disruptor, and causes permanent neurological damage and late-term miscarriages, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And because methyl iodide is highly volatile and water-soluble, the likelihood of exposure to the chemical for anyone living near or working in strawberry fields is high, according to a letter sent to the EPA by a group of 50 scientists, which included five Nobel Laureates.

Let the DPR know that you would like them to withdraw their proposal to use methyl iodide for agricultural purposes. Safer alternatives for pest control include crop rotation, soil steaming and solarization. Public comments should be sent to <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">{ document.write(String.fromCharCode(60,97,32,104,114,101,102,61,34,109,97,105,108,116,111,58,109,101,105,95,99,111,109,109,101,110,116,115,64,99,100,112,114,46,99,97,46,103,111,118,34,62,109,101,105,95,99,111,109,109,101,110,116,115,64,99,100,112,114,46,99,97,46,103,111,118,60,47,97,62)) } </script> and will be accepted through June 14.

Your safest bet, of course, is to buy organically produced berries at the farmers’ market. They’re in season right now—the growers’ stalls are just overflowing with baskets of juicy, red, healthy deliciousness.