Thursday, July 30, 2009

Spittle Bug Photo from Ken

Ken has sent me a photo of his spittle bug... it literally looks like spit on your plant. Like aphids, this is a true bug and has the ability to feed directly from plant- sucking (or rather imbibing) plant sap. But first it secretes this "juice" that looks like spit and hides inside the spit while it feeds. This bug doesn't really do a lot of damage but like other plant feeding bugs may spread virus to plants it feeds on. 

Simply hose it off plants as you see it. No big deal.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Veggies on the Balcony

Little Kale is three and he keeps asking to go look at my balcony vegetable garden. I used to have a vegetable garden in the ground but that is a long story. The short story is that I gave Kale a little paintbrush last week and showed him the male and female squash flowers and showed him how he could take some pollen from the "boy" flower and move it to the "girl" flower.

He did that last friday, touching both parts with his fingers as well as his paint brush. "It is so sticky" he said as he touched the girl flower. "All the better for the pollen to grab on to" I replied. Well, that was last friday and today - Monday- there is a little squash where his efforts were put to good use. It's amazing how much is ready on my tiny space - looks like rapini is on tap now as well as lettuce, basil, peas and parsley. The squash are only a few weeks away and the tomatoes are in full form but no red ones yet. The whole balcony is only 2 meters by 2 meters but it is the sunniest part of my yard because it is on the second story so it is ideal for sitting and pondering veggies!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bloomerang Lilac Featured in MACLEAN'S magazine this week

 MACLEAN'S featured a plant (on page 44) this week!  It is totally amazing how far the breeders of this new lilac have gone to promote it. The article reads as if it is an exceptional plant that everyone will be clamoring for. In fact it seems like quite an ordinary plant so far and zone 3 gardeners (myself included) are still unsure if it is an improvement over the regular little leaf lilac (Syringa meyeri palibin). Both plants are supposed to bloom twice. Both are purple and both have a small habit. 

Here are two photos - the top is the new Bloomerang in bloom in late June in Calgary and the bottom one is a more mature "no name" little leaf lilac in Edmonton in late June. Neither one looks anything like the French lilac which is featured prominently in the MACLEAN'S piece (photo page 44, July 27, 2009 article).

As I said - the jury is out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Powdery Mildew

In case you were wondering how powdery mildew differs from Fireblight here is a photo of powdery mildew on Dahlias on the older leaves. Not a pretty picture but definitely not fireblight!

On trees powdery mildew often looks like a very faint dusting of white on the leaves with some cupping of the leaves.

Fireblight- Yikes

A few weeks ago I was called in to look at an apple tree that had "fireblight"... it turned out it only had powdery mildew and the homeowner was relieved but I wondered how an arborist,  a neighbor and a homeowner could all be confused about this very distinctive disease so when I saw this Mountain Ash with actual fireblight I had to photograph it. 

The symptoms are very distinctive and you never forget them. The tree looks like it has been burned and sometimes only one or two branches are affected. In this case most of the tree in the park was affected. For the safety of the surrounding trees it should be removed. Check other references for more detail about this bacteria and it's control.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Favorite Peonies

I was chatting via e-mail with peony grower Bob Yaremko of Parkland Perennials in Northern Alberta ( and since he mentioned the peonies are still in bloom there I happened to ask him what his favorite peony was....

Of course politically correct Bob loves all his peonies but especially Jean Ericksen, an anemone type with strong stems, secondary buds and a long blooming season. I am so glad I asked! We are soon coming up to Peony planting season and Bob sells by mail order so his website is worth a look. His prices are truly reasonable and plants have arrived in excellent shape in the past. 

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Intensive gardening- remove tillers off corn

Remove side shoots - or tillers as they are known - from corn right now before it blooms to encourage stronger growth and more cobs on the stems left standing. We have such a short season if you leave all the stems some will not have time to produce filled in corn cobs. 

The corn will ripen faster and produce - on average- an extra cob for each tiller removed. See photo which shows main stem (which should be left) and side shoots, which should be removed now.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Veggie Tune-up

Well - it is time to cut back a few veggies to encourage really good root growth. I am talking about potatoes and carrots. If you trim off potato flowers now, the plant will send more energy into making potatoes. Simple and easy - just pinch off the blooms.

Carrots will form small twisted roots if they are not thinned properly so get out there and start "harvesting" the small carrots right now by thinning out the rows. Leave up to a cm between carrots when the final ones are thinned. 

Trim off the curlicue flowers forming on garlic now to encourage bigger garlic cloves (see photo)

PS Check the Calgary Herald this friday for more work to do this time of year.

PPS And pick your peas! You'll get more if you pick them as they form

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Cottony Psyllid - aka dead ash trees- Revised

Listeners to CBC know a lady phoned in about her  Green ash tree  last week - it had not leafed out properly and she was worried about it. Just in case I didn't give enough information about this new pest, the  Cottony Pysllid, I thought I should add a quick blog. Dr. Ken Fry - Entomology instructor at Olds College reminds me this pest is only a problem on Manchurian and Black ash - not on green ash. If a green ash is suffering it is likely from ash plant bug (with noticeable black frass on leaves) or wooly ash aphid with similar curled leaves to the cottony psylllid. If the caller is certain she has a Green Ash that is likely the problem.

If the tree is a Manchurian or Black ash it may have perfectly good leaves one year and be almost dead  the next year but I have suffered from this same problem and my tree is now dead completely and removed. There are no organic cures for this insect yet, but some of the larger tree care companies are now treating it. Again, Dr. Fry says "systemic insecticides injected into the tree have proven to be very effective against the cottony psyllid".

Everything  you need to know about this new pest is at the following web page:

Some Excellent Feedback!

Hello Donna, I wanted to let you know that we are really thrilled with your advice, which you gave us in November 2007.  
We are in Chinook Park ("white house" "kayakers") and the garage was not completed in time to do much last summer.  
However, we have now planted and have found your recommendations to be excellent.  
We are really enjoying the new plants and they all seem to like your choice of location.  

Thanks again, I look forward to your Herald columns and hope you are having a great summer.