Saturday, August 22, 2009

Two Minutes - two wasps

Although I have all the commercial wasp traps at my disposal, I also bought one at the Farmer's market today. This caused a small problem. At this time of year all wasps really want is meat. This is why they are buzzing trees looking for aphids and picnics looking for sandwiches. We had it on good authority they also eat fish.

The only fish we had was the dead fish head in yesterday's garbage.

You guessed it - the handy husband went out to the garage and sifted through you know what looking for you know what. Anyway with fish head in place in the trap we caught the first two wasps in two minutes. Now this is a simple device- an empty can of niblets makes up the base and with entry holes in the can the wasps fly in looking for the fish and then up into the screened portion and then you guessed it - they are trapped. All this for 12 dollars and a fish head. The price is right and dinner will be wasp free tonight.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bubbles with a bug inside

Nancy wondered about a problem on her very old Poplar tree - it was probably "an original" in the city she thought and it had "Bubbles with a bug inside".

Dr. Ken Fry, Entomology Instructor at Olds College had already helped me out with this problem last summer so I called up his notes:
"The moth species mining poplar and willow have one generation per year. The larvae feed within the leaf during the summer and then spin a silken cocoon in the mine to pupate. The adult emerges in late July or early August. The adult overwinters in leaf litter or debris on the ground. Eggs are laid on either the upper or lower leaf surface in the spring. The larvae then chew their way into the leaf.
       My neighbour has this moth infesting his willow. I also saw this leaf miner on old poplar at the Confederation golf course. A systemic insecticide (one that is injected into the tree and the tree delivers the insecticide to all tissues) would be effective. The reason "Cygon", the commonest systemic insecticide used by homeowners has been removed from sale is it is very toxic to humans and the majority of pests it was used against are not very serious and did not justify the use of such a toxic product (as judged by today's standards).
       Commercial applicators do have systemic products registered for such purposes. However, Donna is correct in mentioning that your trees are in the twilight years of their life and beginning to decline. Insects and diseases exploit this decline in vigour and attack the tree. It is merely another step in the cycle. The tree will eventually die and be recycled by wood-boring insects, wood peckers, leaf-cutter bees nesting in the rotting wood, etc.
       Leaf miners will not cause the death of the tree, merely stress it. As Donna has said, providing nutrients and ample water will allow the trees to weather the assault from the moths. Plan for the future by planting replacement trees now and be sure to have an arborist evaluate the trees as they age for risk of blow-down in a storm."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Moving Plants and other nonsense

I brought a full sized (ie 5 gallon pot) tomato plant with me to the coast. This is partially because I have come here at the wrong time in terms of my garden in Calgary. The plant had green fruit but alas nothing even a California exporter would consider shipping. If you've read yesterday's post you know I have come here at the right time - it is freezing cold there and nice and warm here. Anyway I brought this full and "giant" plant in the back of  the car with a dog and a cat and an assortment of other plants that just really weren't working in Calgary - a miniature rose and a chi-chi 'Chiffon Blue' Hibiscus. 

But back to the tomato - I was imagining ripe fruit on this plant I  had started from seed in mid-March, transplanted twice as it grew and watered carefully with tepid water on alternating days. Ever the optomist I didn't want the fruit to be ripe in Calgary when I was on the coast so I dutifully put it out by the car and my very patient husband dutifully loaded it into the car. "Wrap it in newspaper" , I suggested, "to keep the leaves from being crushed if the cat decides he would rather ride in the back".

The Proven Winner's Chiffon Blue Hibiscus came to me free last summer as a trial plant shipped to Calgary. It was a "new for 2009" plant and of course - by summer's end - I was reading rave reviews about the fabulous blooms -written by every single garden writer in Toronto - even as my plant was barely getting its second leaf.  I  was fed up with my loser plant and ready to throw it away when I saw it was dead this spring. Too bad, so sad, I thought as I ripped it out to make room for the next winner-  and then - there is was - a small bud of life at the base of the plant and it was only June 25th! 

Chiffie was alive. Clearly I had to pot it, carefully adding compost to the soil, and hold it over until our departure. I had to shelter it from hail and heavy storms and by August it was rewarding me with three or four leaves!  I knew it was destined to come with us to the coast. At this size it couldn't possibly tolerate another prairie winter. 

The three amigos arrived here in good shape and one of the jobs I had to do this week was plant them in their new locations. Not their final locations, mind you, since I need to make sure they are watered and deer free for at least a season. Well- what am I saying - no matter what I do that tomato is doomed in the next 60 days even in Canada's Hawaii. Lets just say all three plants were given a second chance in the vegetable garden which of course make sense for the tomato but the other two? What they don't know won't hurt them. 

Friday, August 14, 2009

Call me Amazed...

Yes it is summer but in most of Alberta this means cold wet weather (plus 9 today in Calgary). Out East they had similar weather all July. "Only three days all month without rain in July" said our friends from Montreal. All this weather talk is partially why we pack up and come to the west coast for August. 

One of the things I love to do here is go to the farmer's market. All the great produce, happy hogs and truly free range eggs are right here. Imagine my joy when Kathy Zipp from the Qualicum Beach farmer's market encouraged me to come to her farm. I was curious - of course- about local farming methods and jumped right on it. 

Now imagine my amazement when I arrived at Kathy's farm and everything was being grown in greenhouses in what I consider the warmest and mildest climate in Canada. From seeds started indoors in January and planted out into the greenhouse in spring Kathy has produced huge onions. She also has carrots, corn and edible flowers in bloom as well. And everything is growing under cover. I guess this keeps the deer out and keeps the temperature moderate. All the beds are raised but otherwise look like they are outdoors and the crop is fabulous. 

Of course when I got lost going to Kathy's I came upon a strawberry farm. Learning that all their fertilizing was done by helicopter based on tissue analysis was fun and educational. Okay - seriously - it is warmer here and people also garden differently. If I am going to learn it all I might need a bit more time.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Shirley's Rose probably has "Balling"

Last week Shirley from Calgary phoned me at CBC radio in Calgary to ask about her Morden rose. It was forming large flower buds but instead of opening up normally the large fluffy buds fall off when she touches them. I was shocked and surprised. I had not heard of this problem - a cause of great excitement for me but obviously not for Shirley. When I was off the air I called Joan Altenhof at the Calgary Rose Society. Joan is one of the many people cooperatively  writing the  book "Growing Roses in Calgary" so she is in the know.

Joan immediately knew the problem - it is called  "Balling" - and  it is common in Morden Fireglow roses - so she assumed that Shirley's rose is this cultivar. Joan has solved the problem in her own garden by shovel pruning. If you are not familiar with this drastic measure - in involves digging up and tossing out the plant.  Joan has an extensive rose collection and numerous plants in the Morden group and only Fireglow regularly had this problem so obviously this plant is no longer growing in Joan's garden. Sometimes "Balling"  is caused by cool spring weather but since it was continuously happening with Morden Fireglow she felt it was just a problem with the plant. Because she has tossed the plant she couldn't send along a Fireglow image so she sent me balling in a different rose. In this photo you will see the flower bud also has Botrytis disease (ie browning) but balling doesn't always lead to Botrytis.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Blackberries are ready early!

Yes the wild foraging continues. This week the wild blackberries are ready and they are mother's nectar! Big bold and black. Even though it has been dry on the coast there seems to be more fruit than I can remember. Maybe it is a stress response - many plants bloom more if the conditions are stressful and the drought and heat on the coast this summer has definitely been over the top.

Most people think of the coast as lush and green but there is a very dry season in the summer when the lawns go brown and the plants just sit and wait.  We spread the fish compost this spring on the lawn and are on a modified watering program and it seems to have worked because the lawn was "pale" green until it rained and then it quickly brightened with the heavy rain the other night. 

Back to the blackberries ... pies to be made 

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's Summer and the photo is changing

Gardeners may have gotten used to my "professional photo" but that has now changed. I went on an amazing hike and had to include a photo among the blooms in Mount Assiniboine, BC. So beautiful a place I thought it was worth including for the time being. 

Right now I am continuing to hike and garden and gather wild foods as I spend August in my "retirement" home on the coast. 

Lacewing Larva

Yes- it's true - here is another photo from Terry Altenhof of a lacewing larva. Check out those giant mandibles! 

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Predators to our rescue

Terry Altenhof took an amazing photo of the eggs of two predators in his rose garden. Both types of predators are seen here on a single leaf. These are the all important egg stage photos of the lady beetle and the lacewing. 

Why are they so important you might ask? They are important because people do not recognize the eggs of ladybugs and lacewings. Because they don't recognize them they might squish them at this fragile egg stage.  What a boon to the garden the larvae (ie. young hatchlings) and fully grown adults (ie ladybugs and lacewings)  are with their voracious appetites for aphids. Lacewings -see white eggs suspended on small stems-  and ladybeetles - see the yellow eggs - both eat aphids at both the larval and adult stage. Does anyone have a shortage of aphids this year? No - I didn't think so. We are already well into our second generation in Calgary. Maybe the ladybugs and lacewings will catch up to the aphids by fall. Cross your fingers and look for eggs and the young black larvae of lady bugs ... I wonder what a lacewing larva looks like?