This blog reviews the latest products, plants and innovations in gardening. It also provides a link for my many gardening friends who are members of the GardenMessenger and Seedmessenger Yahoo groups and their sub-groups that I moderate.

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Location: Australia

I am a semi-retired UK botanical garden curator and former international horticultural consultant, who has worked extensively in Europe, the Middle East, North America and Australia. I spend part of the year in Australia and part in Europe, mainly due to family and work commitments. I earn my living from writing and editing Internet copy, articles and books. I have written over fifty books on gardening and have been translated into twenty-four different languages. I am a former UK Garden Writer of the Year and a previous Quill & Trowel Award Winner from the Garden Writer’s Association of America. I am interested in developing gardening communities on the Internet and I manage the popular GardenMessenger Yahoo group, along with its various sub-groups like PondMessenger and SeedMessenger. I also edit International Water Gardener and its associated regional web-sites.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Investigating Compost Teas.

Compost teas are the up and coming thing amongst organic gardeners. These teas are made from compost "brewed" for at least twenty-four hours with all-natural ingredients that boost the growth of beneficial microbes living in the compost. It is believed that compost teas may prove helpful in protecting ornamental plants like rhododendrons, azaleas, viburnums and oak saplings from what's known as Ramorum Blight, also called Ramorum Die-back or Sudden Oak Death. The pathogen, Phytophthora ramorum, which causes these diseases, has been found in at least 20 states in the United States in commercial plant nurseries and more than one-half million otherwise-ready-to-sell plants have had to be destroyed.

Some organic growers and home gardeners already apply compost teas by either spraying them on foliage or drenching plant roots, and although reputed to enhance plant growth and fend off disease, compost teas have not yet been widely investigated by scientists. So the United States Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory and co-investigators are studying compost teas as one of several materials that might provide an effective, affordable, bio-friendly alternative to chemical pesticides for controlling P. ramorum.

In a preliminary experiment at the Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory, researchers treated rhododendron leaves indoors with a helpful bacterium, Paenibacillus polymyxa, taken from compost. The researchers then inoculated the leaves with the ramorum organism. The scientists found that P. polymyxa did not protect the foliage, but they plan to test it again, as well as other potentially protective microbes, using slightly different procedures.

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