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Fairport-E.Rochester Post
  • Yardsmart: Give your garden a regular facial

  • After a facial, you know your pores are clean and your skin glows with health. What few realize is that plants have pores, too. They can become clogged with city grime, dust and dirt and lose their bright coloring.

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  • After a facial, you know your pores are clean and your skin glows with health. What few realize is that plants have pores, too. They can become clogged with city grime, dust and dirt and lose their bright coloring.
    These plant pores are called stomates, which open and close to regulate the exchange of air and moisture. So what happens when stomates become clogged? Give them a facial with your garden hose.
    Every gardening mentor of mine was an advocate of "syringing" plants with a jet of water to maintain their health. It is vital in the West, where there is little or no summer rainfall to naturally clean off plants. In California, more than six months may pass before rain falls again, so west of the Rockies and in other dry climates make this a vital means of keeping an ornamental or an edible garden in top form.
    This isn't just shooting the plant with a hose, though. It's a careful application of water pressure to clean foliage and stems thoroughly. This also includes the hard-to-reach backsides of the leaves where pests hide. For those with rural homes, this is the best way to deal with dust from dirt roads or plowed fields nearby. In cities with air-quality problems, this is how to keep black smog particles from accumulating on food plants.
    Syringing is best done when there is no direct sunlight. The preferred times are early morning or around sunset. The reason is that washing plants in direct sunlight leaves water on the foliage, which acts like a magnifying glass to literally burn the tissues underneath. The result of burns are white spots and blotches all over the leaves.
    The pros know that the greatest benefit of syringing is to discourage pests and disease. That makes it a vital practice for organic gardens. It's well-known that dusty plants are far more prone to spider mites, which love such conditions. Wash your plants clean and spider mites won't get a foothold.
    Every leaf surface becomes a landing zone for spores of various fungal diseases. As spores and bacteria accumulate there, they can enter plants through the stomates, too. Washing your plants prevents such a buildup, and you'll find that the incidences of mildew and other diseases are much more manageable.
    Early morning is the best time to accomplish this because the water has a few hours to evaporate before direct sun hits the leaves. If it's a windy day, the evaporation rate is doubly fast. Evening is a good time in hot, dry weather.
    Beware of plants such as hybrid tea roses, which are prone to fungal diseases of mildew and black spot. These fungi flourish on moist foliage. Syringing at day's end may leave moisture on the leaves far too long, creating a perfect environment for fungi to reproduce and spread.
    Page 2 of 2 - Syringing is a vital part of the food garden, too. Pesky wooly aphids that afflict members of the cabbage family won't build up in hot weather if plants are regularly cleaned. It also makes it much harder for pests to find their way into the heart of your lettuce. Above all, when it comes time to harvest, you won't have to toss the dusty outer leaves or skins into the compost.
    To conserve water, make sure you have a quality nozzle with a high-pressure stream spray and a lever to instantly adjust pressure for larger or smaller plants. The key is using pinpoint pressure to get the job done with minimal water to avoid waste.
    Become a devoted plant washer and your garden will start looking more like those in magazines. Your plants will photosynthesize more efficiently, pests will rarely linger and the facial will pay off in flawless fruit, foliage and flowers.
        
    Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at www.MoPlants.com. Contact her at mogilmer@yahoo.com or P.O. Box 891, Morongo Valley, CA 92256.
     

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