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Thursday, August 15, 2013

In Which My Grand Daughter And I Became Flower Rescuers



My favorite fellow flower rescuer in action
One of the fun aspects of grandparenthood is getting up to speed with what is on children's television.  My personal favorite is "Shaun The Sheep," but one of my grand daughters Kay's favorites is "Go Diego Go."  Diego is a little kid that has adventures as an "animal rescuer."  The show tends to give the impression that wild animals can't really do very well without help, but at least it does expose kids to some biology.  Because of watching Diego, at 3 Kay can go to the zoo and accurately identify anything from a macaw to a pigmy marmoset.  But back to the flowers.  Here is the tale of how Kay and I became "flower rescuers".

For you Grandma!
About a quarter mile from our house there is a commercial greenhouse.  It is one of the few remaining floriculture operations from what was once a big industry here in northern San Diego County.  They produce beautiful gerbera daiseys for cut flower sales.  When they can't sell all they pick on a given day, they dump them for informal composting on an open area that Kay and I pass when we go for walks during her summer visits to Grandpa and Grandma's house.  She liked to scoop up bunches of flowers to take back to Grandma.  When I said she was a "flower rescuer" she loved the concept (These flowers recovered really well and lasted in a vase for several days).


Whole plants in the background during this rescue trip

On one of our visits to the flower graveyard we found hundreds of large gerbera daisy plants rooted in eight inch cubes of rock wool - a soilless growing medium that is used in the greenhouses.  It turns out that there was an infestation of "leaf miners" in the greenhouse and the grower was purging his supply to get rid of them.  Leaf miners are a nasty pest.   I certain kind of fly lays its eggs in the leaf and the larvae that hatch then burrow their way around inside of the leaf until they grow large enough to emerge as adults and repeat the cycle.  Many insecticides are useless against these pests because they are inside of the plant and not easily reached.

Leaf miner damage

Kay hated the idea of seeing the whole plants strewn in piles and dying, so I agreed to try to rescue some of them.  
Strollers can be good flower rescue vehicles

Saved gerberas after the dead and insect infested leaves were removed
We took the plants back to the house, cut off all the miner infested leaves, and planted these big plants in our flower beds.  It took a week or so to get the plants adjusted to being outside instead of in the greenhouse.  Some of the plants also had powdery mildew infections (a fungal disease) that I killed with some dilute dish soap (powdery mildews grow on the surface of leaves, so they can be killed with any surfactant if you have time to thoroughly apply it to both sides of every leaf).  Then with some fertilizer the plants began to thrive - producing their large flowers that are good for a week as a cut flower or even longer on the plant.
Happy transplanted gerberas on terraces in my backyard
Conscious of the fact that I am growing these plants close enough to the greenhouse for pests to move, I've also treated my plants with a nice product that is finally available to homeowners called "3-in-one Insect, Disease and Mite Control" that comes from Bayer.  It is for use on ornamental plants and it includes the systemic actives imidacloprid (something that would take care of any more leaf miners), tau-fluvinate (that would take care of mites), and tebuconazole (a fungicide which would prevent more powdery mildew in the future).  Don't worry about the imidacloprid hurting bees - I've watched and they don't visit the gerberas.  I'm now confident that I'm not putting the new flowers at the greenhouse at risk by planting them all over my yard.

I love having the chance to teach my grand daughter about plants, and I'm happy that she thinks being a "flower rescuer" is cool.  I'm enjoying that role as well.

You are welcome to comment here and/or to email me at savage.sd@gmail.com.  All images on this post are mine.  I tweet mostly about new posts @grapedoc.

By the way, if you are familiar with Go Diego Go or the related show Dora The Explorer, you should really see this faux trailer for a movie about Dora grown up