{ Archive for the ‘garden pests’ Category }

Transitioning from late spring to early summer

It’s with a certain sadness that I bid adieu to the last daffodils to bloom in my garden. Known botanically as Narcissus poeticus var. recurvus (Zone 4), they bear flowers with small, red-rimmed golden cups (or coronas) that are surrounded by pure white recurved petals (known as perianth segments). Native to Switzerland and commonly called “old pheasant’s eye”, their blossoms are deliciously fragrant, and a perfect example of a genus going out with a bang rather than a whimper.

Apart from Switzerland, one of the best places to see old pheasant’s eye growing wild is in northern England, up to the Scottish Borders where—in a climate not unlike that of their homeland—they have naturalised over hundreds of years, and now cover entire hillsides. All you have to do is follow your nose, as you’re likely to smell their sweet scent before actually clapping eyes on their breathtaking flowers en masse. They’ll naturalise in Canada too (albeit more slowly), providing you let them set seed and allow their leaves to mature.

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Spring fling

Spring is bustin’ out all over” …to mangle the Rodgers and Hammerstein song title ever so slightly. And after about a week of “normal” temperatures, everything seems to be popping out of the ground at the same time.

As if to prove it, a clump of our gorgeous native pasque flower (Pulsatilla patens, Zone 3)—native from Ontario to Yukon—is blooming at the same time as some neighbouring (squirrel-planted) broad-leaved grape hyacinths (Muscari latifolium, Zone 4) which are usually busy producing seed by the time the pasque flowers bloom.


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R.I.P., broccoli

I am in mourning.

I have been faithful with my application of Btk on all my brassicas this year, so no cabbage worms for us. I got all that stork’s bill under control (okay, most of it) and put down some good mulch. When I left the veggie garden alone last week to focus on the flower gardens and a few fall projects, the broccoli was just starting a new flush of strong growth, and I was smugly dreaming of a fall reaping of lovely green heads.

When I returned to see if they were ready for cutting, this is what I found.

Those little black spots are flea beetles, for the uninitiated. They got to my fall crop before I did. Ravaged it. Inedible.

This is what I get for feeling smug. ‘Pride cometh before the fall,’ and all that.

Or ‘Fall pride cometh before the flea beetle…’

 

Oh, deer!

If anyone happens to let a herd of deer loose on the fourth floor of TC Media, they won’t be coming near my area. It’s not because I’m hiding a stash of deer-resistant bulbs amongst my gardening books and back issues of Canadian Gardening magazine. Rather, our web editorial director, Cath, had a container of Bobbex deer repellent under her desk that was accidentally kicked over by a colleague. The area is awash in eau de putrescent eggs, fish meal, fish oil, meat meal, garlic and clove oils, among others—all very effective, I’m sure, at repelling deer from a large backyard. A backyard full of fresh air that would help the odour to dissipate. That is not the case here.

Cath is stoically working at her desk, but it is pretty stinky over there. We thought we’d ask if anyone has advice on eliminating the bog-of-eternal-stench smell from carpet. Febreze and baking soda have failed miserably. Any advice is great welcome!

The war on weeds: Hairy nightshade

Cleaning up after our carrot pulling, I found these lovely presents sitting in the soil.

Obviously the seeds of somebody plotting the downfall of next year’s garden adventures. They must be stopped!

A little digging and I found the culprit:

The dirty little sneak in question turns out to be Solanum sarrachoides: an annual weed in the same family as potatoes, commonly known as hairy nightshade. It only propagates by seed, luckily, although once I started looking, there were more little green orbs winking up at me than I was ready to live with. I don’t know if they’re mature enough to germinate (the full-grown berries are brownish coloured) but I’m in no mood to be lenient.

This is where kids come in real handy. I convinced my five-year-old that these little fruits were a favourite food of fairies and sprites, and gave her a bucket. Twenty minutes later, she had gathered a surprising number of berries and was busy making a fairy feast (over on the concrete, where it will be easy to stage a Santa’s cookies-style cleanup).

She’s entertained for a good hour, I’m freed of the pesky seeds in the garden, the fairies get fed; everybody wins.

 

 

Dear deer:

Hello. I don’t know if you remember me; I’m the lady you’ve dodged on the highway numerous times, the one who lives in the big white house you mosey past on your way up into the hills behind town.

It’s been lovely to watch you wander through over the years, and I don’t mind you bedding down in the back pasture from time to time. I have not even begrudged you the chomps taken out of some of the beets last fall. Overall, the unspoken understanding between us has been honoured: I leave you alone, you come and go with a minimum of disruption.

Until this year. I don’t know why you have broken our peaceful truce, but it is clearly over: every single one of my pea plants has had the top neatly munched off. Every developing pod is ending up in someone’s stomach, and it’s not mine.

I haven’t offended you in some way, have I? Is it repercussions from the collision two years ago? Are you against the lilac hedge we put in? Is this a protest?

I know you need to eat. I’m perfectly willing to feed you. There is grass, and buttercups, and lamb’s quarters… heck, have some stork’s bill! It’s abundant, and I have no plans to eat it, as opposed to the peas.

I bear you no ill will, but you must identify the offending Bambi and get him in line or I will be forced to take action. I have netting; don’t make me use it.

Sincerely,

April

The war on weeds: stork’s bill

I had the unfortunate pleasure of being introduced to a new weed last year, one I had never seen before, but since then, I’ve seen it plenty.

This is the mess my broccoli is trying to survive in. The predominant plant you see at centre, with the divided, pinnate leaves and reddish stems, is known as stork’s bill (Erodium cicutarium). It first showed up in the carrot patch, and maybe because of the similarity of the leaves, I didn’t really notice it until these pretty purple-pink, five-petaled flowers showed up. My smallest girls loved to pick the tiny flowers for fairy stories, and so I was somewhat forgiving of this plant, though it began to pop up beyond the carrots. Cleaning up last fall, I noticed hairy, pointy little seed capsules catching on my cloth gloves. They looked uncannily like… a bird’s bill? Indeed. And they hitched a ride on almost anything they touched. This did not bode well, and sure enough, this spring, the still-anonymous weed had taken over half the veggie patch.

Time for an education.

After a little Google digging and a simultaneous call to my horty sister, we ID’ed this little demon and I’m horrified. “New seedlings emerge very quickly after each tillage operation in the summerfallow. Therefore, it is not unusual to have five or six growths of this weed during the summerfallow year,” says the Saskatchewan government agriculture site. No wonder it’s everywhere. The good news: though it is a prolific germinator, it is an annual, and only reproduces from seed. I was having waking nightmares of bits of left-behind leaves regenerating themselves…  the roots uttering diabolical chuckles and sending out rhizomes to all quarters…

I did find it interesting to read that one of the recommended control measures for this weed is a planting of fall rye. When I got to thinking about it, it’s true: In the north end of the veggie patch, where I planted fall rye the last two years simply for green manure, there is very little stork’s bill. It’s the south end that’s overrun. Looks like I’ll be buying more rye seed this fall. After a whole lot of weed pulling… sorry girls, use the phlox for your fairy flowers. I don’t want any more of those poky seeds in my gloves or the soil.

My flowers are more purple than this drawing shows, but those pointy little seed heads are EXACTLY the same.

 

 

What shall I do with the aphids?

I am really, really lucky when it comes to mean bugs. Knock wood. I’ve declared war on cabbage worms, and had flea beetles move in a couple of times, but that’s about it.

This spring however I had a bunch of aphids show up on my lovage plant and nearly destroy it. Having never faced in infestation like this, my guard was down and I didn’t really notice a problem until the seed heads popped up and the whole plant started yellowing. It was pretty bad, so I decided to cut the whole plant back and burn the tops. This seems to have done the trick.

But while doing dishes, I look out on my lovely mountain ash (which is doing very nicely, thanks for asking). I had noticed when we got back from our trip that one branch seemed to have died back–shriveled leaves and all. I didn’t think much of it until this week, when another branch near it started doing the same thing. Having been focused on catching up the veggie patch, the front garden had been neglected and sure enough, when I went to investigate, I found aphids cozied up all over, with ants coddling them right along. Luckily, a few diligent ladybugs had already showed up to do their part, but I doubt they can take care of the lot all alone.

Go, ladybug, go!

This is why the experty people tell you to do a tour of the whole garden once a week, looking for stuff like this, isn’t it? Maybe I should hire someone…

Now, cutting back my tree like I did the lovage is not an option. I sprayed the tree down with a jet of water–I seem to remember reading that somewhere–but what advice do you all have for my entomological conundrum? I’m going to go ask Google, but I’d like to hear from some of you in the trenches–what really works for you?

My blog drought is over and garden beasties

I've been terribly remiss in my blogging this summer. I blog a lot in my head as I'm gardening, but that doesn't always translate to publishing my thoughts. And so, these next couple of weeks I'll be catching up on what I've wanted to say about my garden. Let's start with the interesting population of bugs. See exhibits A, B and C below.

Exhibit A: I spotted this bug hanging out in the dirt by my garage about three weeks ago. What the heck is it?

Exhibit A: I spotted this bug hanging out in the dirt by my garage about three weeks ago. What the heck is it?

Exhibit B: I nearly jumped out of my skin (ha ha!) one day when I went to pick a pepper and spied this on a leaf. Like a snake or a dragonfly, this beastie also sheds his outer layer. I've found a few throughout my garden this summer!

Exhibit B: I nearly jumped out of my skin (ha ha!) one day when I went to pick a pepper and spied this on a leaf. Like a snake or a dragonfly, this beastie also sheds his outer layer. I've found a few throughout my garden this summer!

Exhibit C: This spider took up residence between my tomato plants. Sometimes she's not there, so I feel all crawly coming inside as I imagine her hitching a ride into my house on my back.

Exhibit C: This spider took up residence between my tomato plants. Sometimes she's not there, so I feel all crawly coming inside as I imagine her hitching a ride into my house on my back.

Garden bugs!

My two-year-old Izah has two categories of bugs: “ewww” and “helper.” She likes worms, ladybugs, and bees, because she knows they have jobs that make the garden better. Pretty much everything else is an “ewww.” I hate to admit it, but mostly I agree. I know they each have a role to play, I just wish they would do it somewhere else. Preferably out of my sight.

Gardens have bugs. This is an inescapable truth, in the same category as death and taxes. Some we appreciate, others we tolerate. Then there`s the cringe-inducing annoyances: aphids, grubs, cabbage moth larvae, beetles of various stripes–we all have our personal nemesis.

I`ve had the odd problem with insects over the years. I`ve poured boiling water on inconvenient anthills, hung those fake wasp nests (which I endorse, by the way), and been infested with earwigs. But for the most part, their activity has been akin to punk teenagers egging the neighbour`s house on a Saturday night, and I`ve shrugged it off accordingly and carried on. This year, for whatever reason, the bugs have gotten organized. We`re talking Mafia tactics worthy of Al Capone.

There are hornets finding their way into my enclosed porch, at least one a day. There are suddenly ant hills all over the yard, with scouts all over the house. There are spiders everywhere in and out, big nasty ones too. I`ve got aphids on my broccoli and kale, and I`ve noticed more than one six-legged critter I`ve never even seen before. And don`t get me started on the mosquitos.
I`m chalking it up to the overly wet spring we`ve had. We move every ladybug we find to help with the aphids. Borax and peanut butter seems to have gotten the ants to behave, and we plugged some holes in the porch. All told, we`ll get by. But these mobsters aren`t scoring any points with me and Izah. –April Demes

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