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 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Importance of Deadheading

When touring around this summer i bet you can't help but take notice of all the beautiful flower containers in your community. Have you ever wondered how they get them to grow so big with multitudes of blooms and lush foliage? The bigger question to they keep them like this all season? Some people have had struggles to prevent their plants from fading in mid summer to the point where they just don't bother potting them up anymore. Well, I want to help you with providing a few tricks on how to have your very own annual planters look just as gorgeous as these ones.

Petunia Shockwave Buzz Mix
If you have already planted or bought your planter ready made from a local garden center, which I'm sure most of you have by now, then the plants in the pots should be starting to become well established.  The planters that I'm referring to that are so big and well established were potted up early in the season and kept indoors during cool temperatures for a head start. If you want your planters to look just like these ones, it is encouraged to start  growing them early and indoors.

If you have purchased your own planter that was already designed or bought it at a garden center because you fell in love with the beauty of it, then there is a way that you can keep it like that.  I can honestly say that I have had a number of people ask how they can keep their planters looking just like they bought it early in the season.  It is true that these plants will eventually fade since they are annuals. Annuals of all types get tired putting energy into old stems.

The above you tube video that is linked to our own Vesey's Seeds youtube channel, shows how you can rejuvenate your containers with key tips before you begin so that you will have a beautiful display all season long without the guess work of sheering your plants back.

When you set out to either plant or purchase your containers, be sure that you have a pot that will best suit the amount and types of plants you want. Size of pots is so important to allow for proper growing conditions. You will need to consider practical components such as good air circulation which lessons build of moldy stems and allows ample space for healthy root establishment and growth.  Plants that grow in height are better suited in containers that will be set on your deck. Annuals that have a creeping, pendulum, or hanging habit are best suited in a hanging basket or mounted in window boxes.

Upon purchasing your container or buying a planter that was ready grown, be sure there are holes in the bottom. You may ask why should there be holes, won't soil and roots come out of the bottom? This would be true if the holes were too big, but when I suggest holes I am referring to holes that are just the right size to allow enough water to drain so that when you water your plants they aren't sitting in standing water. Proper drainage equals healthy plants which leads to the next key component in a successful and beautiful container and that is...SOIL.

Choose soil that is well-drained. There's that term again that gets used so much here, well-drained. I can't stress enough that proper drainage is so important no matter where you have plants. Investing in good quality soil is so important because when you think of it, these plants will remain in that medium for the whole season.  Over the course of the season you may also find soil levels retreat or become compact. You can choose to change the soil or even top it up taking care not to disturb the roots too much. Follow the same practices for outdoor plants as you would for indoor house plants. They both benefit from well-drained pots and good quality soil, and with this brings me to my next suggestion of addition of fertilizer.

Whether you have flowers or veggies in containers they will need to be fed as this also ties in with dead-heading. If you find your blooms or tips of your plants are dying back sooner then you think, or have somewhat of a yellow cast to their foliage, then maybe it's time to give them some food. Just like us, plants get hungry too, they work so hard at putting on a good display and use up loads of energy. Addition of fertilizer at this time is beneficial and will help your plants reach their full potential that they are capable of. In the beginning stages applications should be made each week to ten days.

If you are growing vegetables in containers, then you can use fertilizers such as a natural fish emulsion or seaweed types. These fertilizers are very natural and can be safely used on any type of vegetable as shown above. For pots such as flowers or small potted shrubs, it is recommended to use a balanced fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 or even a 20-20-20. When I refer to balanced it simply means that all three of the main macro-nutrients are the same. If you are wondering what the Macro-nurtients are and the order they are arranged on each label they read Nitrogen, followed by Phosphorus and Potassium. Nitrogen releases nutrients into the soil that provides your plants with that nice green, lush foliage.  Nitrogen also is essential for the health of your plants as they develop and are nutritious and delicious. If you notice that especially the new leaves as well as the mature ones of your plants have a  yellowish cast to them, this is likely the beginning stages of low nitrogen.

Next on the list of fertilizer calibrations is Phosphorus. What phosphorus provides our plants with is the ability to use and store energy.  I'm sure you have all heard of the big fancy word photosynthesis, especially back in high school biology. Well with the availability and uptake of phosphorus, it allows this process to naturally occur.  Photosynthesis is also critical in the growth and success of a healthy plant. Signs and symptoms of low Phosphorus is shown generally on the edges of the leaves. They will turn purple and may even curl as Phosphorus becomes less readily available.

Beginning stages of low Phosphorus
Leaf edges will eventually start to turn brown and take on a dried up look
Next and last on the list of building your plants fertility is Potassium.  What Potassium does for your plants is that it provides it with the ability to resist diseases as well as promotion of successful blooms that later result in successful yields of vegetables and fruit. The plants that you have seen on display and loaded with multitudes of blooms obviously have a great reserve of Potassium in their soil. Another great characteristic of Potassium is that it protects the plant when unfavorable weather conditions arise or persist, which can happen almost every summer. Whether the weather is cold,damp or dry, which happens a lot, especially here in the Maritime's, Potassium strengthens the root system and will help increase its resilience under stressful growing conditions.
Lack of Potassium
Some of you may have either heard of deadheading or even pinching back your plants. There actually is a difference between the two. Pinching back is generally done when the plants are young as well as for the purpose of keeping the plants from becoming too tall and leggy while growing indoors. Pinching back removes the growing tips off the small and developing leaves on the stems of each individual plant. This will force more lateral growth and as a result your plants will become well branched and lush. When we use the term deadheading we are referring to the actual removal of the spent bloom along with the short growing stem each individual bloom comes from. When you pick the bloom off you will notice there is a seed head just beneath it.  If this seed head is left, your plants will put all the energy into the seed and stop blooming.  These seed heads and a part of the stem will need to be pinched off as soon as each bloom wilts or fades.  You can see as shown in the picture below as well as demonstrated on our Vesey's Seeds youtube video

When it comes to deadheading your plants, it really is very simple. As you go into your garden for day to day maintenance or relaxation, pulling off a few of these old blooms each day will result with a more healthy and longer lasting display. Some people may even think of this task as therapy. If you happen to go away during the summer and come back to your plants in need of care, then you can try shearing them back as also demonstrated in the Vesey's Seeds Youtube video.
If you would rather not have plants that require this type of maintenance then you can choose plants such as begonias as an example. These plants are "self cleaning", kind of comparable to a self cleaning oven, it looks after itself. In all seriousness these plants drop their blooms and won't need any type of pinching back or deadheading. These plants come in all different types and will still give you that stunning display that you are looking for.

Once your plants, whether its flowers or vegetables, mature and you have kept up maintenance, they will provide you with great results to last the whole season and you will be able to have piece of mind in knowing in the following years you will continue with successful gardens.