Monday, May 25, 2009

Trouble in Veggie Land

From Inga:
Since it is garden planting time, I am wondering how to to control onion maggots since the usual powdered chemical is no longer available. What should one use to aleviate this problem?

We had this question Friday on CBC and a listener called in to say she had planted rows of carrots between her onions for 40 years and had not had a problem. I guess the smell of the carrots confused the flies.

Other tips for control include sanitation. The last generation of larvae in the field in the fall are looking for feeding sites and they do like to feed on random onions left in the field.

Gardeners should keep their sites clean and move onions to new locations frequently. If I had this problem in the past I would choose a new site in the spring - plant early and cover the crop with reemay (also known as floating row cover). This would keep the adults from laying their eggs into the new seedlings. I would also plant carrots as per the listener's suggestion- why not?

Our potatoes have small black spots in several places as if infested by some worm... Also the skins are covered with 'scabs'. How can this be remedied?

DB: The small holes are probably from flea beetles and the scab is from too much manure. Certain potatoes are thin skinned and more susceptible to scab, although it doesn't affect eating quality. A freshly manured field will often have the bacterial problem of scab.
Carrots are also infested by black worm like areas about 2 - 3 inches below the tops. Cause? How do we get rid of this problem?

Again, reemay is the only cure for carrot rust fly and it only works if the fabric is put over the carrots in a new area that did not have flies last year. If you try to grow carrots where they have grown before the small flies will hatch out in spring and if the fabric is already in place they will quite happily smell and find the new carrots and lay their eggs at the top of each plant right there under the fabric..... so move your carrots to a new and clean site before adding the row cover.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Home Depo and Proven Winners - compare these plants

High end decorating magazines always show the expensive area rug or table next to the knock-off. Consumers always feel ripped off if they have just bought a trendy new interior piece at the high end price when it clearly looks the same as the knock-off. 

I feel that way right now showing you photos here of  Silver Fog Euphorbia (a Home Depo - ie cheaper- brand) and Diamond Frost Euphorbia  (a Proven Winner - ie expensive brand). Of course the Home Depo plant is bigger but the cost for this 11 cm plant was $4.47. The specialty nursery charged me $8.45 for the smaller 9 cm pot. Of course I can't tell you where I bought that but I just want gardeners to be aware of costs and to let you know even Donna Balzer pays too much some times. 

Friday, May 22, 2009

CBC Radio

Participate in the phone-in on CBC today ... 1:30 PM to 2:00PM. Lets hear how spring is progressing in your neighborhood! Are the trees leafed out? Are your Nanking Cherries in full bloom like my neighbor's?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's Summer Grandma!

Yes it is hard to believe I was reporting in from BC a good six weeks ago and noted at that time the daffodils were starting to bloom. Today my five year old grand-daughter said "Guess what Grandma... it's summer now."  When I asked her how she knew it was summer (I mean it is still freezing at night and the leaves are not fully out on the trees) Mali told me the tulips were in bloom and that meant it must be summer. 

Wherever you are I am hoping these overnight frosts are not getting you down and that you are using frost blankets on your annual flowers if they are already in pots. Meanwhile - enjoy summer (or at least spring) and this beautiful photo of daffodils in full bloom.

Pruning Trees- More follow-up

Kathleen is following up with even more (very good) pruning questions. 
"When is a good time to prune trees?  I have a mountain ash and an ohio buckeye that needs some attention."

This can be done in June -  it is easy to remember "prune in June" for deciduous trees. The only question I ask is why do you want to prune? Except with fruit trees, after the first few shaping and formative years of pruning,  trees can often go a long stretch without any extra trimming. Ohio buckeye in particular are slow growing so I wouldn't want you pruning and slowing down their growth. Trees don't need a lot of trimming once their basic form is set. Heaven forbid you start doing massive renovation style pruning and then find you have to keep it up over time. 

At this time of year I only suggest pruning to remove winterkill. Later (i.e. in June) you can remove crossing branches or anything that is suckering or growing straight up through the tree. If the tree is old keep this to a minimum. If you are in the first years of a tree's growth you may occasionally also remove a lower branch or two - but only after it is fully leafed out in June. If there is a lot of trimming to be done  I always suggest hiring a certified arborist. The International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) should be able to give you a name or ask anyone you hire to make sure they are certified.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Red Currants and Other follow-up Pruning Questions

Iris in Hanna, Alberta saw the Herald column on pruning but was wondering specifically what to do with Red Currants - I didn't address those. She's says she is a faithful reader so what can I do? I must add a little addendum:

Red currants bloom on small spurs on wood that is 2-3 years old. Iris' shrub is only 4 years old but she is afraid to prune it. I suggested she wait until mid-June to make sure it doesn't bloom this year and then cut the shrub back to about half because she says  it is getting tall and unmanageable (a sign of a young tree or too much compost or fertilizer). In the future she can cut out all but two-three of the new sprouts in spring and most of the older than four or five year branches. If the sun shines on her shrub she should have blooms this year and every year after!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Spring Plant Sale

Just a reminder the best little plant sale is happening this weekend at the Lakeview Community Hall in Calgary. Buy alpines like you've never seen before!
Date: May 23
Time: 1-4 PM
Place: 6110 34th St. SW Calgary for more details

Friday, May 15, 2009

Garden Fluffing- Spring

Yes everyone knows now that to sell a house it needs to be fluffed. A pillow just so or a blanket tossed casually over a chair in the bedroom. This casual elegance doesn't work quite so well outdoors where things continue to grow and plants reseed. Deadwood causes concerns and yes vigorous spreading mint takes over.

In this four part series we look at fluffing the garden seasonally and we start with spring. Look for it next Friday in the Calgary Herald!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cover up - it might snow!

It was +10 C and sunny this morning but by noon it was pouring and reports from the north say it is already snowing in Edmonton. In the too good to be true department (where we all pretended it was spring  as we basked in the sun over the weekend) it looks like Murphy's law once again. We will in fact probably have snow by the long weekend.

If you have been buying plants and getting excited by the whole "garden shopping" season then you need to get down to a garden center to buy floating row covers, spun-bond polyester, frost blankets or Reemay (all the same thing but with different names) to cover up your plants. You are gonna need it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Alpines in Bloom

We have been waiting all winter to see the tiny and delicate alpines bloom in the city and finally the waiting is over. I am sure they are in bloom now all over the country but surely no one waits for spring as long as prairie gardeners?

I absolutely love the Primula marginata shown above, and it came directly to me from the Calgary Rock and Alpine Garden Society (CRAGS) spring plant sale two years ago. This year's sale is once again in the Lakeview Community Hall in Calgary and is free to the public so check it out on May 23, 2009.

Look at the CRAGS web site for further functions and open gardens.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Gears or no gear?

My neighbor is shy but he really wants me to know that the new hedge clippers he bought are so much better than his old ones. Why is that you may ask? The new clippers are geared - with each clip there is less push needed to get the same effect as with his old non-geared clippers on the left. If you are in the market for new lopers or hedge trimmers try the geared ones. They really are easier to use. And don't be shy. Send me your tips.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Winterkill & Boxwood

In our cold and crispy climate it is little wonder there is going to be a certain amount of winterkill. Boxwood is a plant that most people don't think grows here (in zone 3 Calgary) but - in fact -  it can be quite good in a sheltered east or semi-shade location. The tiny bit of winterkill showing here is easily removed at this time of year. Check out my Calgary Herald article on May 15 for a full article on spring pruning to remove winterkill and other such things.... Yes it is gardening season again at the Herald so don't miss out.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Finally Rain!

The Value of rain is impossible to measure. It is free. It brings nitrogen directly to plants with each drop - greening things up faster than you can imagine. It is soft and warm compared to our hard and cold tap water in the city. Best of all it is chlorine free so will not kill all the little micro-organisms in the soil or on the leaves. After a dusty dry spring we love  rain! Now we just have to remember to hook up our rain barrels for another season.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A New Love!

Okay - it is just a petunia. But the dark pink fringe and soft pink center have won my heart. I love this new Proven winner 'Raspberry Blast' petunia.... I think it would be excellent with Limelight Mirabilis, a fast germinating seed-grown annual available from Vesey's.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Book Review: Canadian Vegetable Gardening

Its here! Douglas Green's new book for newbie veggie growers. It is a short, easy read for new vegetable gardeners. Yes it is based out of zone 5 in Ontario but whether you are growing giant purple turnips in Beaverlodge or lettuce in Lethbridge, this book is a big help for getting started! Does it answer every little question? Of course not - but we love the layout and the easy access way it is written so get this book "Canadian Vegetable Gardening" from Cool Springs Press for the beginner vegetable gardeners in your life. 

Way to go Doug. 

Beware: Ladybugs are waking Up

Don't through away your ladybugs this spring via over-enthusiastic raking and clean-up. Instead, rake the lawn or garden lightly and gather up the materials and start a pile of leaves for future leaf mold. This is not the same as compost.... it is a dryish pile left somewhere on your property that you can get to later to use in the compost or not. This way the wakening ladybugs will have a chance to warm up and fly off to breed. 

Thanks to Joan for the great photos of the ladybugs breeding!

PS Waking ladybugs need to eat and there probably aren't any aphids out yet so allow some early flowers to be their pollen source. 

Lawns are greening!

Don't blow it this summer over-fertilizing your lawn. They are already green in warmer climates and just turning green in our cooler zones and something weird is happening. They are turning green all on their own. This is because of the natural action of micro-organisms in the soil. They are breaking down organic matter and doling out nitrogen to each other and of course to the lawn. In other words there is always some nitrogen available to lawns right away. Adding fertilizer now before the lawn really needs it may do one of two things:
1) Weaken the lawn by causing it to grow lush (and you just know we are going to have a few more snow falls, or
2) Run off the lawn surface or into the sewer systems further polluting out water.

What to do? Rake your lawn, or have it aerated and compost the "browns" coming off your lawn now. Then top-dress the lawn with organic matter. I just used composted manure and worm castings. Rake it in lightly and then water. I watered it lightly with a solution of kelp mixed with humate to make sure to give the micro-organisms a good start. It has been very dry here but if it had been threatening rain I would not have watered at all.