Tag Archive: pests


Winter Jasmine looking good

Winter Jasmine looking good

I wish all my blog followers and casual readers a very Happy 2018!!

It’s been a year of ‘ticking over’ in Old School Garden, as a long trip to Australia to be at the birth of our grand daughter fell right in the middle of the growing season… and voluntary activity elsewhere meant my attention was not on the Ground Elder amongst other things on the home patch!

Still, various important projects are underway, most notably the restructuring and renovation of the Kitchen Garden, where I hope by the Spring to have built a new shed, and installed trellis, rose swags and other features….watch this space.

I’ve said before, you might think that January is a month when there’s not much to do in the garden; well there are some useful things you can get stuck into. So here are my top ten tips (with a ‘grow your own food’ angle and with thanks to various websites):

Chitting potatoes- probably only worth doing for first or second earlies. Place tubers with blunter ends upwards (the ones with most ‘eyes’) and place in trays in a cool but well- lit place towards the end of the month.

chitting pots

1. The answer is in the soil.

Remove all plant debris, to reduce the spread of disease and pests. If you need to, continue preparing ground and digging beds ready for next season, but only if the ground is still workable (don’t dig if the soils is wet or heavily frosted).

2. Don’t let the rot set in.

Check your stored fruit and vegetables carefully, for rot will pass easily one to another. Empty sacks of potatoes, checking them for rot and any slugs that might have been over-wintering unnoticed. Your nose is a good indicator, often you will smell rot even if it is not immediately apparent to the eye! Also check strung onions- rot usually starts from the underside of the onion.

 3. Enjoy your winter veg.

Continue harvesting Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cabbages, celeriac, celery, chard, endive, kale, leeks, parsnips, turnips, winter lettuce, winter spinach, turnips. As you harvest brassicas, dig up the stems and turn the ground over. Because the compost heap will be cold and slow at this time of year, you can always bury these in the bottom of a trench along with some kitchen waste to prepare for the runner beans later in the year.

Red cabbage- lovely sliced and steamed with apple and onion in a little water, wine vinegar and sugar…

Red cabbage- lovely sliced and steamed with apple and onion in a little water, wine vinegar and sugar...

 4. Get ahead of the game.

Continue to sow winter salad leaves indoors/ under glass/ cloches- make your stir fries and salads more interesting with easy-to-grow sprouting seeds. If not already done and the weather is mild, plant garlic, onion sets and sow broad beans (e.g. Aquadulce ‘Claudia’) for early crops. Order or buy seed potatoes and start chitting (sprout) seed potatoes. Herbs are easy to grow on your windowsill and provide fresh greens all year round.

5. Not mushroom?

It’s surprisingly easy to grow your own mushrooms – try growing a mushroom log in your garden or alternatively grow some indoors using mushroom kits.

Mushroom-Logs

Mushroom logs can make you a fun guy…! 

6. Rhubarb, Rhubarb.

Consider dividing well established plants, and at the first signs of growth, cover to exclude light if you want ‘forced’ rhubarb over the next couple of months (growing the variety ‘Timperley Early’ may mean you get rhubarb in February anyway).

 7. The hardest cut.

Continue pruning out dead or diseased shoots on apple and pear trees, prune newly planted cane fruit, vines and established bush fruit if not already done. Continue planting new fruit trees and bushes if the soil conditions allow. If the ground is too waterlogged or frozen, keep bare rooted plants in a frost free cool place ensuring the roots don’t dry out.

8. Clean up.

If not already done, make sure your greenhouse is thoroughly cleaned inside and out and that any seed trays and pots you plan to use are also cleaned and inspected for pests- e.g. slugs and snails.

9. Fail to plan and you plan to fail.

Plan out what you are going to grow in the coming season and order seed catalogues.

pback1_1380165c 10. Put your back into it.

If you must dig, look after your back- remember to warm up and limber up before you do anything strenuous and try to bend your knees to ensure your legs take the strain – and not your back!

Old School Gardener

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pest controlPests and diseases-

Buy varieties of plants that are restistant to pests and diseases. If you want to grow vegetables, choose modern varieties that are easier to grow and protect them with crop covers such as insect-proof mesh or garden fleece. Encourage natural predators to take up residence in your garden by growing nectar-rich flowers, providing nesting and overwintering sites, and by feeding birds in winter. Use bilogical controls in the greenhouse.

Further information:

Natural pest and disease control

Biological Pest control- RHS

Source: ‘Short Cuts to Great Gardens’ (Reader’s Digest 1999)

Old School Gardener

 

2-Calendula

A useful article by Andrew McIndoe on companion planting- find it here.

Old School Gardener

cat in cloverA few more clippings from a book I bought in a charity shop last summer ….

Mesh Maxim:

The best-laid schemes of mice and gardeners aft a-gley, especially where cats and kids are concerned. It’s one thing to install a cat-proof, child-proof seedling net. It’s another thing to prove to the cats or children that they can’t get through it.

Bamboo Laws:

1. Stakes to support floppy plants are used by children to break the floppy plants they supported.

2. Bamboo canes make more realistic spears than those sold in the toy shop.

The Cat Trap:

The only way for a cat hater to keep cats out of his garden is to get a moggy of his own.

Laws of Attraction and Repulsion:

1. Where dogs, cats and children are concerned, seedbeds and wet concrete have irrestible magnetic propoerties.

2. If you lay a path to protect the lawn and the flowerbeds  you are simultaneously creating a force field which prevents children and animals from using it.

Kidology

Children are always on their pest behaviour in the garden.

children in gardenFrom : ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Laws of Gardening’ – Faith Hines (Temple House books, 1992)

Old School Gardener

 

greenflyA few more clippings from a book I bought in a charity shop last summer ….

Altruism Truism:

A garden is an area of land devoted to growing fruit, flowers and vegetables, which in turn are dedicated to insect rearing.

corollaries;

1. The earth is alive to the sound of mastication.

2. Healthy plants breed healthy bugs.

Law of the vegetable patch:

A dose of insecticide whch would wipe out a medium-size town will do no more than temporarily stun a cabbage white. You can fool all of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool the caterpillars.

Law of Killing Generosity:

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but if it comes from a garden centre, do check for trojan aphids somewhere in its anatomy.

A Winning Aside:

In the fight between you, the world and blight, back the blight.

PotatoLateCycleFrom : ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Laws of Gardening’ – Faith Hines (Temple House books, 1992)

Old School Gardener

 

I recently had a ‘tweet’ from fellow Norfolk resident, Claire in Thetford. She was wondering what the growths on these leaves were.

I must admit to being a bit puzzled at first, but some further research suggested that they are some sort of Gall, which Wikipedia describes as:

‘…abnormal outgrowths of plant tissues and can be caused by various parasites, from fungi and bacteria, to insects and mites. Plant galls are often highly organized structures and because of this the cause of the gall can often be determined without the actual agent being identified. This applies particularly to some insect and mite plant galls.’

My guess from the pictures was that these were galls possibly created by some sort of parasitic wasp (in this case on the leaves of a Lime Tree). Claire’s own research came up with a more precise description: a ‘Nail Gall’ formed by a small mite Eriophyes tiliae. These microscopic mites overwinter in the bark of lime trees and crawl on to the underside of the foliage in spring to feed. The mites secrete chemicals into the leaves causing them to produce the unusual projections into which the mites move to continue feeding during the summer. Infestations of mites and the nail galls they induce don’t appear to affect the health of the trees and there’s no way of controlling or preventing them. The galls caused by this mite are said to be yellow-green or red in colour (see picture below). It may be that the whitish nails in Claire’s picture have been be caused by another mite (Aceria lateannulatus), which affects both the small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata) and the Common Lime (Tilia x europaeus), but not the large-leaved lime (Tilia platyphyllos).

Nail Galls cauised by Eriophyes tiliae

Nail Galls cauised by Eriophyes tiliae

Galls are fascinating phenomena. As Wikipedia continues, those created by insects are:

‘…highly distinctive plant structures formed by some herbivorous insects as their own microhabitats. They are plant tissue which is controlled by the insect. Galls act as both the habitat and food source for the maker of the gall. The interior of a gall can contain edible nutritious starch and other tissues. Some galls act as “physiologic sinks”, concentrating resources in the gall from the surrounding plant parts. Galls may also provide the insect with physical protection from predators.

Insect galls are usually induced by chemicals injected by the larvae or the adults of the insects into the plants, and possibly mechanical damage. After the galls are formed, the larvae develop inside until fully grown, when they leave. In order to form galls, the insects must seize the time when plant cell division occurs quickly: the growing season, usually spring in temperate climates, but which is extended in the tropics.

The meristems, where plant cell division occurs, are the usual sites of galls, though insect galls can be found on other parts of the plant, such as the leaves, stalks,branches, buds, roots and even flowers and fruits. Gall-inducing insects are usually species-specific and sometimes tissue-specific on the plants they gall.’

Galls are also caused by fungi, bacteria, viruses and nematodes. It seems that in many instances these growths do not cause any significant harm to the plants they infest, though in some cases long term harm can be caused to some species, for example by affecting their overall shape and vigour.

Crown Gall on apple- RHS

Crown Gall on apple- RHS

Crown gall affects a wide array of plants and roses are definitely one of them. It is a plant disorder caused by the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens, that interferes with the plants ability to take up water and nutrients. This results in poor growth and weak plants that are easily stressed and injured- the only remedy in this case is to dig up the plant and dispose of it.

The study of plant galls is called cecidology. While these weird structures have intrigued humans for many years, there is still much that we don’t know about them.

Wiches Broom Gall - picture Rosser1954

Wiches Broom Gall – picture Rosser1954

While some galls are well hidden and hard to spot, others are much more conspicuous. Have you ever looked up into a birch tree (Betula spp.) and noticed what looked like large, dense birds’ nests? In some cases these may well be nests, but very often they are actually galls called ‘witches’ brooms’. These are caused by a fungus (Taphrina betulina), which stimulates the tree to produce numerous extra shoots, resulting in a dense nest-like cluster. The fungus can then feed on the shoots. It was once believed that they were caused by witches flying over the tree!

If you spot an odd-looking growth on a dog rose (Rosa canina) it could well be a Robin’s pincushion gall, caused by a wasp (Diplolepis rosae). There was once a belief in England that these were caused by the woodland sprite, Robin Goodfellow or Puck. It is hardly surprising that people ascribed supernatural causes to some galls – they look pretty strange, and their causes aren’t exactly obvious.

'Robins Pincushion' gall on a Wild rose

‘Robins Pincushion’ gall on a Wild rose

The real gall specialists include gall midges, gall flies and gall wasps. Perhaps one of the most familiar galls is the oak apple, caused by a tiny wasp (Biorhiza pallida).

Oak apples

Oak apples

There are actually hundreds of species of oak gall wasps and they cause a fantastic variety of galls on oaks (Quercus spp.). A single oak tree may support many thousands of galls. Each gall wasp species creates its own unique and outlandish structure: some resemble cotton wool or marbles, pineapples or tiny UFOs!

Here’s a gallery of some of the other amazing galls to be found.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sources and further information:

Galls- Wikipedia

Eriphyes tiliae- Wikipedia

British Plant Gall Society

Trees for Life- Galls

RHS- Crown Gall

Old School Gardener

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mole hills‘The worst ENEMYES to gardens are Moles, Catts, Earewiggs, Snailes and Mice, and they must be carefully destroyed, or all your labor all the year long is lost.’

The garden book of Sir Thomas Hanmer 1653

To what extent can we ‘control’ these pests in ecologically sound ways, or is destroying them the only effective method? Old School Garden is suffering from major mole damage at present and I’m stopping short of acting other than to clear up the (increasingly annoying) mole hills in the grass and putting down some powder that’s supposed to encourage them to move elsewhere (the neighbour’s garden?!). I have been tempted to get the garden fork and plunge this along the runs, but I’ve resisted the temptation- so far. What methods of ‘pest control’ do you use?

Old School Gardener

I featured a range of ‘hotels for the discerning’ earlier this year, and here are a few more ideas for desirable residences for the bugs you want in your garden.

Old School Gardener

snail‘…the snail, whose tender horns beign hit,
Shrinks backward in his shelly cave with pain,
And there, all smother’d up, in shade doth sit,
Long after fearing to creep forth again:’

William Shakespeare

Blackfly-C‘Sometimes we try to be a bit too clever in this world. Take the poor old gardener who’s plagued by blackfly. He’ll spend a small fortune on sprays and things when all he need do is take a little soil from the bottom of the plant and sprinkle it like powder all over those blessed blackfly. That’ll finish them off…it gets in their teeth you know!’

Fred Streeter

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