Friday, August 19, 2016

Raining Zucchini!!!

     You know how the saying goes..make hay on a sunny day, does this also apply for harvesting summer squash, a.k.a zucchini? One would almost think that it is raining zucchinis! 

Have you seen a lot of these in your garden lately?


    Summer Squash/Zucchini is one of the most abundant crops when it comes to harvesting. The huge blossoms as well as the big healthy plant allow it to develop many zucchini's that will have you picking from early/mid July until sometime into September. 

     The more you pick, the more you will harvest. As mentioned zucchini plants have huge blossoms that also will attract many beneficial insects.  The earliness of the blooms is timed perfectly to allow all other garden plants an opportunity to increase in pollination as well.

     The abundance of harvest may draw people away from growing this plant as they wonder what they would ever do with so many.  You can find many ideas on how to cook and serve them as well as all kinds of recipes for main dishes, salads as well as desserts online or in cookbooks. This vegetable is so versatile, so just use your imagination and come up with your own entree or snack of your preference.

     Zucchini makes a great light snack when eaten raw or blended in a smoothie instead of the ever popular ingredients like kale or spinach.  You may have heard of Spaghetti squash . This type of squash is a great alternative for people who have gluten or dietary restrictions.  Delicious and tasty vegetable is cooked up so easy and when hollowed out, it resembles noodles.  You can add whatever sauce or different topping on it or it is even great with just a little butter and brown sugar.  How could you not want to grow one of the most easiest vegetables going right now? and is this making you hungry...?

     Am I right in saying that many of you would also wonder, where would I ever fit a plant that size? If this is one aspect that may prevent you from growing this prolific producer then guess again. There are many compact varieties of zucchini including our Patio Star.

     Just the other day I had an abundance of zucchini AGAIN and so this time I decided that I would make some chips out of them.  You can find kale chips, apple chips and many other types of vegetables and fruit done this way, so why not try thinly slicing the zucchini.  I have found that the Zucchini variety named Magda was best for this as it has a tiny seed column and can be used at any stage big or small.  This variety is actually quite tasty when eaten raw as well or my favorite spread with a bit of pumpkin seed butter. It has its own bit of sweetness with a slightly salty after taste and really wouldn't require anything to be added to it.  This is a very healthy alternative and will leave you feeling great with the high nutritional value zucchini's have to offer.
     With all of these attributes in mind as well as being one of the easiest vegetables to grow, might you consider growing them in years to come and enjoy the many delicious ways they can be served.


Friday, August 12, 2016

Disease Identification

Seeing spots before your eyes? I'm sure this looks familiar...Tar Spot (Rhytisma acerinum) on Maples!

     Heat and humidity have arrived, we all know what that means for our plants...yes you guessed it, high disease risks. Although this weather is great for us, especially while enjoying some free time or taking vacation, however our plants never take a break. They work very hard which can make them easily vulnerable to all kinds of pests and diseases. Even though these issues are present and could potentially put our plants at risk, please be encouraged to know that there are successful ways in prevention, treatment and controlling spreading risks.

     If this is a concern with your garden, or you have already noticed disease activity, and may not be sure what it is or where it came from, then I invite you to continue to read on...
It's very unfortunate when these issues happen with our plants but awareness is the key to success. The first defense in treatment is to identify the cause.
 I have listed as well as included some photos of some of the more common ones.

     You are probably aware with any size vegetable or flower garden, whether large or small, your plants can become susceptible to disease. There are as many plant diseases as there are pests, however these can be controlled through early prevention and treatment as well.

     Of course there are "repeat offenders" each year and you can be sure to be ready for it. As mentioned, identification is the first step in diagnosing diseases. Once you have your diagnosis then you can begin the treatment. As preventative measures, you will have to apply treatment before possible onset of disease. Once certain diseases have set in then all you can do is prevent from further spreading as some of these diseases are incurable at this stage. I have listed as well as included some photos of more commonly known types and I can be sure that most of you that grow tomatoes or potatoes have been faced with this disease pictured below:

Late Blight- Affects mostly potatoes and tomatoes

Early stages of late blight
Late blight that has spread to stems       
     The above pictures are of both beginning and later stages of late blight that has affected tomato plants. You can also read more about this nasty disease by clicking on this link. As mentioned both Tomatoes and Potatoes are notorious for being infected by the fungal spores of this disease. Late Blight will ultimately destroy the whole tomato crop if no prevention is practiced. The best time to start your prevention regime on both tomato and potato plants is before humidity, wet or hot weather set in. Daily scouting this time of the year will help alert you to any changes. You can use this practice to scout out other diseases as well. There are some products that are safe to use on these plants if you choose to practice prevention. Other planting practices that will benefit your plants in ensuring disease risk is at its minimum is to plant them in an area where they can receive good air circulation followed by proper spacing and pruning. If watering is needed, be sure to water your plants preferably at ground level in the morning to ensure leaves will dry during the day. Watering prior to night time won't allow leaves enough time to properly dry, and as a result this can contribute to perfect breeding grounds for any types of blights,molds or mildews to set in.

     The most reliable way of ensuring you will have control of late blight as well as a harvest is to choose late blight resistant varieties. These varieties have shown great results time and time again as they can stand up to resisting late blight even if they are planted next to other varieties that end up with the disease. You may have also heard of early blight (alternaria), not to be confused with late blight, although this disease is nasty as well,it is not as fatal as late blight (phytophthora)To help determine the differences between both blights, you will find them pictured below:
Tomato affected by early blight
Tomato affected by late blight
      Another type of blight that you may have heard of in the more recent years is fire blight Erwinia amylovora, classed as a bacterial blight (mostly found on fruit trees as well as some Ornamentals in the rose family).  Pictured below certainly displays how it may have been named as it affects stem tips first by showing a wilted look later to result in what looks as if it had been scorched.


      It is quite possible that your plants may not even be infected with disease.  Some physiological issues can mimic those symptoms of what a specific disease may look like for example; a deficiency in a micro-nutrient such as magnesium may display yellowing or odd brown patches on the leaves of your plants (as pictured directly below), insect damage or disease can present themselves this way as well (as pictured further below to the right). It may leave a person in doubt of treatment and that is why it is always recommended to ask your resources. 


    Inspect the area for insects, as they too, can sometimes make leaves look as if it's diseased requiring a completely different type of treatment.  Often times if your plant is compromised with disease it will make it more vulnerable to pests.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Another very common disease among both flowers or vegetables is Downy mildew (Plasmopara viticola). You may have heard in the more recent years of the big scare of the ever popular walleriana impatiens being hit hard by this disease.                                                                                                                      These plants are loved by many as the common impatiens are so versatile for any garden.  This was a huge upset a few years ago, however things have seemed to improve with the dry weather as they grow quite successful when humidity and moisture levels are low.

If you take notice of the leaf pictured above, it shows the beginning signs of Downy mildew on the underside of the leaf. It tends to take on a more furry gray appearance, whereas Powdery mildew will look as if your plants were covered with a dusting of icing sugar. If only that was the case, we would have sweet pumpkins for sure.

     A cousin of Downy mildew is Powdery mildew (Podosphaera leucotricha), as mentioned above. I'm sure many of you have experienced this disease at one time or another especially with growing vine crops, like pumpkins or perennials such as phlox. This disease is caused and spread by a fungus and presents itself with an infamous dusting of white to gray powder. It coats the whole leaf surface leaving it to eventually wilt, brown and resulting in death. 

Your best defense against this disease is to; buy plants or seeds from reputable companies, plant in an area where there will be good air circulation, regular feedings of fertilizer and maintenance, and water early in the day at ground level trying not to splash on leaves. All these cultural practices apply for both Downey,and Powdery mildew as well as all other fungal diseases and will certainly help with ensuring your plants remain disease free. 

Other types of diseases that are quite common are leaf spots/black spot (especially on roses), Anthracnose, Rusts,Wilts, Root and stem rots as well as cankers, just to name a few.  Don't let this list despair you from growing the plants that you enjoy whether it's veggies or flowers. With this list in mind, preventative measures or even simple maintenance such as leaf picking will help solve these issues.  Diseases come with a vengeance but once they serve their time and we gain control over each specific one, they eventually won't pose as much damage year after year and you will be sure to benefit from that success in many ways.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Pests in your Garden?


     Yes Folks, unfortunately it is that time of year again. As our plants start to show successful growth and establishment, so do those nasty little bugs. They show up once they know that the plants are big enough to feed on. Since the previous post of pesty weeds, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about what bugs your plants as these pests are equally bothersome, perhaps even more!

     When going out to your garden, some of you may be saddened by the destruction of your plants. We spend so much time and money in growing them and want them to reach their full potential as worry free as can be. If your plants have had some insect and/or disease stress, your first initial reaction would likely be to get rid of them. You don't have to react so quickly as there are many solutions and growing alternatives to overcome this issue.

      It is true that in order to successfully eliminate these bugs and protect our vegetables, flowers, trees,shrubs,or wherever the issue may be in your garden, the first defense is through identification. When searching for these little culprits, remember that not all bugs are destructive. We refer to these bugs as "beneficial insects". Beneficial insects will eat and feed off of the nasty ones. Of course there are more destructive insects then there are beneficial types, however if you get rid of the bad ones, then the beneficial insects will increase in population. I referenced the most common beneficial insects and where they benefit your garden below with some photos to make identification easier. This class of insects also makes an ideal solution in dealing with pests as a biological means.  What this basically indicates is that instead of using chemicals you can promote beneficial populations to naturally occur by creating habitats as well as purchasing from your local Garden Centre or Agriculture Services.

     Growing types of plants that will attract beneficial insects is a great start to entice and increase the population. We have provided a list of those plants and you can find those by clicking here. I am sure most of you have heard that if you see many lady bugs then the aphid population will likely be lower.  Ladybugs or lady beetles enjoy eating aphids as well as other types of destructive insects. You can encourage the ladybug population with habitats such as a ladybug house or choosing not to spray any chemicals especially while these bugs are present. These houses and habitats are enticing for other beneficials such as the lacewing which will also help you gain control over aphids and other bothersome insects.

Pictured below are ladybugs at both young and adult stages to help in making a proper identification.

     Lady Beetle Nymp stage                                                                    Lady Beetle adult stage

      As mentioned, another popular beneficial insect is the Lacewing.  Lacewing insects will consume an array of destructive bugs similar to what Lady Beetles eat.  I'm sure you all have heard of mealy bugs and have had experiences with these that you want to forget. Encouraging the Lacewing population will help you solve this issue.

                                                       Adult Lacewing and Eggs
     Two other popular beneficial insects that are visibly seen are the Parasitic Wasp and the Praying Mantis. These insects are not as common as the Lady Beetle or Lacewing but can be seen in some regions. Both are pictured below to help you identify them when you are out in your garden.
Adult Praying Mantis

Parasitic Wasp

     Along with these beneficial insects mentioned comes another type called Beneficial Nematodes. Many gardeners are unaware of these types of beneficials that in particular are successful at controlling soil pest insects such as larvae or grubs. This method of control is becoming more widely known as insect and disease control methods have changed greatly over the past number of years.  Beneficial Nematodes are environmentally friendly, safe and effective as an alternative to using pesticides. Keep in mind that with any organic/biological control methods, reading directions on the label will still be required. You can purchase these Beneficial Nematodes at your local agriculture centre or nursery.

     Now for the not so fun part, but will be in the end, as you gain control over these guys.

     I'm sure you can identify the "big guy" pictured above...have you ever seen them this big before?  While out for a walk one morning I noticed that the sidewalk was just polluted with slugs and all were just as big as this one. They appear to be pretty resilient while inching their way across the rough surface below. Is it any wonder your peas, beans or other veggies and flowers have been completely stripped of their foliage? You can generally tell when slugs are present in your garden as they leave a shiny, sticky clear trail behind. Your garden can quickly be here today and gone tomorrow if these opportunistic guys get a chance to do their thing. Please don't give up hope because there are many alternatives for control over slugs. Broadcast a product called Diatomaceous Earth on top of the soil around the baseline of your plants. Slugs will stay away as this product is very sharp for them to crawl across. This is one of many successful control methods when dealing with slugs. 

     Have you ever seen how quickly your plants can become infested?  You can go from this...
                    To this...


     The above pictures of corn are of the same plant, the first one is completely pest free...or so we think! Insect infestations can happen so quickly.  If you are unsure of what the cob of corn is infested with, it is aphids. For almost every plant family,  there is a specific species of aphid for each one. Rest assured though because you will be able to successfully gain control when first seeing them. This is where lady bugs or lacewings will come in handy to help gain control.

     Many gardeners have been inquiring of this insect this past season. Even though he is tiny, he will quickly make a big mess of your plants. Yes, this is a photo of the infamous cucumber beetle that everyone is talking about lately. It is interesting how its name is derived as being the Cucumber Beetle.  This insect actually prefers squash and pumpkin foliage before nibbling on cucumber plants. Quick and efficient identification and treatment is essential when dealing with this little guy. Use of row covers as soon as the seed has been planted is your best defense against this pest.

     Row covers that tightly cover the soil surface where these seeds were planted, have shown great results. Once the plants are big enough and have set out their bloom, row covers will need to be removed. At this stage your plants are typically not in any real amount of danger as the population is decreased and the plants are large enough that bugs wouldn't be able to consume the plant. There are other ways in dealing with this insect, however row covers would be my first recommendation.  Once you have purchased row covers, you can use them for many different plants and other uses throughout the season as they are very easy to use and re-use. 
     Does this plant damage look familiar as well as the previous pictures that I have included up to this point?  I have seen and heard many gardeners talking of this problem this year and especially on certain crops.  If you haven't already guessed what this damage is from, its from flea beetles. As with many other destructive insects, flea beetles are very tiny too. They can rapidly pack a punch of damage in your garden especially on leafy green vegetables such as this Nappa Cabbage transplant. You can see this tiny little bug resting at the top of the leaf of this plant. They will basically make the plant look like it was poked with holes leaving almost a light brown transparent look to the leaf which will eventually result in nothing but a stem. You can also treat this issue by applying row covers as soon as seeds or transplants have been planted.

     Of course there are many other types of destructive insects, and so many that it would take many blogs to mention, however it shouldn't prevent us from the joy of growing a garden and all of the benefits that go along with them.

     Another type of a natural means of getting ahead, or behind, in this case is to plant your crop a little later or possibly even a little earlier where weather permits. I'm sure many of you have heard of growing degree days and if you haven't you can click the above link that best defines it.This table is essentially used to determine when insect and disease population is at its height. This will enable you to time your treatment plan in accordance to when these populations are at their highest making it most beneficial. You may also choose to plant your crops in time before or after when these risks are higher. This will   also prevent plant distress and vulnerability.

A few more common destructive insects identified below:
                                                         White fly
                                          Mealy Bugs                                      
     Please feel free to contact us though facebook, email or good old fashioned phone calls if you are ever skeptical of what may be bugging your flower or vegetable gardens. We are always happy to help!

Next post: Plant diseases