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I'm beginning to think of entomology might be a good career choice... for the numbers of critters we have both inside our plants and our appartment lately! Good grief.

Anyway, thought I'd post the first update in ages... a photo of whitefly damage on our indoor pot of Italian parsely. It grows in the window-sill of our south facing appartment, According to the University of Florida Entomology and Nematology department, "Hot, dry weather favors rapid whitefly reproduction". Hot, dry conditions such as found on our window sill - which for the last couple of months, it seems, has turned into an 18-24 beach holiday for hemipterans (what's a hemipteran?)

The damage kind of snuck up on us, I guess, because I don't often use that parsely in cooking - and because it's mostly my husband that waters the plant (ok, it's ALWAYS my husband that waters the plant).

Whiteflies insert their mouthparts into the phloem of plants (the phloem is one part of the two-part vascular system of the plant). The Phloem carries sugars (glucose) and essential nutrients to all parts of the plant. When the freeloading whitefly start tapping leaves for their sweet substance, the plant gets deprived of certain nutrients, partly because vast hordes of these things are stealing it directly, and also because by doing this, they affect turgor pressure in the plant (turgor pressure, crudely speaking, being reponsible for the translocation of nutrients around the plant, via osmosis and all that jazz....)

Whitefly suck... literally.

Along with the plant starving for sustinence, the whitefly's saliva is toxic (obviously they haven't heard of a toothbrush) and this slow drain of toxic material into the plant's vascular system effectively poisons the plant slowly.

Like aphids, these guys emit a sticky poop known as honeydew. This honeydew can create problems with mold, in addition to everything above. Also it just makes your plant kind of sticky and yucky. Gross.

Whitefly are very difficult to treat with pesticides, as they quickly develop resistance. Safer soap is a good option, and biologicals such as the Pirate Bug and the Encarsia formica wasp are also used in the treatment of whitefly.

Alternatively (especially if it gets to this point, where the plant is almost completely stippled with whitefly damage) you could throw it out, as we did, to stop the other plants around it becoming infested. Just remember if you do this to wash out the affected pot thoroughly before planting anything new in it!

In Other News:

My weekend gardening business in New Westminster has been up and running since April, and to all of my clients, a big THANK YOU for your business! It's looking like the weather's finally catching up to the fact that it's summer - hopefully the sun sticks around :)

If you're in the New Westminster, and are wanting a little gardening advice, design or weeding and planting done, why don't you check out my business website HERE for more information about me, my availability and how I can help you!
Until next time... Happy Gardening :)

So long whitefly infested Italian Parsely :(

New Season, New Project

It's a new growing season already under way, and finally I dip my toes again into things horticultural.

Now that Jude is eight months, I have been feeling lately that I wanted a challenge, something to sink my teeth into that wasn't going to eat up too much precious time with my family, but that would help keep me up to speed with Horticultural stuff.

So three weeks ago, I asked Safeway to put up a "Free Gardener" poster, offering help to whoever might read it and figure they need it. A week later, I got a call from a lady who worked at a non-profit, asking whether I'd consider a project revamping a front garden into what could potentially be a vegetable patch. At first, I was a little apprehensive, given that the project was in the next town, and not in New West (as I'd specified on the poster), but given the fact it only turned out to be ten minutes drive away, and the lady on the phone was so enthusiastic about it, I figured I'd give it a go.

I'm glad I did. This is actually a perfect small project, with flexible working hours, and a wide range of skills to be utilized to complete it. Last Saturday I spent four hours removing Silver Nettle Vine (Lamiastrum galeobdolon), which is a bit too much of an enthuasiastic ground cover ;) and Horsetail (Equisetum), plus a little English Ivy (Hedera helix) which I like, but probably doesn't have much business in a herb bed.

This week, I spent one and a half hours removing three small tree stumps (6-8" diameter each) from the garden. The first took me one hour - it had 2-3 foot anchor roots on one side and I needed to dig for quite a while to 'undermine' it. The second took me about 20 minutes, some digging around it, some rocking the stump and out it flew. The third I pretty much just rocked on and the roots cracked. I had estimated 3 hours for 3 stumps, and ended up heading home by 12:55am-ish, which goes to show you never can tell, I guess. "Underpromise and Overdeliver" as our teacher at Cap College used to say. How true.

Garden renovation pics so far:

Left: Before  Right: After weeding and tree stump removal.

Left: Before  Right: After weeding and tree stump removal.

I can see some of you will be thinking, "OK, so what? It had weeds on it, but now it's TOTALLY BARE! (except for those nice bachelors buttons and the cedar etc...)"

You'd be right, but I'm not finished yet. This week I'm hoping to have a further chat with the client to find out exactly what plants she has in mind for the space, then we can assess the practicality and maintenance of each before purchasing and planting them. It's an exciting time, that's for sure. Whatever we pick though, this is pretty much a dream site. The soil is crumbly and easy to work with, if perhaps a little on the acidic side (normal for West Coast anyway!), and the site is South facing. We're going to have a blast with it, I think!

Ending with a picture of the pile of stumps produced by today's work. Kind of a brag, but I'm very pleased. Definately glad I swapped my pick-mattock for a cutting-mattock, without the axe end, I never would have been able to sever the roots and my back would have no doubt been pulled due to me trying to lever the thing out with an insufficient tool out of pride and embarassment (never do this, by the way :) you will regret it, though your chiropracter will likely be glad of the business ;))

Happy gardening everyone. More updates as they come :)


Fall (Autumn) is a tricky time for a show garden like Park and Tilford: not only do you have a gazillion leaves all over the place from the numerous deciduous trees (grr Magnolias grr), but you also are dealing with a lot of die-back and tidy-up that needs to be done.

Thankfully, though they are but a small team, the Park and Tilford staff and their comrades in arms, the F.O.G.s (friends of the garden) are doing a great job both keeping the garden interesting and keeping the public informed.

The Native Garden (left) which is beginning to look the "fairest one of all" - Autumn is a time where the evergreens look ultra lush against the naked backdrop of deciduous trees and rich carpet of leaves. Jude (right) takes it all in, in the Colonade.

* Ex-"Boy and Dolphin" Fountain/Toad and Stone Pot Fountain:

Fans of water features, you'll be pleased to know that the ex-'boy and dolphin' fountain that was a work in progress last time we visited in July is now a fully functioning, bronze toad and pot of stone water spraying spectacular. I remember looking a little dubiously at the bronze toads when they arrived back in late Summer last year but they do give a wonderful whimsical look to the garden.

* The Herb Garden

They've re-jigged the centre bed again! Now it's a colourful mix of purple and white Kale, orange Marigolds, Yellow Primoses and what seems to be Lavendar. The standard Helitrope in the centre still looks amazingly good for late October. Everything that was exploding out with life in the summer has been trimmed, tamed and tied back to create a more serene, orderly quiet. Bright sticks of Rainbow Chard peer cheerily out from beside the pathway near the sundial.

* The Show Garden/Little Pots

I was fortunate enough to bump into my old gardening acquiantance, Mag, in the show garden. Judging by the empty plant pots and brightly coloured new looking blue and white Pansies planted in the raised beds, it had been quite a busy afternoon of planting for the garden staff. The theme this autumn is a simple one, Mag explained - and Pansies definately are a great choice for low-maintenance gardening. Give them water, a little food maybe, perhaps a little deadheading and they'll hold out into the winter when most other plants don't dare raise their heads. Also planted amongst the Pansies were a few Witch-hazels (Hammamelis mollis) which will fill the Winter air with fragrance and colour early next year.

Apparantly the bulbs for next year have already been planted. I hear three types of Hyacinth - it ought to be quite the display!

Near the entrance, a few pots were planted up with cheerful looking violas, which looked stunningly bright against the fading Hosta backdrop.

The rose garden - although a little more subdued looking now - is still a pleasure to walk through. The maples in the Asian Garden have turned their glorious firey Fall colours and the display case near the administration office is filled with a small exhibit themed for this time of year.

So if you enjoy walks in the crisp Fall air, but aren't sure where to go - let me suggest Park and Tilford Gardens! According to the gardeners, there are still more F.O.G.s needed too, so if rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty in one of the prettiest places in North Vancouver interests you, why not get in touch with the gardens and see if you can join the team?

Park and Tilford Gardens can be found just off the Hwy 1 Main Street exit, in the Park and Tilford Shopping Centre, opposite Rona.

The World According to Monsanto
Run Time: 108 minutes
Directed by: Marie-Monique Robin
Studio: Mongrel Media

“Control oil, you control nations; control food and you control the people.” -- Henry Alfred Kissinger

Keeping citizens uninformed as to the toxic effects of the chemicals buried in their neighbourhood, lying about the biodegradability and environmental friendliness of their products, firing scientists for saying what is in the public interest rather than what they are 'supposed to say', threatening the world's biodiversity by seed contamination.... sounds like something from a horror movie, doesn't it? In fact, this is no horror movie, but a tale of some of the known atrocities carried out by mega conglomerate Monsanto in the name of business.

For those of you who work in horticulture or who have a philanthropic bone in your body, if you're not worried about Monsanto, you should be. Whilst money has always meant power to some extent or other, we are now living in a world where this is more the case than ever. Corporations such as Monsanto not only have a near-monopoly within food production, but also are getting 'a little too cosy' with establishments started for the public interest, such as governments and health authorities. Did you know that in 1998 Monsanto was taken to court over claims by veterinary scientists from Health Canada's Safety Division that they were being bribed to approve rBGH: recombinant bovine growth hormone? More on this story here.

"What's the big deal about some hormone?" you might ask. Well, if you drink milk, then think about the mastitus that is caused to the cows when pumping these hormones into their bodies. As a result, you have pus in the milk, in addition you have antibiotics within the milk that were used to treat the mastitus. Added to this unpleasant little cocktail, you have also have high levels of natural growth factor IGF-1, which in high levels has been thought to contribute towards breast, colon and prostate cancers in humans. Mmm... kind of makes that glass of milk with your Oreo a little less desirable, doesn't it? Thankfully in Canada, as well as in Europe, the use of vBGH is 100% banned, BUT, according to Wiki: "In Canada, bulk milk products from the United States that have been produced with rbST/vBGH are still allowed to be sold and used in food manufacture (cheese etc.)"

Another reason to buy 'local' then.

Marie-Monique Robin examines not only the rBGH controversy, but also talks you through what is perhaps the most shocking aspect of Monsanto's business: GMOs - or Genetically Modified Organisms. Part of their scientfic 'Franken-food' dabbling has resulted in Round Up Ready Soybeans - that is to say, Soybeans that are resistant to the herbicide 'Round Up'. Whilst this perhaps sounds like a good theory on its own, in practise the reality is scary. Farmers who grow Monsanto's beans must sign a contract promising to respect Monsanto's patent on the beans and pay royalties to Monsanto for crops sold. All well and good for the farmers that did sign a contract with Monsanto, but how about the ones that want to grow non-Monsanto beans? Well, there have been cases of accidental contamination between non-Monsanto crops and Monsanto crops, the results of which have led to farmers being sued by Monsanto for use of their product without permission.

Forget the court cases by a multi-national, extremely rich company against relatively low income farmers for a second. The presence of GMO seeds, not just for soybeans, but also for plants like corn and cotton threatens the biodiversity of our planet. In Mexico, for example, home to most of the world's corn seed, contamination by GMO crops is already occuring. This creates issues not only financially (as soon as you accidentally grow Monsanto's seeds, you have to pay royalies) but also for plant health. GMO seeds come with a specific set of conditions: special fertilizers to use, for example, as well as succeptibility to specific diseases. Native seeds come with no such conditions, and often grow well within their given environment with little interference. By having the biodiversity that native seeds provide, you are always ensured of a good harvest - if one crop doesn't grow well due to pest issues, another crop may resist that particular pest. The threat of the spread of GMO crops is one of 'putting all of our eggs in one basket'. Monocultures are a bad idea - on the less serious side, they take away from the selection and aesthetics of various species being planted together - more seriously, they come with the threat of famine if a crop is decimated by disease.

What I've covered above is only a small part of what is a very detailed, easy to digest analysis of the problem of not only Monsanto, but what happens when food production is combined with corporate interest. Marie-Monique Robin's "The World According to Monsanto" is a little hard to find in all video stores, but definately thought provoking and a must see!


Treespotting - Autumn Colour: Part 2

Another moody, beautiful rainy day in Greater Vancouver. Hope you're managing to get out for a walk in that beautiful fresh Fall air!

Here's part two of my run down of the commonly seen trees of the Lower Mainland - featuring the Maple (Acer spp.), the Cherry (Prunus spp.), the Black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) and the Witch-hazel (Hamamellis spp.)

Acer spp.

The West Coast of BC has a multitude of Maple species: above are pictured the Norway Maple (Acer platanoides) on left and the Vine Maple (Acer circinatum) on right. You can tell where the Vine Maple gets its Latin name, as it is more of a 'fat circle' (thus "circinatum") than its Norway Maple cousin.


Canada has two emblems - the beaver and the maple." -- John W. Dawson 

If you're Canadian, you know the Maple: it's on your flag, in the logos of various Canadian made products and at this time of year, it's one of the most colourful trees. Perhaps you remember, as I do, playing with the 'helicopter' type seeds when you were a kid. The technical name for this gliding, spinning Maple seed is a 'samara'. Samaras come in different shapes and sizes, depending on the species of the Maple and are a great way to identify the tree if you can't figure it out by leaves or form alone.

One of the most popular uses for the maple tree out here in Canada is of course, maple syrup, and this is usually produced from sap of the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) or the black maple (Acer nigrum). Not all Maple trees are suitable for syrup making, it all depends on the sugar content of the sap. Good news! Pure maple syrup is not only delicious, but it is also good for you. As a natural sweetener, it contains more nutrients than honey, specifically a substancial source of manganese and zinc. Obviously, there is still significant sugar content, so don't go crazy if you enjoy having teeth, but...

Recently, there has been some concerned discussion about the effects global warming may have on maple syrup production. As this article from the 'Daily Green News' blog explains: "All farming depends on the weather, but few foods are more dependent on a specific climate than maple syrup. After all, for the sugar maple's sap to run at all requires cooperative weather - freezing nights followed by warmer days". According the scientific projections, these extremes of temperature which the maple's sap run needs are becoming a rarer occurance. Not only this, but the change in weather patterns may also be causing dieback of trees as mentioned here.

It seems that our Maples may not just be a pretty face, but even the proverbial 'canary in the coal mine' that alerts us to the new face of our changing planet.

Prunus spp.

"Break open a cherry tree and there are no flowers, but the spring breeze brings forth myriad blossoms" -- Ikkyu Sojun

No tree says Spring like the Cherry with its abundant fluffy looking blossoms: yet the cherry is also a beautiful Fall tree too. Many boulevards in Greater Vancouver have a cherry tree or several all changing colour right now. Cherry bark can be almost as diverse as the leaf shapes - shiny like the Japanese cherry, or rough and scaly like Black cherry.

Not all cherry trees bear fruit, in fact some - like the Kwanzan cherry (Prunus serrulata 'Kwanzan') - are sterile, having stamens and pistils replaced by extra petals. These sterile cherries are purely for ornamental purposes. Cherry stones contain cyanide and are quite toxic in quantity (thankfully, cherry stones are not tempting to eat at all!).

Folklore on the cherry seems to be pretty sparse. One biblical-themed story is told of Mary, Jesus' mother, seeing some cherries and asking Joseph to reach them for her as they were too high. Joseph told Mary that the one who "got thee with child" should reach them for her. The unborn Jesus communicated with the cherry trees to lower their branches for Mary, and Joseph was apparantly ashamed.

Robinia pseudoacacia


"I've heard black locust referred to as the poor man's teak." -- Woodworking forum

Tall, feathery and delightful to watch rustling in a brisque Fall breeze, the Black locust is a commonly seen tree in parks, pub gardens and streets like Columbia in New Westminster. The name 'robinia' means 'locust' and the locust name was thought to have been given to this tree by Jesuit missionaries who thought this tree as being the one that supported St. Joseph through his time in the wilderness.

This time of year, you'll regonise not only the beautifully buttery yellow compound leaves but also the large, dark hanging seedpods that cascade from the branches of the tree. These seedpods are highly toxic to humans, but a few animals are able to eat them with no ill effect. Black locust wood is supposed to be tough, durable and long lasting, so if you're a carpenter - maybe a material to consider! This is also a tree native to North America that tolerates pollution well, and perhaps this explains its popularity in urban centres.

The Black locust is a member of the Fabaceae - or Pea - family.

Hamamelis spp.

"No other hardy woody plant, native or exotic, can match the magical flower display of the Witchhazel" -- Betty Jakum, Master Gardener

Witch-hazel, a plant with many uses and superstitions surrounding it. Of course, the first to mention is the presence of 'witch' in its common name, which is thought to pertain to the folklore concerning its magical powers. As a dowsing wood, Witch-hazel sticks are thought to be quite good, pointing downwards towards the ground above sources of water. As those of you who went to school in the 90s also may remember, witch-hazel was used as a medicinial application on playground scrapes and other "boo boos". First Nations people of North America used these plants medicinally for ailments such as sore throats, coughs and fever.

Witch-hazel is one of the few 'winter blooming' plants. The magnificent fiery colours of its cheerleader pom-pom type flowers dazzle the eye and the subtle and sweet aromas stir the soul. Expect to see these precocious blooms (called such as they arrive before the leaves do) around January in the Lower Mainland, although there are some variations in bloom time between species.

Treespotting - Autumn Colour: Part 1

So it's Fall, the leaves are changing colour on the trees and you're strolling down the boulevard in the late afternoon sunshine enjoying the display but wondering what the trees are.

Here's part one of my run down of the commonly seen trees of the Lower Mainland - featuring the Common Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), the Oak (Quercus spp.), the Mountain Ash (Sorbus aucuparia) and the American Ash (Fraxinus americana). Stay tuned for part two!

Aesculus hippocastanum

The fully shelled conker (left), leaf (middle) and fruit (right) of the Horse Chestnut

“For luck you carried a horse chestnut and a rabbit's foot in your right pocket. The fur had been worn off the rabbit's foot long ago and the bones and the sinews were polished by the wear. The claws scratched in the lining of your pocket and you knew your luck was still there.” -- Ernest Hemmingway

Perhaps most commonly known for its conkers - joy of kids everywhere - the Common Horse Chestnut, or Conker Tree as it was affectionately called by my friends growing up, is a common sight in parks around Mainland Vancouver. Whilst the conkers may be coveted by the squirrels that dash around the trees this time of year, they contain the toxic glucoside aesculin and are therefore not for human consumption. There are a few theories surrounding why the horse chestnut is named as such: one of them is that the base of the leaf stalk, when detatched carefully from the point at which it meets the branch, looks very much alike to a horses hoof and shoe.

In homeopathic medicine, uses for this tree include "treating feelings of physical tiredness and heaviness in the body... (as well as) all types of physical pain... swelling in the legs...." as an extract, treatment of skin conditions,rheumatic pains, coughs and diarrhea. In superstition, conkers are reported to keep spiders away if kept in the corners of the room.

On the online Druid Horoscope, a person of Horse Chestnut temprament has a "...well developed sense of justice. He's sensitive and might be lack of confidence. He may be tolerant, but not stubborn, and can be very causious and polite.

Moral means much to him, and is somewhat puritant even for of his certain polity"


Quercus spp.

Leaf (left) and acorn (right) of the Red Oak or Quercus rubra

"Every oak tree started out as a couple of ntus who decided to stand their ground." -- Unknown

Another well known tree in the parks and avenues of the Lower Mainland, the Oak is a regal beauty with a long history of folklore in Europe. There are quite a few different types of oaks to be found about: the Swamp Oak, the English Oak and the Fastigiate Oak to name a few - but to make things simple, if it has an acorn and that familiar looking pinnate leaf - it's an Oak! Whilst edible, acorns can be a little bitter, but in Korea, they make an edible jelly from them called dotorimuk and apparantly they are fairly nutritious...

Acorns have uses in love magic and divination and were revered by the Druids as well as the Romans, who both made necklaces out of the hard brown nut. An old British superstition states that carrying an acorn around in one's pocket can help to prevent old age (cheaper than skin cream!). Regarded by Socrates as an oracle tree, the Oak also has ties to Christianity and Freemasonry, as well as - some say - offering protection from magic (tying two twigs of the oak tree together with red thread into an even armed cross is said to be a potent protection charm).

Oaks can live for 200 years or more - kind of makes you feel small when you plant that acorn!

Sorbus aucuparia

"Oh the Oak and the Ash and the Bonny Ivy tree / They florish at home in my own country" -- Old English Melody

A member of the rose family (Rosaceae) these relatively small, often gnarly looking trees bear bright red fruit this time of year - this fruit will ferment on the tree and provide a sweet treat for birds in the winter months (some birds actually appear to be flying drunk after consuming a few of the berries!). The leaves of this tree are small and compound with thirteen to seventeen leaflets on each leaf. In Newfoundland, popular folklore states that a heavy crop of berries on the Mountain Ash means a harsh winter ahead.

Mountain Ash berries - when eaten off the tree - taste very bitter (almost too bitter to be palatable) and really shouldn't be eaten as such as they contain parasorbic acid which can cause indigestion as well as kidney damage. Still, the berries of this tree are used in cooking and alcohol making as well as flavouring and bizzarely enough - as a substitute for coffee beans.

The Rowan also has a history in magic and folklore as a protective tree - one that protects the user from enchantment and witchcraft. Also suitable for carving, the wood of the Mountain Ash is said to make good walking sticks, and has also been used for divining.

Fraxinus americana

"Oh the Oak and the Ash and the Bonny Ivy tree / They florish at home in my own country" -- Old English Melody

Similar to the Mountain Ash in its compound leaves, the American Ash is nonetheless unrelated - as it is in the Oleaceae (Olive!) family rather than the Rosaceae family. Compared to its Mountain companion, the American Ash is a far taller tree with longer, bigger, broader and pointier leaflets that turn a wonderful buttery yellow in the Fall.

Whilst not necessarily having the long history of magic that the Mountain Ash does, the American Ash is a useful tree and is used to make baseball bats, flooring and furniature among other products - it also just looks dazzlingly beautiful on a sunny day this time of year.

Today was just another reminder of why I love GardenWise magazine so much. Without it, I never would have known about the little gem that is Derby Reach Regional Park Apple Day - a charmingly small, but informative little fair that showcases different types of locally grown apples as well as offering orchard tours and apple samples to taste. Having never been to an apple festival before, and enjoying any excuse to go and visit picturesque old Fort Langley, this was definately something to check out!

The day's schedule ran as follows:

11:00am Heritage Orchard Tour led by Sharon Meneely
11:30am Langley Community Music School Fiddlers
12:00pm Heritage Orchard Tour led by historian Jane Watt
12:30pm Langley Community Music School Fiddlers
Regional History Tour by Metro Parks
1:00pm Heritage Orchard Tour led by historian Jane Watt
1:15pm Blackfish of Kwantlen Nation (Drummers and Dancers)
2:00pm Farewell until next year

The festival drew a small, but good spirited crowd

Quite irritatingly, I confused the hours of this festival with the UBC festival (which runs from 11am - 4pm, Saturday 17th - Sunday 18th October) and arrived with Hubs and Jude at 1pm. Still, in the short time we were there before the stalls were packed up, I did manage to experience the delight of tasting different cultivars of locally grown apples, many of which I'd never tasted before. My favourites included the sweet and juicy 'Baldwin' apple, as well as the 'Cox's Orange Pippin' and the aromatic 'Macoun' apple.

It's quite amazing just how delicious orchard fresh apples taste in comparison to the fare you usually get in the supermarket.

I asked the stall holder why it was that we don't get more of these delicious apples stocked in our supermarkets, as opposed to those that are - say - imported from the United States.

She said to me that big supermarkets likely didn't want the fuss of creating contracts with the smaller orchards we have out here - they would prefer fruit produced and bought en masse such as those grown in the bigger orchards of the United States. (It is for this reason that I prefer shopping at my local greengrocer for fruit rather than the large chain stores - I find the quality and taste seems to be far superior in the smaller set-ups that are more likely to sell local produce.)

Still, never fear - even if you'll likely never find the selection of apples from your local orchards in supermarkets, tasty apples are still - as the campaign slogan goes - "Within Your Reach". If you live in the Lower Mainland, consider contacting the apple vendors below to see if they stock your favourite kind of apple and to see if you can make a purchase from them. By buying from local orchards, you not only help reduce your food-related 'carbon footprint' but you also ensure yourself a taste experience that is beyond your wildest expectations.

Annie's Orchard
Jim, Mary and Ann Rahe
4092 248 St
(604) 856-3041

Dave's Orchard
Dave, Sheila Ormrod
5910 216 St
(604) 534-9979

Derry's Orchard and Nursery
Derry Walsh
(604) 856-9316

Urban Fruitery
Laurelle Oldford-Down
(604) 318-5137

Trying out one of the twenty or so apple varieties available at Apple Day.

Beetles: At War With The "Little Biters"

The word beetle comes from the old English word meaning "little biters". Certainly, these creatures live up to their name, with chewing mouthparts that they are capable of using for good (as in the case of the ladybug which eats the aphids that suck on our favourite plants) or evil (such as the Japanese leaf beetle, which defoliates rose leaves to skeletal proportions, much to many rose gardeners' dismay).

In this case, we see damage caused by the beetles from the 'dark side', that have chosen to attack the leaves on my friend Rhian's rose.

Chomping damage to a rose, likely caused by leaf beetles of some description

Target plant for this condition:

The rose bush in my friend Rhian's garden. As I left after a good chat and a cup of tea I noticed an amazing holey pattern on the leaves of the rose. On closer inspection, it seemed that all of the rose leaves had been chomped pretty agressively and the damage looked to have been caused by some kind of beetle

 The affected rose stands in a mid-sized pot by the front door. The situation is pretty sunny, the soil is perhaps a bit dry, but overall the rose seems to be in a good place.

I think my rose plant is getting eaten by leaf beetles of some sort. What should I be looking for?

Look for skeletonized leaves, starting in Spring (May - June). Close inspection may reveal larvae feeding on the leaves or eggs on the undersides of leaves.

Grease (such as Vaseline) may also be used as a thick coating on a few leaves to immobilize the pest, so you can find out exactly what you are dealing with.

OK - it's definately leaf beetles - what do I do now?

1) Pick the beetles off of the plant manually. If you are able to spot the beetles, manually remove them from your plant. The same goes for if you see any egg masses laid on leaves - remove and dispose of these leaves and keep a vigilant eye out for any more eggs.
2) Continue with regular watering/feeding. Healthy plants that are well watered and well fed have more strength to survive such a high stress situation as a leaf beetle attack creates.
3) Use a beetle trap such as the ones sold on gardensalive.com for Japanese Beetle (pheramone based, and effective on Japanese Beetles)
4) Apply either a systemic insecticide or a biological control method to further diminish the beetle population. If you intend to use an insecticide, make sure you check that it is safe to use on your target plant first (some plants are more delicate than others). Biological controls include amongst others: parasitic wasps, fungal pathogens or parasitic nemotodes (find out the beetle species you are dealing with first, and their life cycles, or these may not be effective)

As with any pest, affliction or disease, prevention is a lot easier than cure!  To prevent leaf beetles:

Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be much you can do to stop leaf beetles from taking an interest in your tasty plant. Still, observe the following and you will be less likely to suffer a bad infestation:

1) Know the symptoms for leaf beetle infestation, as well as the type of beetle that is attacking your plant. With information about the pest in mind, you will be better equipped to spot pests as they appear, and remove eggs/mature adults before they can cause more damage to leaves or further increase the pest population through reproduction.
2) Keep your plant healthy by observing proper watering and fertilizing schedules. As mentioned before, an infestation of leaf beetles can cause great stress to the plant - a healthy plant is more likely to survive this insult.

Squirrels – adorably furry gymnasts, or hairy vandal vermin? It seems everyone has a different ‘tail’ (sorry) to tell about their experiences with these creatures.  

For some of us, there is nothing more joyful than to sit and watch these bushy tailed creatures rush about comically looking for food. For others, they are a source of vexation.  Take my Aunt and Uncle in Abbotsford, for example – they take a great deal of delight in their garden and the crops they grow. Yet, the other week, Uncle R reported to me in some dismay that the little “bushy tailed rodents” had ‘vandalized’ his only Squash.

Apparently this kind of behaviour isn’t totally unusual for squirrels. Other potentially 'heinous' crimes they may commit include:

* Stealing bird food out of bird feeders

* Damaging trees by stripping the back

* Raiding fruit crops

* Chewing on electrical wiring

* Killing baby birds in their nests

Five Kinds of Furry: Squirrels in British Columbia

Here in British Columbia we have five main types of squirrels: The native Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii), the native American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus), the native Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus), the non-native Eastern Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) and the Black Squirrel, which is – as Wikipedia terms it – “a melanistic subgroup of the eastern grey squirrel”.

Unlike the red, Douglas and Northern Flying Squirrels who are protected native species in British Columbia, the non-native grey and black squirrels are listed as pests under section C of the Wildlife act, and therefore legal to kill (humanely) on private or crown land.

Still, for most of us (myself included), killing squirrels feels a bit drastic – even if are making a nuisance of themselves. So what to do? Below I’ll talk you through some of the methods used for controlling squirrel damage in the garden and offer my opinion on each in the hope that it will help you if you are having squirrel issues.

Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii)


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So just a week and a bit ago, when I was walking around the dollar plus store with my folks, I came across this rather fascinating looking packet on the shelf near the coloured glass beads and floating candles. "What's this got to do with Horticulture?" you ask. Well, if you take a look at the packet, it's called "Crystal Soil" and touts itself as being a nifty and more ornamental alternative to soil. (More on Shauanglong Chemical Industry - the makers of Crystal Soil and other absorbent polymers here). It's perhaps a little eery to be getting growing media of any kind from a chemical company, I suppose - though on their site, they say that their product does not harm the environment - besides, I was not going to be growing any food in this stuff, and who can resist the cute colourful cheeriness of their site?

At $1.79, these chipper little bags of mystery "Round pearl cross-linked by strong hydrophilic macromolecule"s were too intreguing to resist.

Some quotes from the Shaunanglong Chemical Industry Co. on this product:

* "It can jump several times after throw it away, and it can stay well."
* "...it can slash away the mosquitoes and insects, dismiss the smoke of cigarette, banish smelly, calm down uneasy, and reduce pressure and so on.

I am particularly intregued about the "banish smelly" part. In an appartment where we get 5-6 dirty nappies a day, this is a compelling prospect.