{ Archive for the ‘garden pests’ Category }

Is this the work of a hungry raccoon?

This morning, I heard my husband inquire from the kitchen whether I had put a pile of dirt in the backyard. Huh? “Noooo,” I replied as I leapt up to take a look. There in the middle of my backyard, all the grass had been dug up in one place and was sitting in a pile. Damn! Everything was looking so lovely and green. From what I’ve read, I'm guessing this was the work of one or more raccoons looking for grubs… how do I stop future destruction?

If it isn't squirrels, it's raccoons! Big dramatic sigh.

If it isn't squirrels, it's raccoons! Big dramatic sigh.

My royal tulips and a big fall cleanup

I was way behind on my fall to-dos, but luckily Mother Nature gifted us with a fabulous weekend to finish off those last tasks — putting away the patio furniture, overwintering my pots, cleaning up the gardens and raking (and bagging).

But before I started on the big cleanup, I finally planted the bulbs I bought a few weeks ago (this article said I could)! After reading fellow CanadianGardening.com blogger Anja's piece on bulb planting, I purchased a bulb planter from Sheridan Nurseries. Armed with this handy tool, I dug them all into the ground and cross my fingers the squirrels won’t find them.

I chose my bulbs based on the gorgeous pinks and purples in the package photos. I hope my little royal family of `Purple Princes` and `Pink Emperors` doesn't let me down come spring!

Good riddance to a soggy July

For those of you gardening in British Columbia−congratulations! You`ve been enjoying a lovely warm summer, but the rest of Canada, well, we're still waiting for summer to arrive. So far, Ontario's summer has been cool and wet. I recently read an article in the Globe and Mail, and it said that this has been the coldest July in 17 years in southern Ontario. The average temperature has been three degrees below normal and the average rainfall; well let's just say my gardens are still soaked! The only good thing about this rainy July is that my grass is lush and green. Of course, I have to mow it every week, but normally at this time of year it's already become a crunchy brown carpet.

Because of the rain, some of the plants in my garden are suffering from a serious case of powdery mildew. Powdery mildew is caused by Sphaerotheca fuliginea. The leaves on my phlox, roses, cucumbers and even the Manitoba maple tree are covered with grayish-white, powdery spots. Although powdery mildew isn't pretty, it is rarely fatal, so I'm not that concerned. To combat this pesky fungicide, I prune the infected plant parts and get rid of them. This helps improve the air circulation around the plant. Since powdery mildew likes a moist, humid environment, this helps combat the infection. You could apply fungicide, but there is also a home remedy using baking soda, which helps reduces the plants risk of becoming infected in the first place.

Homemade Powdery Mildew Fungicide

  • 3 ½ litters of water
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoons liquid soap

A few days prior to applying the mixture, water your plants well. Avoid treating the plant in direct sunlight. Apply the homemade fungicide with a spray bottle, ensuring you get full coverage.

I've also heard spraying a concoction of milk (1 part milk to 9 parts water) that helps reduce a powdery mildew infection, but I've never tried this remedy myself.

My neverending squirrel dilemma

I've had a terrible problem with squirrels this past season. They carried off several of my veggie plants, and a few summer bulbs, and dug up some of my seeds. A lady up the street feeds them peanuts, so I find peanut shells all over my yard as well as random holes from their relentless digging.

harvestmoongardenEarlier this season I would sprinkle cayenne pepper all over my gardens and chase squirrels out of my garden like a crazy person. A few folks here at the office were horrified about the cayenne as they had heard that if the squirrels get the spice on their paws, they'll rub it in their eyes and scratch at their eyeballs. A Canadian Gardening colleague did a little digging and found some information from the Humane Society, which recommends cayenne pepper in the garden and I found a page online that I figure makes it OK if it’s coming from a society that protects animals. The only problem with cayenne is you have to constantly reapply after giving your garden a good soak or after it rains.

In the recent issue of Toronto Life, I read Brent Preston's memoir about becoming a farmer. Brent's battle was with groundhogs and insects. To control the destructive flea beetle from ravaging his crops, he covered his plants with row cover, a finely woven fabric that allows sun and water to pass through but keeps insects out. I'm wondering if this would help deter the squirrels from my plants and seeds–at least until they're strong and sturdy. I think I saw an example of row cover last week when I was in the Bruce Peninsula. We came across Harvest Moon Organic Bakery and Sculpture Gardens while looking for a mountain biking trail. At the end of a long driveway we came across this lovely little bakery with the most delicious treats. Part of their vegetable garden was covered in a light cloth, which appears to be row cover. I think I might try it next year.

How do you deter squirrels in your garden?

Too much of a good thing?

blogimage32All of us rejoice when a plant in our garden does well. But sometimes it does too well–who among us doesn’t have a surfeit of one thing or another? Take wood anemone (Anemone nemerosa) at left. Now this is a lovely woodland plant, but it’s a rambunctious one. A gardening friend passed some along to me a couple some years ago, and I’ve been yanking ‘em out ever since. The plant has leaves very like that of masterwort (Astrantia major), which is another plant I grow, so it fools me into thinking it’s the more polite plant. Until I see its pretty white flowers, which are a dead giveaway. I do like wood anemone, but it spreads like mad with running, underground roots that form new plants even if only the tiniest bits are left in the soil after you yank it out.

Like many of my other invasives, I’ve moved some wood anemone to the front garden where only the very toughest plants survive in the rootbound soil under the Norway maple. Survive? The darn thing is colonizing! Meanwhile, the area out back that I thought I’d thoroughly cleared last year has a fine new crop of plants. Sigh. You have to give it marks for perseverance.

A few weeks ago, I was volunteering at an advice clinic at Islington Nurseries in Toronto’s west end–part of what I do as a Master Gardener. One man came in clutching a small fistful of leaves. “This noxious weed is everywhere in my lawn and in my flower beds,” he fumed. “I don’t know what it is and I want to know if there’s anything I can put on it to kill it dead.”

blogimage2I took one look and saw that he was holding a handful of as-yet-unbloomed forget-me-nots. I was able to reassure him that these plants are self-seeding annuals, and if he didn’t want any next year he could simply mow them down before they set seed. There was no need to spray them with anything.

Personally, I love forget-me-nots, which sow themselves merrily in my garden hither and yon. Once their bloom is past its best and the plants look almost mouldy and seedy, I simply pull them out and shake the seeds where I want them to come up next year. It’s as simple as that.

blogimage1Sweet woodruff is another plant I was delighted to welcome but now slightly less so. This is a pretty little groundcover that’s at home in a woodland garden and covers itself with starry white flowers every spring (seen left, with a few forget-me-nots thrown in for good measure). It has a dainty, almost frothy appearance.

Unfortunately, it’s also a rampager in my garden, though easier to keep under control than the wood anemone. I foolishly planted some in a little semicircle area where I wanted to create a patchwork of low groundcovers in different colours and textures, and the sweet woodruff is trying to muscle them all out, including the expensive clump of Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense). Naughty, naughty! I’ll have to get out there next week and show it who’s boss. (And yes, there’s plenty growing in the front garden as well.)

My poor, swarmed seedlings

The other day, I wrote about horror movie I woke up to when I saw my precious seedlings swarming with flies. I immediately wrote to Anne Marie to solve my bug dilemma. Apparently the mini “fruit flies” are really fungus gnats and are a frequent greenhouse or indoor garden occurrence. Anne Marie says they are more of a people nuisance than a plant pest problem, especially when several fly up in your face when you are watering your plants.

Here are Anne Marie’s tips for eliminating my fungus gnat problem:

  • Soils that are high in organic matter and are kept damp are particularly attractive to fungus gnats. The entire life cycle lasts about 4 weeks.
  • The best way to reduce the population of fungus gnats is to let the soil dry out between waterings and especially on the surface.
  • A more effective method is to cover and seal the soil area with plastic wrap (or a thick inorganic mulch) to prevent the adults from getting to the soil and laying more eggs.
  • If needed, yellow sticky cards can be purchased to monitor the number of fungus gnats around plants. Place the yellow cards near the soil surface.
  • Investigate any open bags of soil before using them to see if they are harbouring fungus gnats.
  • The potentially damaging part of the life cycle is the young larvae. These look like small, white worm-like things that are 5 mm long and feed on the roots of plants.
  • It is only if they are numerous that they cause any problems for plants (and mainly young seedlings or greenhouse transplants). The adults are the dark mini flies that like to be pests and fly in your face.

So, I’m going to try and let them dry out a little and I’m going to pick up some of the yellow sticky tape. My sister had to buy some recently because she brought home an herb with a white fly problem.

Jessica Ross, over at EcoLogic on Homemakers’ site is having a different problem. Her seedlings aren’t growing anymore.

Is anyone out there having problems with their seedlings?

What's on my tomatillo?

I planted a few different peppers this past spring, but this little orange and black critter seemed only to have eyes (or fangs) for my tomatillo plant. I tried the soap and water method and I even picked some off and squished them myself, but the next day there was always one of their friends munching away at the leaves.

According to Anne Marie Van Nest, the insect looks like an adult three-lined potato beetle that migrated to my tomatillo to feed. “They probably didn't find their first love–potatoes–nearby and decided to try your tomatillos, she explains. They are in the same Solanaceae (potato/tomato/nightshade) family.

So how do I ultimately get rid of them?

Van Nest recommends looking for neat yellow/orange rows of eggs on the underside of the leaf and removing them to help control this pest. The even more voracious larvae cluster on the leaves munching everything in sight and are a disgusting soft-bodied eating machine.

The best way to control them is to remove the eggs, handpick the larvae and adult beetles and dump them into a bucket of soapy water. Spraying with soapy water is somewhat effective on the ones that actually get sprayed, but it doesn't work on those that arrive later.

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