Gardening: A garden walk is a labor of love

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

Volunteering to put your garden on a garden walk is a labor of love. One I’ve never undertaken, because I know how much work it involves and the stress level many of the gardeners suffer. Then the Rochester Garden Club asked me if I would put the garden I steward at the OPC on their garden walk on June 21. This year, I hesitated, asked my volunteers if they were up to it, and when they to a person said yes, I said OK.

Well, it’s been a long bitter cold winter and a day hasn’t gone by that I don’t think about “the walk” and what condition our garden will be in when it finally thaws out. While the daffodils are poking through the frozen soil, nothing else is breaking dormancy and I haven’t got a clue.

So for the past few weeks I’ve been spending my time problem solving. Anticipating and researching solutions to issues I might encounter before “the walk” and the possibility of heading them off before they start.

As an organic gardener, I rarely use pesticides or herbicides in the garden. But if I do, I choose those that are safe for use around those critters that live above and below the ground, including man and beast.

Last spring, many of our roses suffered a severe attack of rose slugs and they defoliated several of the bushes in a matter of days. These green worm-like critters are not actually slugs or worms, they are the larvae of the rose sawfly and they hang out on the undersides of the leaves of roses.

Up until last spring they’ve never been a serious problem and I just used a stiff spray of water to blast them off the bushes. A few holes in leaves don’t bother me. But last year’s infestation was bad, so I going to be proactive this spring and spray them with horticulture oil. It’s a refined mineral oil that is not a poison and does not harm bees, butterflies, ladybugs and other pollinators – it smothers the sawfly eggs.

The time to spray is just after the plant leafs out. I’ll be sure to coat the undersides of the leaves and crotch of the stems. The adult sawflies do not attack the plants but they lay their eggs in the soil and on the branches of the rose bushes, so cleaning up under the plant is key and also drenching the soil with dormant oil is also recommended.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnewscom/homestyle.